Sequoia-backed SwooshTransfer raises millions of dollars to automate cross-border payments

China’s export-oriented e-commerce has been flourishing over the last few years as the world demands its electronics, fast fashion, sporting gear and other everyday goods. While the country’s digital exporters revel in the boom, they also face challenges. One of their biggest pain points has been payments collection, which normally involves high costs, delays and insufficient transparency.

SwooshTransfer, which recently received an angel funding round of “several million dollars” from investors, including Sequoia China and K2VC, is one of the new players trying to make international transactions easier for Chinese businesses and beyond. The company declined to disclose the exact funding amount.

After a decade at Alibaba and its fintech affiliate giant Ant Group, Max Ma founded SwooshTransfer in 2021 to facilitate cross-border payments for small- and medium-sized enterprises, as well as individuals such as overseas students, for whom tuition payments are often a hassle. The firm’s main strength, Ma told TechCrunch, is applying technology to automate transactions, helping customers reduce costs as well as risks.

For instance, rather than employing human employees, the startup uses privacy computing and blockchain to manage the regulatory paperwork needed for cross-border transactions. It also uses artificial intelligence to detect fraud and abnormal user behavior.

“Chinese SMEs going global are rising, but there aren’t many friendly tools to support their business,” said Ma. “In international payments, the fees [charged by third-party services] are traditionally opaque, and users receive little or no customized service.”

SwooshTransfer’s ambition doesn’t stop at outbound Chinese merchants and students. It has set up a base in the U.K., where it has hired a local executive to be the firm’s acting CEO, a relatively rare decision for globalizing Chinese companies, which tend to be run by managers from China. The startup plans to tout its marketing tools and payments solutions to retailers in the U.K., which it sees as a stepping stone to entering other European markets down the road, said the founder.