Cross-border fintech Airwallex plants roots in the US

Startup can now issue money transfers and suite of products to several US states

Australian-based unicorn Airwallex has launched into the states.

Founded in Melbourne in 2015, the startup provides services that allow companies to manage their cross-border revenue and financing. The platform uses inter-bank exchanges to trade forex at a mid-market rate and save clients up to 90% on the foreign exchange rates, the company claims.

By 2019, Airwallex established itself in the the tech-hub of San Francisco — eventually growing out its team to more than 30 people across product, engineering, legal, risk and compliance, partnerships and sales. While it worked to gain a foothold in the market, there were some limitations to what it could and could not process.

Thanks to a partnership with domestic bank Evolve Bank & Trust, a technology-focused financial services organization and Banking-as-a-Service provider, those limitations are dissipating.

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 US (including those that have traditionally been difficult to secure licenses, such as California, Texas and Florida.)

With several local bank partnerships, Airwallex said it 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 establish its US growth, San Francisco will serve as one of Airwallex’s global engineering hubs alongside Melbourne, Sydney, Shanghai and Amsterdam.

“The idea behind Airwallex came nearly six years ago,” said Jack Zhang, Co-founder and CEO of Airwallex. “My co-founder and I loved coffee and started a small café in Melbourne. 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. We wanted to build out a better financial and payment solution for businesses operating across borders, and ensure they are empowered to grow.”

The company offers a business account which include cards, international collection & transfer and other value-add solutions for Small and Medium-sized businesses, and an API for larger enterprise businesses that require embedded payments and financial services.

That cross-border strategy worked, too. By 2019, Airwallex had become a unicorn within three years of its launch as well as Australia’s third tech unicorn overall following Atlassian and Canva.

Over the years, funding rounds were led by high profile investors like DST Global — the same investors that backed Facebook, Spotify and Twitter and saw returning investors like Sequoia China, Tencent, Hillhouse Capital, Gobi Partners, Horizons Ventures and Australia’s SquarePeg Capital.

 “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,” adds Zhang. “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.”

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