Dr. Gerry Kuroghlian and Tod Kalif taught Matt Yemma to write.
Nearly 2 decades after his 2002 graduation from Staples High School, he remembers the educators’ criticisms, encouragement and impact.
A few years after Yemma graduated from the University of Redlands — where he majored in English — Kuroghlian reached out on Facebook, with more words of support. Once a teacher, always a teacher.
Yemma had planned to go into public relations. His parents worked in PR and journalism, and — as a news junkie — he cherished the media’s role in society.
But before graduation, the 2006 midterm elections loomed. “I thought the world was like the TV show ‘West Wing,'” he recalls. “So before I jumped into the corporate world, I wanted to try politics.”
As an intern for the Nevada Democratic National Committee, he worked on campaigns from city council to Harry Reid’s re-election bid. Then came stints as press assistant for the Nevada State Assembly speaker and, 2 years later, Nevada deputy press secretary for Obama for America.
But corporate America called. Yemma headed to New York, where he worked in financial services PR just as the financial crisis deepened. It was trial by fire.
After a few years — including stints when Detroit went into bankruptcy, and lobbying on behalf of Obamacare — Yemma headed back to school. While earning a master’s in public affairs, he freelanced.
He started his own business, and in 2017 merged with another. Yemma has built up that business — Peaks Strategies — ever since. It’s a successful boutique firm, with many clients. They include asset managers, private equity firms, technology, ESG and impact investing, biotech and healthcare, and a company advocating for carbon capture and a common sense approach to the NetZero challenge.
And, now, cryptocurrency and blockchain companies too. Yemma works with major players in the NFt, digital security and crypto spaces.
“A lot of PR is being on the forefront of frontier markets,” Yemma says. Though crypto and blockchain have been around for a while, suddenly the public is paying attention.
“Some countries don’t have real banking systems,” Yemma explains. “Digital is the way to go, everywhere in the world.”
His PR work extends from mainstream publications like the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, to trade publications. In his work, he meets many Westporters also involved in these “frontier markets.”
But as exciting as all that is, Yemma may not always work in the fintech field. Next month, he and Weston High School graduate Elodie Kremer will marry. She’s an equestrian; he loves dog training.
Some day, they hope to buy a farm.
Perhaps with cryptocurrency. As he and his clients often say: It’s the next frontier.