A unicorn providing less-costly foreign exchange

The struggles of a speciality coffee shop run by two budding entrepreneurs in Melbourne lie behind the success of Airwallex, Australia’s newest unicorn, which provides easy foreign exchange transactions for start-ups and other small companies. In 2015, computer engineer Jack Zhang and architect Max Li opened a coffee house in Melbourne’s high-rise Docklands district. Looking to cut costs, the two decided to import cups and labels from China but hit an unexpected wall: the costly and gruelling cross-border payments system… At the time, Mr Zhang was also working full-time as a developer of foreign exchange software at ANZ Bank. He saw how corporate clients paid less — and did less — than smaller companies in cross-border, business-to-business transactions. This inspired Mr Zhang and Mr Li to launch another business that focused on providing simple, less-costly foreign exchange and international payment services to internet companies as well as small and midsized enterprises… Three-and-a-half years later, Airwallex has grown from a five-member team to a thriving company with more than 260 staff in eight offices spanning Australia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, the UK and the US. The company’s client list includes nascent start-ups as well as giants such as Tencent, JD.com, Ctrip and Mastercard.
 
Michelle Chan
 
 

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