Online payment group OzForex gets $70 million investment from US group

American investment group Accel Partners has made its second Australian investment within five months, buying into an online exchange payments group OzForex, the companies announced overnight.

Accel would not reveal the size of its investment, but sources have told SmartCompany it is between $70-110 million.

The announcement comes after Accel invested $60 million in Sydney-based software group Atlassian earlier this year.

OzForex said yesterday it accepted a joint offer from Accel, whose investment portfolio includes Facebook, and asset manager Carlyle Group, with the firms now minority shareholders. Partners from both firms are now set to join OxForex’s board.

Accel partner Ryan Sweeney says the group was attracted to OzForex due to its sophisticated online platform and global expansion.

“We’ve been spending a lot of time in the FX space for the last 12 months figuring out if there would play into the market in a smart, efficient manner. We like the fact there are customers in one geography setting up payments in another geography.”

“We’ve spoken to about 30-40 companies over the past 12 months in the space, and we think OzForex has the best platform. Lots of companies do this but we wanted to see a business with the the right tech and the right platform. The Australian economy is doing well and there is lots of finance flowing into Sydney through Asia.”

OzForex was founded in 1998 by Matthew Gilmour, with the company now offering payment services to individuals and businesses. It has nearly 100 employees and is set to manage transactions with over $7 billion during 2010.

Neil Helm now serves as chief executive and says the deal provided itself at a time when the company was looking to grow overseas.

“We want to grow globally. We’re strong in the southern hemisphere, but we want to grow into the Asian market and we have offices in Britain and Canada. We’re going to grow though that, and we’re going to open new offices and pursue new products and services.”

Sweeney says Accel was attracted to the company due to its global scope, (it has offices in Canada and Britain), and its well-developed software for trading.

“Accel is becoming much more global in nature now. And as a result of us having a global presence we need to look at opportunities in core geographies,” he says. “On a very macro level, we think people are becoming more comfortable transacting online and we think that is going to continue to grow.”

Helm says both companies bring a distinct flavour to the business, and particular expertise in areas he believes the company can draw from. “They have quite complementary skills, you have Accel which has good experience in the online space and the Carlyle group which has great experience in the financial transactions space.”

And with two Australian investments under the company’s belt, Sweeney hints there may be more coming, arguing the local market has some attractive tech companies completing some interesting projects.

“Australia has a very good economy, and we’re seeing lots of interesting growth types and opportunities. There’s a very good entrepreneurial spirit in Australia, and we want to see them build world-wide leading businesses. People need to have a worldly perspective, which is what OzForex has.”

The investment also comes as some veterans have warned the Australian tech industry is falling behind. But Sweeney says there are plenty of opportunities in the local market.

“From the limited view that I have, I think we’ve seen about 10-15 companies that I think are really interesting. I think there is a really good sense of things over there and they are very bullish. The entrepreneurial spirit seems to be alive.”

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