Step aboard the rocketship: How Airwallex became one of Australia’s top technology companies
By Sam Kothari (pictured), Head of Growth ANZ, Airwallex
The way businesses operate has been forever changed; it’s now completely borderless. The digital economy, alongside rapid tech adoption and the rise of hybrid working, have helped to reduce the barrier for entry abroad.
Many businesses are setting their sights on global operations, with the ability to reach new customers, talent and revenue streams. However, expansion globally can also create complex challenges for businesses – particularly when it comes to financial operations.
We help businesses by alleviating the global roadblocks associated with international markets, including opening accounts overseas, high FX fees and managing employee expenses. Our payment network extends to over 150 countries across all seven continents, making us one of the widest reaching payment networks in the world.
So, how did we go from startup, to one of Australia’s most successful technology companies?
Finding product-market fit
Airwallex’s products and platform were inspired by real-life experiences. Two of our founders, Jack Zhang and Max Li, understood the pain points facing small businesses, after being charged high FX fees when importing supplies for their cafe in Melbourne.
So, they teamed up with friends from the University of Melbourne, Lucy Liu and Xijing Dai, and used their collective backgrounds in technology and finance to develop a new solution, aimed at meeting the business challenges they themselves were facing.
A deep understanding of Airwallex’s target customer provided a solid foundation for finding product-market fit (how the product will fulfil a customer’s needs, challenges or desires). From here, the founders continued evolving the product with extensive user research, including feedback from existing and potential customers.
With a customer-first mindset, Airwallex has created a truly global payments and banking infrastructure aimed at empowering businesses of all sizes to accept payments, move money globally, and simplify their financial operations.
Putting the customer first
The customer first ethos – which helped create Airwallex – remains at the heart of everything we do. Today, we have feedback loops within Airwallex to champion our customers internally with product and engineering teams – this is known as the “Voice of Customer”.
We also launched the “Priority Access Program” which allows customers to access new products and services in the beta phase, again creating a closer connection between customers and product teams.
More recently, my own team launched the customer “delight fund”; designed to empower our customer support teams with a budget to spend on anything they think could bring joy to a customer’s day.
Meeting growth challenges head on
While Airwallex is now one of Australia’s most successful technology companies, a few short years ago we were still working to create a foothold in the Australian market. The team was small, mighty, and in typical startup fashion, was juggling multiple hats and multiple responsibilities.
This extended to every role, including for myself. If you’d called Airwallex’s customer support, I would have been on the other end greeting you with: “Thanks for calling Airwallex, cross-border payments.”
Although the team in Australia has since grown, recruiting the right talent to scale rapidly is a constant focus for us. For example, scaling Airwallex’s global sales and operations team from two to over 40 people, means continuing to create new functions, roles and ways of working.
While there isn’t a playbook to follow when scaling, Airwallex is lucky enough to have an extraordinary group of global talent; people who when they put their heads together, can put all the puzzle pieces in place – no matter the challenge, the stakes or the hurdles to overcome.
We are so grateful and honoured to be named ‘Best Fintech Growth Story’ at the 7th Annual FinTech Awards. If I could attribute our success to one thing in particular, it would be our global team’s continued commitment to providing a better experience for our customers; connecting entrepreneurs, business builders, makers and creators with opportunities in every corner of the world.