One Coffee Shop Became A $1 Billion Startup

//One Coffee Shop Became A $1 Billion Startup
5 friends start a billion dollar business

Two Australian friends turned one coffee shop into a $1 billion startup. This is how they did it.

Jack Zhang and Max Li were just looking for a solid side hustle. So like a lot of young urbanites they opened a coffee shop. But now the two entrepreneurs have brewed up the fastest-growing $1 billion startup in Australian history.

The Melbournites converted a steady supply of caffeine into Airwallex, an international payments platform which has achieved the mythical unicorn status in just three years.

How two guys created a $1 billion startup

As new small business owners, Jack and Max couldn’t believe the exorbitant international fees when importing coffee. It destroyed their margins. Surely others were frustrated too.

Instead of just complaining Max and Jack enlisted three other college friends Lucy Liu, Xijing Dai and Ki-Lok.

Together they invented a solution. But not just for coffee. For all international business.

Airwallex allows cheap business-to-business transactions across borders. It’s like Transferwise, but for business owners.

“They were importing a lot from China and they found the whole process to be very painful,” Liu told CNBC. “We thought there must be something we could do.”

The path to a $1 billion startup

In a matter of months, the friends had all quit their day jobs. It was time to go all in.

Their borderless transaction system officially aunched in 2016 and can purportedly reduce costs on traditional foreign transactions by as much as 90% – according to the company.
This means international fees of less than 1%.

A modest gamble

The friends invested only $1 million from their own savings and from family and friends.
It’s obviously a luxury to have a million cash in your extended network. But it’s also not a lot of money as far as initial investments.
But soon, big money backers like Sequoia Capital, Tencent and Horizons Venture took an interest.
During Airwallex’s last $100 million round of funding, DST Global gave them the $1 billion startup unicorn stamp of approval.
The five founders are now worth an estimated $100 million each.
Airwallex is also currently expanding into American, Asian and European markets.
So for these five college friends, the first billion may have already been the hardest.

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