What does Airwallex do?
Airwallex is building a global digital payment network so businesses can process cross-border payments as cheaply and conveniently as possible. We’ve spun out our underlying technology into a series of products to suit all business payment needs.
How did you get the idea?
It came from two of my favourite things: work, and coffee. It came about after I experienced first-hand how much extra cost was involved in importing cups from abroad, while I was running a coffee shop at the bottom of the NAB building. Having extensive experience in the FX world of banking and finance, my friends and I decided to make payments simpler and more efficient.
What’s the biggest win you’ve had so far?
I can’t point to one thing in particular – I’m amazed at how far we’ve come. In less than two years we’ve got offices in three countries, more than 50 staff, and a number of incredibly interesting partnerships lined up. Oh, and the $13M USD we raised for our Series A round back in May.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
A mistake we made early on was to follow too many potential avenues without being clear as to the capabilities of our products. Now that we know what we can do specifically – we know who can use it, and how we can deliver it.
Now that we know what we can do specifically – we know who can use it, and how we can deliver it.
How’s your experience been funding your startup?
The largest challenge we had funding-wise was getting in front of the right investors for Series A funding. After a few months, it all turned around in just a couple of days when the right people saw our proposition. Persistence is key.
What needs to improve/change for Australia to become a global leader in innovation and tech?
I believe we’re already on the rise in terms of world leadership. Australia has been recently recognised in the top five for fintech adoption. That’s off the back of strong local tech development, working with regulators to make it work. But, I think Aussie fintechs need to think globally in terms of offerings, and in turn, will get more interest from foreign investors.
Aussie fintechs need to think globally in terms of offerings, and in turn will get more interest from foreign investors.
Have you had any challenges with sourcing and growing your team?
Initially, we were just looking for talent, but we soon realised that personality comes hugely into play at a startup. The nature of this world is that structures aren’t rigid, and there’s very little hierarchy. If you’re looking to cruise along, startups aren’t for you. We soon found that self-motivation was a huge factor, and we’ve had lots of incredible hiring successes recently. Airwallex puts a lot of effort into hiring the right people and creating an environment where they can thrive. We’re always on the lookout for new talent (especially Java devs).
Do you have any tips for acquiring new users and/or scaling your business?
It’s absolutely critical to consider scalability from the outset. Building a framework that can easily handle the bandwidth of future large volumes is important if your business is going to thrive in periods of high-speed growth. Consider the possibilities and be ready to jump on potential opportunities. Think big!
Consider the possibilities and be ready to jump on potential opportunities. Think big!
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
Now that I’ve been a startup founder, I really don’t know where else I’d fit into an organisation. I love the thrill of running a business and making an impact on the world. I’ve always been a bit of a serial entrepreneur and I don’t see that changing anytime soon!
If you could go back to the start, tell us two things you would do differently.
Hindsight is 20/20 right? As a startup we’re learning as we go, which I don’t think is a bad thing. It means we can push the limits and develop new, innovative ideas. I think we’ve learned from our missteps so I wouldn’t say we’d do anything differently. Ok, I might not have left my phone charger on the plane that time. Or that other time.
What’s the best advice you could give to someone starting out?
It’s not business advice exactly, although it does apply: Nelson Mandela said “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”