Everything worthwhile takes work and sacrifice.
Imagine the sacrifice you have to make to leave your family, work 18-hour days, 6 days a week and then not be able to keep any of your income because you need to send it back home so your children can go to school and your family can eat. That is the reality I witnessed while living in Hong Kong of the Indonesian and Filipino maids who lived and still live there, as well as the millions of foreign workers across the globe. The sacrifice they make is huge. They need to work and since work is not available at home, they travel the globe and do whatever they have to help those they love.
They sacrifice because they know their "why." When you, as an entrepreneur know your purpose, you will do whatever it takes as well.
One aspect of the lives of foreign workers that is harder than it should be is the act of remittance or sending money back home. It is complex and often costs too much. Think about spending 5-10% of your monthly paycheck on the fees just to send the money back home.
Every year, $600 billion is transferred from family member to family member via international remittances across the globe, usually through traditional wire services like Western Union and MoneyGram.
Today there are new players that are working to change the industry such as WorldRemit, Xoom, TransferWise and fresh newcomer Remitly.
Remitly was built by Matt Oppenheimer and his co-founder Josh Hug to make remittances easier.
While not necessarily as fast as MoneyGram, or as cheap as TransferWise or serving nearly as many locations as Western Union, Remitly is a growing company that is disrupting an industry by focusing on creating a better user experience.
Remitly is currently sending $4 Billion in remittances a year, which means there is another $596 billion opportunity. That is a big challenge. And one that investors seem to also want to help solve. Oppenheimer and his team recently received $115 Million is series D funding to support their vision "to transform the lives of immigrants and their families by providing the most trusted financial service products on the planet."
In light of their growth potential and trajectory, I reached out to Oppenheimer, Remitly's CEO, to hear his story and to find out what he has learned in his journey toward building a mission-driven company.
Here is what he told me on our phone call:
Oppenheimer said that there will always be challenges, there will always be obstacles, and that no business ever goes according to plan.
He then went on to say that there are 2 specific things to remember that will allow you to succeed if you really want to help and serve others: be insanely customer-centric and persevere with focus.
1. Become insanely customer-centric.
While this might sound cliche, developing products customers love and love to use will always create a winner in the end. You can only do this if you are deeply connected to the customer. You can only be customer-centric after you fully understand your client.
And this goes back to having a mission.
When you have a mission, you can segment out who you want to help, this allows you to target in on the opportunity. Oppenheimer points out that when you know the customer you can pivot. If your actions are driven by a true desire to help your customers, your idea should and will evolve over time. It is all about focusing on the client.
2. Persevere with focus.
Remittance is a very a complex business, there are lots of pieces to the puzzle to be arranged just to get it started. There is licensing in every state, there are security measures, fraud prevention, finding disbursement partners, a bunch of chicken and egg problems. And often most daunting of all not knowing where to start.
Part of persevering the right way is staying focused. As Oppenheimer told me on the phone: "Stay focused, you can't persevere through 1,000 different walls at the same time." In the beginning, stay focused and hit each wall one at a time, as they come. Eventually, by becoming so good at the foundational work, you can then pivot and transform. Just like Amazon first became excellent at selling books online, become excellent at one thing and then grow.
Part of persevering is pushing forward with the right idea. Oppenheimer also told me that a big misconception is that people think the idea is most important. The idea is important, but finding a mission, finding customers that have a problem, and then committing to dedicating years and year to solving this problem, that is what fuels the perseverance. Your mission is based on your "why", when your "why" is strong enough, everything else will make sense.
When you are committed to something, nothing will get in your way. When you have a purpose bigger than yourself, then going the extra mile becomes common. Oppenheimer said he sees this attitude displayed by the clients his company serves.
We could all be more like them.