Airwallex primed for North American expansion after $108m fundraising

Airwallex primed for North American expansion after $108m fundraising

Melbourne based tech company Airwallex is primed for a push into the North American market following a US$80 million (AUD$108 million) raise from venture capital investment.

The $108 million series B raise brings their total fundraising to US$102 million, allowing the group to consolidate its efforts in pushing the Airwallex brand to the US market.

Existing series A investors Tencent and Sequoia China were joined by China based Hillhouse, Sir Ka-Shing Li's Horizons Ventures from Hong Kong, Indonesia's Central Capital Ventura and Australia's Square Peg.

Speaking to Business News Australia, COO and co-founder Lucy Liu says the company will put the funding towards taking its cross-border payment technology completely global.

"We were quite a global business from the beginning," says Liu.

"We have offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and of course Melbourne. So the funding will be used to extend these global footprints. At the moment we have been quite focused on Asia, because in terms of location it's closer. But obviously we want to build our presence outside of Asia as well."

The acceleration of the production of its cross-border payment technology is another priority for Airwallex which has come a long way since 2016 when the company launched.

"Two years ago when we first started cross-border payments weren't as important as they are now," says Liu.

"As we grew our business we saw clients calling for more seamless end-to-end solutions to really help them scale their business. One of our goals has always been trying to help our customers growing to the regions they want to grow into without actually worrying about the payments part of their business."

Despite having been technically operational in North America prior to the fundraising, Liu says the injection of cash will allow them to properly focus on delivering the product to their North American clients.

"We can really get our hands dirty rather than worrying about the cash flow for at least 12-18 months," says Liu.

"North America is definitely very important to us because USD is the major currency to trade for most clients. For us [the expansion] is more about building our relationship with North American clients and our brand awareness in the region so that we can develop the key partnerships that allow us to scale up activity."

Airwallex COO and co-founder Lucy Liu

In addition to going global, Airwallex plans to use the new funds to develop a new product suite for SME's.

Liu says the suite of products will solve the pain felt by Australian SME's who are trying to grow international in but hit sizeable barriers around payments and foreign exchange.

"Through our research we found that there's a call for transparency," says Liu.

"There's a lot of people that are doing it but don't have the necessary knowledge for it to really succeed. A lot of SME's think more like individuals rather than businesses so by changing the UX and UI it will make it a lot easier for them to understand what sort of assets transaction and payments they are dealing with."

"Airwallex wants to support Australian businesses with awesome financial products. In providing these solutions, we intend to shake up the industries we're playing in. We're creating a better, more cost effective one-stop-shop solution using technology delivered here in Australia."

A notable portion of funds will be put towards encouraging financial inclusion for SMEs in the Hong Kong market, where Airwallex will apply for a Virtual Banking licence to support and empower the fintech ecosystem globally. Funding will also support growth in the UK, where despite Brexit, Airwallex sees growth opportunities, especially supporting those companies doing business and accelerating connections with China and Southeast Asia.

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