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Melbourne fintech Airwallex raises US$80 million to push international expansion

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Melbourne-based fintech startup Airwallex has raised US$ 80 million ($ 109 million) in a Series B funding round, the second largest for an Australian startup to date.

The backing came from existing investors Tencent and Sequoia China, with participation from Chinese firm Hillhouse, Hong Kong’s Horizon Ventures, Central Capital Ventura from Indonesia, and Australian venture capital firm Square Peg Capital.

The round brings the total raised by the startup to US$ 102 million ($ 139 million) since its founding in late 2015, with $ 8.73 million in follow-on funding coming from Square Peg Capital last December.

The startup works in the foreign exchange space, giving businesses access to wholesale exchange rates, and the international payments space, where its smart auto-routing algorithms enable same day payments to selected currency by bypassing traditional payment rails and finding the most direct route.

Paul Bassatt, CEO of Square Peg, said, “These are markets with overly complex incumbent providers and huge, concentrated profit pools. Customers are looking for a serious improvement and we’re incredibly proud to continue working with Jack, Lucy, and the Airwallex team as they execute on their strategy to solve this problem.”

The fresh funding will be used for further development of the startup’s technology, along with further international expansion; with offices already established in London, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong, Airwallex will now be looking to expand into North America.

The startup will also look to grow further into the UK and Hong Kong, where it plans to apply for a virtual banking licence to encourage ‘financial inclusion’ for small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs).

Lucy Liu, cofounder and COO of Airwallex, said, “Airwallex has identified that businesses in all corners of the world are experiencing similar challenges as the pace and connectivity of a digitalised global economy continues to gain momentum. By offering full end to end solutions – not just in FX and payments – we’re changing the way our clients thrive in the global arena.”  

Airwallex, which won the Excellence in Payments award and Female Fintech Leader of the Year award for Liu at the recent Finnie Awards, also has an eye focused on the Australian market.

Here it aims to push a new product suite aimed at helping Australian SMEs that face barriers around payments and foreign exchange as they try to grow internationally.

“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,” Liu said.

“Our end game is to provide the global network required for businesses to scale globally and to take advantage of the digital and online opportunities that exist when you’re transacting in multiple markets.”

The funding round is the largest for an Australian startup in some time, second to CampaignMonitor’s US$ 250 million ($ 266 million) in 2014.

Canva raised $ 51 million in January, while SafetyCulture raised $ 60 million in May.


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