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The Remitly team. (Remitly Photo)

International money transfer heavyweight Remitly is opening its second U.S. office, and it didn’t have to stray far from home for a location.

Remitly announced plans for a new office in Spokane, Wash., about 300 miles east of its Seattle headquarters. The office will focus primarily on product and engineering, and the company is hiring full-stack software developers there.

Low cost of living and a diverse collection of talent coming out of universities around Spokane drew Remitly to the area. The Seattle company has more than 1,000 employees around the globe in offices in London; Dublin; Manila in the Philippines and Managua in Nicaragua.

Remitly is coming off a massive $135 million equity and debt round in July. The company has raised more than $311 million in equity to date. Its valuation climbed to nearly $1 billion following the latest round, putting it on the cusp of joining an elite group of Seattle-area “unicorn” companies. The company is using the cash infusion to expand its remittance services to more countries and also develop new products.

Remitly CEO Matt Oppenheimer. (Remitly Photo)

Remitly helps close to 2 million customers send and receive more than $6 billion annually through a global money transfer network across the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia.

Helping people send and receive money across borders, including immigrants who support families back home, is a hot sector of the financial tech market. London-based WorldRemit raised $175 million in June at a near-$1 billion valuation, and TransferWise, another London company, was valued at $3.5 billion after a $292 million secondary funding in May.

Remittances to low-and-middle-income countries reached a record $529 billion last year, according to The World Bank, up 9.6 percent year-over-year. Total global remittances reached $689 billion in 2018, up from $633 billion the year prior. Digital payments are also on the rise.

Companies such as Remitly let people send and receive money via smartphone apps, eliminating forms, codes, agents, and other fees typically associated with the international money transfer process. Controlling that entire process — from compliance to security — lets the new breed of money transfer companies offer lower fees than many traditional competitors.

Spokane, a mid-sized city in a rural part of the state, is carving out a reputation as a burgeoning tech hub, and Remitly’s new office should reinforce that. The city’s Hacking Washington campaign aims to recruit companies wary of high cost of living in established tech hubs like San Francisco and Seattle.

Rover, the Seattle-based pet-sitting company that won the Next Tech Titan honor at the GeekWire Awards, has an outpost in Spokane. The University of Washington’s CoMotion Labs launched an innovation hub in the Spokane area in 2017, and the city is also home to startups such as Stay Alfred, RiskLens, and GoToTags.

Josh Hug, Remitly’s co-founder and COO, is an alumnus of Whitworth University in Spokane.

“Expanding to Spokane was an easy decision to make and we’re thrilled to be part of the city’s growth,” Hug said in a statement.

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