Airwallex’s CEO reveals how his fintech start-up earned a ‘vote of confidence’ worth US$16m

Jack Zhang, CEO and co-founder of Melbourne-based fintech start-up Airwallex

Featured | Funding | Investment | News | Noticeboard | Startup

By James Harkness

This week, Melbourne’s Airwallex – a fintech start-up specialising in cross-border payments – closed one of the largest Series A funding rounds ever held by an Australian technology venture. 

CEO and co-founder, Jack Zhang, spoke to Dynamic Business about what was involved in securing US$13 million for the company’s foreign exchange platform from three global heavy hitters: Mastercard, Sequoia Capital China and the world’s fourth largest internet company, Tencent Holdings.

DB: What makes your investors ideal partners?

Zhang: Our three Series A investors as well as Gobi Partners, which contributed US$3 million in pre-Series A funding, hold between them an incredible wealth of industry knowledge, financial expertise and connections that makes them ideal for a company like Airwallex.

From a fintech perspective, Tencent and Mastercard are strategically placed to help us expand our platform and our offering into new markets, while Sequoia Capital China and Gobi Partners have decades of experience in growing some of the best start-ups in the world.

The common theme across each of our investors is they are all very bullish about fintech and see big opportunity for fintech in the next decade. Tencent, in particular, were a very attractive prospect – as the largest internet company in China and owner of WeChat, the company really aligns with what we want to do across Asia.

DB: What strategies helped attract your investors?

Zhang: To secure strategic partners like Tencent and MasterCard, it’s about showing the value you can provide them strategically in the next decade, and why you’re better than anyone else in the market. Founders will need to demonstrate strong vision by outlining plans to protect growth – being honest and truthful about strengths and challenges and equally being ambitious about what the company is going to become.

DB: What does your investor line-up say about Airwallex?

Zhang: We’re a truly global start-up solving a truly global problem. Our investors recognise that the market opportunity for Airwallex is vast, and that within the company, we contain the right blend of skills, perseverance and business acumen to achieve what we set out to do – make cross-border transactions easier, cheaper and more attainable for businesses around the world.

DB: How would you quantify Airwallex’s success? 

Zhang: We can quantify our success through the vote of confidence we’ve received through our two investment rounds, raising US$16 million in total, and the early successes we’ve seen with traction through the product. We’re on track to transact billions of dollars by the end of the year.

DB: How will AirWallex be using the Series A funding?

Zhang: We’ll be using the funds to further improve our product offering, which allows businesses to process international payments at scale, and expand internationally. We’ve already recently opened offices in the UK, however we are planning on expanding further in the coming months including into Singapore.

[Editor’s note: Earlier this year, Dynamic Business spoke to Airwallex’s Global Head of Sales & Partnerships Joe McGuire, about how export-driven Australian SMEs form lasting connections with Chinese customers. See: The Chinese market ‘dances to the beat of its own drum’: how SME exporters can succeed]

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