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Coffee shop to $2.5 billion startup: Atlassian backs Airwallex

Anastasia Santoreneos
·2-min read
HONG KONG , Hong Kong - 10 July 2019; Lucy Liu, Co-founder, Airwallex, on MoneyConf Stage during day two of RISE 2019 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Hong Kong. (Photo By Cody Glenn/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Coffee shop to $2.5 billion startup: Atlassian backs Airwallex. Source: Getty

Real-time payments platform Airwallex has received an Aussie tech darling’s tick of approval, with Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar backing the startup in its latest round of funding.

Airwallex’s latest fundraiser added US$40 million (AU$56 million), taking its valuation to a whopping US$1.8 billion (AU$2.5 billion).

Farquhar and his wife invested in the startup through their private investment vehicle, Skip Capital, according to the SMH, and existing investor Square Peg also contributed to the fundraiser.

Co-founder Lucy Liu told the publication that, after the company’s successful US$160 million Series D fundraiser earlier this year, they decided to extend the fundraiser by US$40 million to continue their global expansion.

“The additional funds raised will enable Airwallex to invest in the continual build out of its product suite, to strengthen its existing footprint in key regions such as Asia-Pacific and UK/Europe, and to expand its global payment coverage to include additional regions such as the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa,” the company stated.

That brings its total Series D funding to US$200 million, and total equity funding to date to over US$400 million.

And it seems Covid-19 hasn’t stopped Airwallex from “thriving”, the company said.

“A major shift in the way businesses operate from offline to online is something Airwallex predicted from our inception,” co-founder Zhang said. “However, 2020 has fast-tracked this transition in a way no one could have foreseen.

“Businesses are now racing to embrace digital transformation at an unprecedented rate. We are more certain than ever that the digital economy is going to be the centre of the world’s economic structure.”

But $2.5 billion is a far cry from the founders’ humble beginnings: a coffee shop.

Co-founders Jack Zhang and Max Li were the owners of Melbourne cafe Tukk & Co, with the idea for Airwallex coming to them after finding the fees for importing goods like coffee cups from other countries too pricey.

Zhang and Li enlisted their university friends Liu, Xijang Dai and Ki-Lok Wong to create a payments platform that would make it cheaper for people to import goods from overseas.

“The first years are about survival,” Liu told Yahoo Finance in 2019. “It was organised chaos.”

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