Australian startup Airwallex, who is disrupting the financial technology or fintech industry with their international payment system, announced the close of its Series A funding round last Sunday, April 30, with $13 million(USD) raised.
Airwallex(AW) was founded just last year and is similar to London-based startup, TransferWise, but with a B2B focus. CEO and co-founder Jack Zhang was fed up with the high costs of cross-border transactions for businesses, so, he decided to fix the problem at its source. AW aims to simplify payment processing for international businesses and remove the stress of market volatility by offering a locked in exchange rate.
“We’ve made settlement and reconciliation very easy, but our customers can also enjoy institutional FX prices to save a lot of money. We can access the most competitive pricing in the world to facilitate traditional retailers that don’t enjoy that sort of rate,” according to Mr. Zhang.
Last July, AW held a “Pre-Series A” funding round led by Chinese investors, Gobi Partners(the investment holding company behind ecommerce giant, Alibaba), which raised $3 million. This year’s Series A round was led by Chinese investment firm, Tencent Holdings(the 10th largest publicly traded company in the world), and saw participation from other major players including Mastercard and Sequoia Capital China.
Sequoia Capital China(SCC) has been around for 45 years and gained its reputation by investing in groundbreaking tech brands like Google and Apple. However, despite the company’s long and storied history, this is the Chinese branch’s first investment in an Australian startup. Sequoia partner, Steven Ji, had this to say of the new partnership, “Foreign exchange transactions pose a real challenge for businesses that operate across borders, and Airwallex’s solution has seriously impressed us in its ability to close the gap and allow companies to financially access markets that may have previously been out of reach.”
If you’ve spent any time in China or have friends there, you know that WeChat is the dominant messaging app there. Tencent will now be working with AW to lower the costs associated with WeChat Pay. It’s a big deal for Airwallex as Mr. Zhang points out, “It makes sense to take strategic investment from Tencent because the WeChat ecosystem and WeChat pay is a big deal. The internationalization will be interesting in the next couple of years, so we want to prepare ourselves for that expansion.”
Airwallex intends to use the funds from this latest round to improve their service and expand their physical presence in Europe and Asia. “There’s still a lot of improvement we can do to make our product easier to adopt – that’s probably 30% of the money will be used for. The other 70% will be used for market expansion into other countries, especially Europe and Singapore.”, says Mr. Zhang.
Currently, there’s no plan in place to expand into the US market, but, it is in the back of everyone’s mind. “In two or three years as our transaction volume ramps up a bit, our focus can be wider. Right now, the focus in on Asia Pacific and Europe,” remarked Mr. Zhang.