Airwallex is a global payments platform founded in Melbourne in 2015, enabling businesses to operate across borders. After reaching unicorn status in 2019, Airwallex continued its strong growth trajectory with expansion into new geographies. In August, Airwallex announced a milestone in its international growth, with its launch in the U.S. This means that U.S.-based businesses can now enjoy a full suite of products to support their cross-border payment needs in a fast, transparent, and secure way.
How it all began
It all started with a small cafe in Melbourne, Australia. Out of their love for coffee, two friends, Jack Zhang and Max Li, banded together to open their cafe Tukk & Co in Melbourne’s Docklands, a popular waterfront destination in the heart of the city.
Business was booming at the cafe, and the future was looking positive. However, Jack and Max soon discovered the inefficiencies and challenges when they wanted to import coffee cups. They were hit with exorbitant fees charged by traditional banks, as well as having to go through multiple intermediaries to complete a transaction.
“As small business owners, we quickly saw the pain points with global payments and the impact of high FX fees and banking costs when sourcing for supplies,” said Jack Zhang, Co-founder and CEO of Airwallex. “We wanted to build out a better financial and payment solution for businesses operating across borders, and ensure they are empowered to grow.”
It was this particular challenge that inspired Jack and Max, together with friends Lucy Liu and Xijing Dai, to start Airwallex. Now six years later, Airwallex is one of the fastest growing financial technology companies today, offering solutions for small and medium-sized businesses, such as business accounts that include cards, international collection & transfer, and an API for larger enterprise businesses that require embedded payments and financial services.
Airwallex’s 6-year hypergrowth; completes Series E funding round led by Lone Pine Capital
Airwallex’s valuation is now at US$4 billion following its Series E capital raise of US$200 million, led by Lone Pine Capital. New investors G Square and Vetamer Capital als joined, alongside existing investors including 1835i Venture (formerly ANZi), DST Global, Salesforce Ventures and Sequoia Capital China.
This year will see the business’ continued efforts to broaden and strengthen its suite of products and applications which started development in 2020, including multi-currency debit cards with Visa (enabling businesses to pay suppliers with ease and offer expense cards to employees), a bank feed integration with Xero, an SMB rewards program, and online payment acceptance capabilities. This will be supported by Airwallex’s engineering hubs that are strategically located in key markets with strong local talent.
To support its hypergrowth, Airwallex has also focused on building a high-performance culture. Last year, the company refreshed its company values, accelerated its hiring, and talent retention strategies to deliver Airwallex’s vision. Today, Airwallex has close to 1,000 employees across 20 locations globally, and is looking to fill nearly 500 open roles.
Ushering in a new period of growth with entry into the U.S.
Airwallex’s entry into the U.S. supports its international growth strategy aimed at achieving its vision to become the global financial infrastructure for businesses to operate anywhere, anytime. Headquartered in San Francisco, the U.S. business is supported by a partnership with domestic bank Evolve Bank & Trust, a technology-focused financial services organization and Banking-as-a-Service (“BaaS”) provider. In addition, Airwallex has been issued money transmitter licenses in various major states and is permitted to provide money services business in almost all the states across the U.S., including those that have traditionally been difficult to secure licenses, such as California, Texas, and Florida.
Airwallex will progressively introduce its suite of products and services to businesses in the U.S, including multi-currency cards and an online payment acceptance solution that will allow businesses to collect payments from customers around the world.
To further support Airwallex’s global growth, San Francisco will also serve as one of Airwallex’s five global engineering hubs alongside Melbourne, Sydney, Shanghai, and Amsterdam. The establishment of these hubs aims to further drive digital innovations, and are focused on the research and development of new products and enhancement to strengthen Airwallex’s global infrastructure.
“This is an exciting moment for us as we look at ways to further support U.S. businesses that are looking to grow, both in the U.S. and internationally,” adds Zhang. “The U.S. is a major hub for technology innovation and is at the forefront of bringing traditional banking financial services into the new age. With our base in San Francisco, we are excited to be able to take part in that change, and provide businesses in the U.S. with an infrastructure that can seamlessly handle their international payments and financial services needs.”
With technology at its core, Airwallex continues to pursue its vision to become the global financial cloud for businesses to operate anytime, anywhere. Its end-to-end solutions, proprietary tech infrastructure and strong risk & compliance management aims to empower businesses to continue to grow without borders, and in doing so, contribute to the growth of the global economy.