Rising Boise-born entrepreneur discusses his startup’s mission
[Update Oct. 31, 2017]
Startup founder Matt Oppenheimer, a Boise native and the son of Boise businessman Arthur F. “Skip” Oppenheimer, just landed an investment to expand his worldwide payment-remittance service.
His Seattle company, Remitly, raised $115 million in a funding round led by PayU, a company controlled by Naspers, a South Africa company that invests in technology. PayU is a digital payment provider serving merchants and their customers.
“Remitly continues to disrupt the traditional remittance space challenging players like Western Union, Moneygram and Banks by offering a faster, safer, and more affordable money transfer solution for people who need to send money across international borders,” Remitly said in a statement. The company sends nearly $4 billion per year between countries.
Oppenheimer, the CEO, said the money “will supercharge our growth and help transform the lives of those who require cross-border transactions, including immigrants, by allowing us to offer them fundamentally better financial services.”
Laurent le Moal, PayU’s CEO, will join Remitly’s board. Existing investors Stripes Group, DFJ, and DN Capital will also take part in the investment round.
The story below, written for the Statesman’s Business Insider magazine, was published Aug. 15, 2016, under the headline, “Boise-born entrepreneur rises in Seattle financial-tech sector.”
Business leaders, politicos and many others know his family name. The Oppenheimers are a Boise legacy.
Matt Oppenheimer’s grandfather started the Oppenheimer Cos. food processing, sales, and marketing and commercial real estate business. His father is Arthur F. “Skip” Oppenheimer, the company’s CEO.
But to build his own headline-making business, Oppenheimer had to move. Now in Seattle, the 34-year-old Boise native is running his first startup — a financial-technology business, Remitly, that handles more than $1 billion a year in transactions for hundreds of thousands of customers sending money home to the Philippines, Mexico and other countries.
Oppenheimer had the idea for Remitly while working for Barclays Bank in Kenya. He noticed how much people relied on outdated methods such as wire transfers to send money between countries. Remitly’s mobile and desktop transfer system offers a more efficient and affordable way for foreign workers in the U.S. to send money, or remittances, back to their home countries. The cost to use it is free for transfers that take three days or $3.99 for an instant transfer.
“Living in Kenya and seeing how remittances went ... this was a problem that I not only felt like I could build a big business, but also thought I could make a big impact on the world,” Oppenheimer says.
Boise startup guru and investor Mark Solon, a general partner in Highway 12 Ventures, took Oppenheimer under his wing, laying the path for Remitly to ramp up at the Seattle offices of Techstars, a Boulder, Colo., startup training and development program in which Solon is managing partner.
Q: What is Remitly’s origin story?
A: I had the idea before I came back but really started to push the idea forward for the first few months in Boise. I lived in the guest bedroom of a friend I went to preschool with. I rented his extra bedroom.
I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship, and Mark [Solon] has been an amazing, amazing mentor for not only me but a lot of folks in the Boise area [and] nationally. There was a job-shadow day when I was in high school at Boise High, and I shadowed Mark. I interned for him at Highway 12 [three years later].
When I was thinking about starting the business, I had the business side of experience, but I didn’t have the tech perspective or connections, and as a venture capitalist, Mark knew that world well, so it was a great place to land. Mark told me about Techstars.
Q: You took the idea from there to Techstars in Seattle. Why did you need to leave Boise to build Remitly?
A: I think for me as a first-time founder, I think that having access to talent — especially software engineers — and not having to convince people to relocate was a big factor. There’s some software engineering talent in Boise. I’m encouraged by the investments some of the schools are making there. But getting into Techstars, and my co-founder and chief operating officer being from Seattle, the software engineering community ...
Q: Boise didn’t have the right tech workforce?
A: I wouldn’t say there wasn’t enough talent. There’s a ton of talent in Boise. ... I think there’s a lot of great things happening in Boise.
I feel like Rick Ritter [director of Meridian-based New Ventures Lab and former CEO of Idaho TechConnect] and Kevin Learned [director of Boise State University’s Venture College and local angel-investment expert] are doing a bunch of cool things.
But the deal with an early-early stage, basically-at-concept-stage startup is you want everything possible to be in your favor, because there are so many roadblocks that have to be overcome. And the ecosystem and world-class talent in Seattle was too hard to resist.
The hub of talent in Seattle is huge. That’s why there is a whole bunch of outposts [in Seattle of tech businesses such as Facebook]. I wanted that tailwind.
Q: What are your three- or five-year plans for Remitly?
A: We just raised, in April, a $38.5 million round. Our focus has been to really be customer-focused and product-focused, so right now we send money from the U.S. and Canada to the Philippines, India and Mexico [and other Central and South American countries], and the plan is to focus on those corridors. We’ll launch a bunch of new markets, because there are a bunch of customers in those markets that are excited to use us.
The U.S.-to-Philippines alone, there is over $10 billion that’s sent. U.S.-to-India, there’s $15 billion sent. In the markets we’re in, there’s still a lot of room to grow.
Q: Do you see yourself ever returning to Boise?
A: I’m 100 percent invested in what I’m doing now in terms of scaling up my business. But I love, love Idaho. So I think that I could eventually return. There’s no place like Boise.