Power Retail Podcast: How Airwallex Became the Fastest Growing Unicorn

Ally Feiam By Ally Feiam | 30 Jun 2019

This year, Airwallex became the fastest growing Unicorn in Australian history. We sat down with the fintech company to discuss the gap in the global financial market and helping retailers.

Airwallex knew that there was an easier way to make global payments. Since 2015 the company has provided simple and transparent cross-border payments for retailers. They recently hit the big time by closing a $100 million Series C round, which pushed them into the billion-dollar club.

Before founding Airwallex, Jack Zhang and Max Li ran a small cafe in the Docklands in Melbourne. Thinking they were financially savvy, the pair imported cheaper cups and lids from Hong Kong and mainland China, which any small retailer would do, in order to save money.

“While these purchases made sense on paper, they kept getting stung by high transaction fees. One time they had to pay $600 in foreign exchange fees for an order worth $15,000. The co-founders got together and said this way of working didn’t make sense. If you’re losing 4-5 per cent on FX, that could be half of your profit margin gone,” explained Dave Stein, Airwallex’s Head of Corporate Development.

In 2015, the pair joined forces with three others to create Airwallex, a fintech company that aimed to bring ‘international payments and foreign exchange’ into the internet age. “We’re the fastest growing tech Unicorn in Australian history,” said Stein. “We’re very proud of that, and we’re proud to be growing and raising the capital to support Australian businesses, especially Australian retailers.”

As most would expect, there’s quite a large difference between the Chinese and Australian markets. “The markets are very different, but what we do is actually very similar. We’re a global fintech, and our vision is to be an operating system among global financial banks,” explained Stein.

To listen to the full podcast, tune in to the Power Retail Podcast at the Retail Global Gold Coast 2019 Conference below.