While launching mobile and internet banking for Barclays in Nairobi, Kenya, Matt Oppenheimer caught sight of how the $574 billion in remittances sent annually are not simply transactions, but also lifelines. These money transfers from emigrants, he says, “have sustainability, have meaning and come from families to make a difference in people’s lives.”
The ubiquity of the mobile phone in these countries, he notes, presented an opportunity in a business that operates mostly without banks. “While folks have talked about disrupting Western Union for 160 years, the timing [finally] seemed to be right.”
The company he cofounded, Remitly, enables global money transfers directly from a bank or debit card through a mobile or digital device, at lower cost than conventional wiring methods. A click of “send” notifies the recipient by text that funds await at a local pickup station, while the sender gets step-by-step updates.
Remitly navigates a thicket of international financial regulations to grow as a business, and it already serves markets in Mexico, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Peru and most of Central America. It estimates that customers sending money to Latin America alone have saved nearly $500,000 in transfer fees.
The church collection plate meets electronic payments in this startup. The United States, with 150 million churchgoers, is one of the world’s most religious countries — as well as the largest consumer economy. Pushpay, which also operates in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, aims to make donating to faith organizations and other nonprofits easier and more frequent through custom community apps and tools for donor management. Pushpay’s platform now shepherds more than $3 billion per year to support local community efforts that include homeless shelters, women’s refugee centers and drug rehabilitation centers.