The Quest Minutes: Matt Gamache-Asselin

Building a unicorn digital pharmacy

Justin Kan
3 min readDec 3, 2020
Matt Gamache-Asselin (pictured left) and Jamie Karraker,
Co-founders, Alto Pharmacy

Who’s Matt?

Matt Gamache-Asselin is one of the scrappiest entrepreneurs I’ve ever met. Five years ago, he was a junior engineer at Facebook, dreaming about startups. Today, he’s the founder of Alto, a digital pharmacy startup that serves tens of thousands of patients and has raised $350M in investment funding. I’ve watched him struggle, survive, and thrive on his journey, and am lucky to consider him a close personal friend.

My notes:

I met Matt & Jamie in 2015 when they were engineers at Facebook. They wanted to start a co, but wanted the assurance of raising $ before quitting their day jobs. I asked them how anyone would believe in the founders if they didn’t believe in themselves. They quit FB the next day.

After a few weeks delivering prescriptions from my living room, Matt decided they needed to own a pharmacy to build something better. So he started walking into pharmacies in SF and asking if he could buy them. He actually found one: AG Pharmacy in the Mission.

AG was 1500 sq ft and super grimy. The pharmacy had been accumulating junk since the 60s. Silverfish were falling off the ceiling. The team found lambskin condoms that expired 40 years ago.

The engineers eventually moved into an abandoned doctor’s office next door that was so cold they called it Canada. The office was about to be turned into condos, and homeless people had previously taken it over. But it was very, very cheap.

Even though these wasn’t an ideal working environment, it turned out to be important because it got the team to understand what running a pharmacy was like.

Somewhere on the way, Matt found peace in meditation. Right before raising a $250m round with SoftBank, he went on to a meditation retreat. After coming back with a clear mind, Matt spoke for 4 hours w/o slides. He closed the deal 3 days after.

For Matt, the lesson has been: building million-dollar companies doesn’t get rid of past hurt or pain, or the perpetual feeling of inadequacy.

Listen in to the whole conversation 👇

Find the Quest on any podcast network (Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher) 📻Follow for updates on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook 📍