By Bob Johnston
July 12, 2022

An OS for Immigration – Amir Hemmat, CEO, WelcomeTech

My guest today is Amir Hemmat, Co-Founder and CEO of Welcome Technologies (Welcome), the “Digital Ellis Island” and  operating system for immigration. I was introduced to Amir by a mutual friend, Samer Hamadeh, who is Co-Founder and CEO at Zeel, with whom I recorded a podcast a couple of years ago, alongside Venus Williams. 

Amir and I covered a lot of ground and I came away from our conversation being genuinely impressed – not merely generally impressed – by his deeply rooted vision and heartfelt personal ethos. WelcomeTech is on a unique mission and is building a data-driven company in a sector that has not experienced significant overgrowth as of yet. Lots of green fields ahead, in my view.

We discuss building a platform of this kind in today’s context and how Amir scaled it to four million active accounts.  It’s no small feat bringing together and developing a network of immigrants and we dig into some of the tactics and processes that WelcomeTech has put in place over the years. We also focus on data – this is a signifiant market and being data-driven is a huge plus for providing immigrants with the proper services, such as banking access and so on. That said, we cover the important of physical community and how it plays into Amir’s approach and model. 

Amir touches on startups and investing, as well, and the fundraising process for the company over the years (they recently raised a $30m round from new and prior investors).

Lastly, Amir shares his story as a cancer survivor and touches on his personal journey, business journey, and aligning his leadership style to match on both fronts. He discusses the going beyond being purpose-driven and why it’s important to build a business around compassion, strong ethics and a diverse culture.

Amir's Bio

Amir Hemmat is Co-Founder and CEO of Welcome Technologies (Welcome), the “Digital Ellis Island '' and  operating system for immigration. Welcome is a venture funded technology platform that is building innovative financial solutions for this cohort, including a digital wallet, to ensure access to previously elusive opportunities and to propel this consumer sector, and our society, forward. Welcome is currently focused on the Hispanic community, the largest immigrant group in the world, through its consumer platform SABEResPODER® (SEP). The platform reaches over 9 million immigrants a year across 50 US markets and connects these consumers to custom financial services. To date, Welcome has raised $50 million from TTV Capital, Owl Ventures and SoftBank’s Opportunity Fund, with participation from Crosscut Ventures, Mubadala Capital, Next Play Capital and Owl Capital.

Prior to Welcome Tech, Amir co-founded an educational platform also called SABEResPODER (SEP). SEP provided informational content to the Hispanic community and produced comprehensive and practical information for navigating life in the United States, including topics such as healthcare, financial services, education, technology, and governmental services. Through SEP, he conducted in-depth market research on the U.S. immigrant market and co-authored educational guides on financial literacy, with millions of copies distributed nationwide.

Countries should attract and retain great talent, just like companies do.
Amir on the pragmatic and practical approach to talent
The best companies want to solve meaningful problems in the world.
Amir on what drives his personal ethos

7:09 - Amir explains the thought process behind creating a "digital Ellis Island." Specifically, he discusses  the gaps that are naturally left open by governments (such as in the immigration sector) and how WelcomeTech can fill the gaps by helping immigrants with their everyday needs.

12:30 - Amir lays out key metrics and data points Welcome tracks as they expand their business. Amir dispels myths when it comes to the immigrant consumer base. He also discusses hacks that he put in place to grow the business.

18:43 - Amir discusses the fintech element of his platform and also how years of working with immigrant communities gave him insights into better serving his constituency. This segment covers understanding his base and the importance of in-person connections despite all of us living in a digital world nowadays.

37:25 - Amir covers his fundraising to-date, investor mindset in the space, gives advice to founders of start-ups and how he grew his user base to 4m active accounts

42:35 - Bob asks Amir how he brings compassion to his leadership style and how he sees the wider business culture in our increasingly globalized (yer localized) economy. Amir discusses his cancer journey and how that informed his world view and his desire to build a strong ethical environment and culture at the company.

53:25 - Amir shares a contrarian view and his go-to resources on the work and personal fronts