Atlassian co-founder backs Airwallex as it raises another $56m

Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar is backing Australian startup Airwallex in a $US40 million ($56 million) fundraising which values the financial technology company at $US1.8 billion.

Mr Farquhar and his wife Kim Jackson have invested in Airwallex through their private investment vehicle Skip Capital and venture capital fund Square Peg, an existing investor, is also contributing to the round.

Airwallex president and co-founder Lucy Liu.
Airwallex president and co-founder Lucy Liu. Credit:Wayne Taylor

The investment comes as demand continues to rise for the real-time payments platform, with continued growth in digitised payments and cross-border payments through the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking from Shanghai, where she said life was “pretty much back to normal”, co-founder Lucy Liu said Airwallex had continued to see a lot of interest from investors after it closed its series D fundraise of $US160 million earlier this year and so decided to extend the fundraising by another $US40 million to continue Airwallex’s global expansion.


“We’re always excited to have investors who have also founded companies and share that knowledge with us,” Ms Liu said. “Skip has always had a passion for technology and they usually invest in infrastructure projects as well, which is very much what we’re passionate about. So we’re very looking forward to see what we can actually work together on because we speak the same language.”

The startup will use the additional funds to further invest in the United Kingdom and prepare for its entry into the United States.

Airwallex was started out of Melbourne cafe Tukk & Co by co-founders Ms Liu, Jack Zhang, Max Li, Xijing Dai and Ki-lok Wong to enable small businesses to make purchases with offshore merchants without incurring typical exchange fees after Mr Zhang and Mr Li struggled to buy coffee cups and labels for the cafe.

Airwallex has expanded its offering over the last year to include a borderless card in partnership with Visa and integration with accounts platform Xero.

The startup has also managed to have $US18.2 million released after the funds were frozen last year by Hong Kong’s Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance following the alleged defrauding of Uruguayan company Ciklus.

Ms Liu said Ciklus had confirmed Airwallex was never involved in the fraud perpetrated against it and it had no claims over Airwallex’s funds.

She said Ciklus had also confirmed this with the Hong Kong police who had lifted any restriction on the funds.

“We’ve always been very sure that we are innocent,” Ms Liu said. “It is one thing off our list to worry about.”

Ms Liu said the biggest challenge for Airwallex now was operating a global business through all the different challenges it faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s still quite a bit of uncertainty around our new market and go-to-market strategies because basically everything sort of changed this year and it’s not exactly the same as what we have planned previously,” she said. “Being adaptable is probably our biggest business priority right now.”

Ms Liu said an initial public offering was not on the immediate horizon for Airwallex.

“Well, we wouldn’t rule it out, but currently it’s still not a priority for us,” she said.

Ms Jackson said she was impressed by the Airwallex team’s ambitious vision for the company and their ability to navigate complex regulation across a wide range of jurisdictions.

“With strong domain expertise and deep investment into core financial infrastructure, Airwallex is very well positioned to take advantage of the large payments market and the recent accelerated move to online,” she said.

Square Peg Capital co-founder and partner Paul Bassat said he had seen huge potential in Airwallex from early on.

“2020 has fast-tracked the importance of the digital economy and Airwallex is at the forefront of this, driving efficiencies, ease and speed on cross-border payments,” he said. “Today they are one of the best placed tech companies in the world to help businesses succeed in the new digital era.”

Business Briefing

Start the day with major stories, exclusive coverage and expert opinion from our leading business journalists delivered to your inbox. Sign up for the Herald‘s here and The Age‘s here.

Most Viewed in Business

Source: Thanks