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Matt Oppenheimer of Remitly

The consistent theme in Matt Oppenheimer’s life has been people and relationships. When asked what he was ‘into’ in high school, he shares how he started a non-profit called the Youth Lobbying Organization to give people under the age of 18 a voice in the political process. Matt went on to attend Dartmouth and Harvard Business School. During his time working in banking, he lived in London and in Kenya and realized how important remittances are for giving people in developing countries more opportunity. As a result, Matt started Remitly in 2011, which is now the largest private digital remittance company in the US. They’ve raised over $175 million and have quickly grown to have over 800 employees in four different countries. Matt discusses how he gets to know his employees on a deeper level, the impact his family has had on him and his hopes for his daughter, Alice. Even with his impressive career and his successful efforts to make the world a better place, Matt remains incredibly humble. His kind heart is something everyone will feel from this podcast.

Updated on May 15
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Key Smash Notes In This Episode

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Matt's grandpa started a company called Oppenheimer Company which did real estate and food distribution and processing. His dad and uncle now run this company from Boise, Idaho. Being around successful entrepreneurs certainly left an impact on Matt and allowed him to pursue less traditional opportunities, like starting a non-profit to give people under 18 a voice in the political process, while still being in high-school.

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Growing up in Boise, Matt got to see how much privilege some had vs. others. Boise was not a very ethnically diverse place, but it was very diverse socio-economically. While he was starting a non-profit, some of his high-school buddies had to work in order to pay for their own food. Matt is the first to recognize that he was privileged and lucky to do what he did.

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As a young kid, Matt and his family traveled a lot. He had been to nearly 100 countries, where he got to see poverty and inequality, among other things. Fast-forward to his adulthood, while working for HBS in Kenya, Matt saw saw how remittances could elevate people from poverty and enable opportunities. Kenya was already using mobile phones to transform their financial landscape, and it made a lot of sense to make the concept available to the world. As smart phone adoption continued to grow, so did Remitly.

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Matt says he doubts himself all the time, not just at the beginning of the business, but on the daily basis. This doubt helps to keep himself in check. He would be very skeptical about anyone who claims to have no doubts.

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As of the time of this writing, Remitly has over 800 employees spread across four offices: Seattle, London, Nicaragua, and the Philippines.

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In case of Remitly, Matt is empowering the employees to drive their growth. Every year he puts a development plan that is shared across the entire organization, which sets forth a plan which everyone strives for, including himself. It is, after all, important to lead by example.

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First, it is important to know what you do not know. You have to understand that your co-founder's job will be just as difficult as your job, but with a different set of challenges. Second, it's a good idea to really get to know your co-founder before commiting for a very long journey.

When Matt Oppenheimer and Shivaas Gulati were first talking about working together, for example, they spend a few days over at Matt's place in Boise, getting to know each other and really figuring out if they could work together.

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