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Melbourne fintech Airwallex just won $17 million funding from Mastercard, Sequoia and Tencent

Airwallex Co-Founder and CEO Jack Zhang. Image: Supplied

Australian cross-border payment startup Airwallex has secured US$13 million ($17.4 million) in a funding round to continue its expansion overseas.

Some of the biggest names in global commerce invested in the round, including card issuer Mastercard, tech venture capital firm Sequoia Capital China and Chinese web giant Tencent Holdings.

For Sequoia — the 45-year-old firm famous for investing in famous tech brands such as Apple, Google and AirBnB – the deal represents its Chinese arm’s first investment in an Australian startup.

“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,” said Sequoia partner Steven Ji.

Airwallex is in the enviable position of having access to a licence in China to conduct international transactions, a privilege that many massive multinationals such as Western Union have not been able to secure.

Airwallex founder and chief executive Jack Zhang told Business Insider that the company, which already can make payments to 100 countries, will use the cash injection to expand its physical presence in locations such as London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan.

“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.”

FinTech Australia chief executive Danielle Szetho hailed the funding as yet another international endorsement of the local fintech scene.

“This announcement is further evidence that Australian fintech companies are regarded as truly world class by top global investors, and of our industry’s increasingly strong links with Asia and China,” she said.

The startup also scored $4 million in July last year, in what it calls a “pre-series A” round from Gobi Partners, the investment manager of Chinese ecommerce conglomerate Alibaba, and a group of angel investors.

The product at the time was in beta testing, but went live later in the year and the online portal half of the business now has more than 1,000 customers. The other half is an application programming interface, which allows different software to exchange information, that’s used by large corporate clients to facilitate international transfers.

Zhang, a former ANZ and NAB foreign exchange solution designer, said last year that foreign exchange was one area of fintech that had not been disrupted because it was such a complicated area involving an enormous amount of regulation.

“Armed with a growing number of financial services licences and partnerships across numerous jurisdictions, we aim to make international payments as cheap and simple as domestic payments,” he now said.

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