SFU students’ startup offers easy money-transfer service for international students
By Kiko Kwok
As the summer break winds down, students are selecting new courses and paying for tuition. International students, however, struggle with the hefty fees and complicated process of receiving money transferred from their parents back home. They are more likely to miss tuition deadlines and rent payments due to the delays caused by additional transaction fees, processing times, and on-line security measures. And for those who come from marginalized communities, there may be no on-line money transfer options available.
Simon Fraser University students Peyman Namdari and Mehdi Asadollahi have a solution. They’ve co-founded fintech startup Lumen, which has just introduced Lumenwire, a low-cost online money-transfer service.
Namdari, a health sciences graduate student, and Asadollahi, who is pursuing a second degree in economics and business administration, say Lumenwire is a transparent, secure and convenient way to transfer funds internationally.
“As an impact-oriented business, we believe that our service fees need to be minimal. Our goal is to provide full transparency around pricing in an industry where customers often find it hard to understand the fees.”
The students, both members of the Iranian-Canadian community, recognized the need for a better way to manage international money transfers in their own community. Capitalizing on Asadollahi’s entrepreneurial interests and Namdari’s desire for social impact, they came up with the idea for Lumenwire.
One of their first priorities with Lumen was to improve financial transactions between Iran and Canada. After a year of planning and development, the duo launched Lumenwire in June 2019. Over the following six weeks Lumenwire processed more than $1.5 million in money transfers between Canada and Iran, proving the market need.
Lumen receives startup services in the form of business development and mentorship from Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection at SFU. The early-stage business incubator program supports entrepreneurs and early-stage ventures in SFU’s communities.
According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, more than 500,000 international students are studying in Canada. Iranian nationals represent just two per cent of this number. The founders anticipate expanding their services to other communities in Central America and Africa, and eventually in Europe.
Oren Netter, a global banking and fintech specialist, says,“Lumen is thinking outside of the box by providing a disruptive, yet essential fintech service to a segment of the market that is often overlooked,” Netter is a former business development executive at HyperWALLET, a Vancouver-based fintech startup acquired in 2018 by PayPal for approximately $400 million USD.
Lumen obtained its FINTRAC (Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada) license in late 2018, and is also listed in FINTRAC’s money services business registry. FINTRAC helps detect and prevent money laundering and terrorist-related financial activities in Canada.
The students say making a meaningful impact in the world will be the hallmark of success for their company. They want to help families stay connected, empower students to pursue an education anywhere in the world, and deliver humanitarian aid to communities when needed.
Yaser Sattari, a current Lumen client, says the service is, “in one word, convenient. For the first time in a long time I did not have to move away from my computer to transfer money across the world. The company is definitely filling a gap in this market with easy and fast transfers internationally.”