PeerTransfer has grown by specializing in one area: facilitating tuition payments for international students. And now, under a new brand name, it's ready to add a second major (and maybe a third and a fourth).
"We're looking at travel, medical and real estate, and other areas where there are large international payments," said Mike Massaro, CEO of peerTransfer, which on Sept. 16 became formally known as Flywire.
The name change is designed to reflect added scope; the company has expanded into China, moved into new offices in its home city of Boston and opened a satellite office in Valencia, Spain to house what will be called Flywire Europe. The peerTransfer brand will gradually fade out, Massaro said.
"We're not a peer to peer payment company, so we're looking at a brand that we can grow to be the de facto brand for large dollar amount cross-border payments," Massaro said.
The company has long desired to move beyond education payments, and Massaro said Flywire is seeking technology talent in Europe and the U.S. Massaro also hopes to tap the pool of tech talent in Spain, as well as business operations and accounting staff for that location. The company earlier added offices in Shanghai, Shanghai and London—all located near technology hubs.
As part of its transformation, Flywire is doubling its engineering headcount to maintain the growth in its core tuition payments business. The workspaces of the offices in Boston and Valencia were both designed promote collaboration and creativity among the engineers who work there.
Flywire works like a remittance product. The college is the client, and the technology enables international students to pay their tuition fees in their home currency. Flywire bundles these payments to negotiate lower foreign exchange rates.
This core education business handled $1 billion in cross-border payments in the 2014-2015 academic year and is on track to process more than $2 billion in the current academic year.
"We're also seeing business from boarding schools that serve K-12, as well engineering schools and other educational services," Massaro said.
While a successful niche product can expand quickly, it's rare for the product's provider to expand beyond that niche, according to Gareth Lodge, a senior analyst at Celent.
"It's less about a special need but more about a route to market," he said. "You often find companies that specialize in niche industries, because once you've sold to one it's easier to sell to another. For example, in bill pay, there are a handful of companies that specialize in government payments and have hundreds of departments as customers. Yet few of them have made the transition to another sector."
And in education, a company such as Flywire benefits by addressing a specific pain point rather than attempting to handle all of a client's payments. Based on a yearly education bill of $50,000 spread over 750 institutions, that's about 26 students per institution, Lodge estimates.
"These are just a small fraction of the overall intake and so are effectively 'nuisance' payments. Solutions that take away that pain will always find a customer," Lodge said.