Hi friends, it’s Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! I have an amazing interview about an entrepreneur using Financial Technology to impact equity for the LGBTQI+ community, businesses, and allies. Today I’m excited to cruise around with Billie Simmons, co-founder and COO of Daylight. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Welcome Billie! It’s so great to have the chance to chat with you! Can you start by telling us what challenges you’re addressing?
Billie: Thanks so much for having me, Spiffy! Daylight is on a mission to eradicate the LGBTQ+ wealth gap and to encourage our members to recognize the power of their spending in supporting businesses that align with their values.
Spiffy: Tell me more! What motivated you to provide this service and hone in on LGBTQ+ communities?
Billie: As a trans woman, I've always been very acutely aware of how much extra money I have to spend to be on the same playing field as my non-LGBTQ+ peers. My own lived experience accessing banking services in the US opened my eyes to how broken the system is. I keep doing this work because of our amazing members, who often tell us the ways in which Daylight is tangibly impacting their lives for the better.
Spiffy: That’s amazing, Billie. Let’s talk about equity how would you say Daylight is helping to make the world a more equitable place?
Billie: Everything we do is centered around putting more money into the hands of LGBTQ+ people, particularly those who are low income or face significant barriers to equity. Sometimes this looks like running events that promote LGBTQ+ small businesses and donating all the proceeds from the event to local mutual aid funds that put 99% of their donations directly into the hands of the people it serves, and other times it looks like building out a rewards platform so that we can reward our members for doing the right thing!
Spiffy: It sounds pretty multi-faceted. Can you share about a recent initiative that you’re working on, and what kind of impact you anticipate?
Billie: We're about to launch our 'Walk the Walk' feature, which rates businesses that you spend at using your Daylight card on their queer friendliness. We realized that a lot of people were giving money to businesses that didn't have their best interests at heart, so by providing that knowledge, providing alternatives, and rewarding making positive changes to align your spending with your values, we are empowering our members to vote with their feet.
Spiffy: I’m always curious to learn how entrepreneurs deal with failure. What about you, Billie? Can you share about a time when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn?
Billie: My first startup was a total failure. It was a cool idea—Yelp for safe spaces—but I lacked direction or focus, and was trying to do everything myself. (I mean literally everything, coding, ops, marketing!) I took several key things away from this experience: the importance of engaging with the community you're serving in real and authentic ways, and the importance of asking for help when you need it. This time around has been so different and I credit that largely to my amazing co-founders, Rob Curtis and Paul Barnes-Hoggett.
Spiffy: Before we sign off, is there anything else significant or surprising that you’ve learned recently?
Billie: Actually, Spiffy, I recently learned how to deadlift and squat weights from my younger brother, who is training to be a personal trainer. I've always had a very complicated relationship with my body, but I'm really enjoying learning how to move and use it in new ways!
Spiffy: What an experience! And what a company! It sounds like you are poised to interrupt financial services and technology in some amazingly positive ways. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Billie, it’s been an absolute honor.
Billie Simmons (she/her) is the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Daylight. Previously, she founded a startup to help trans and non-binary people access safe services. Her background is in marketing and software engineering at fintech-focused companies such as Techstars and Anthemis group. She regularly speaks on LGBT+ initiatives on mental health and technology and has spoken at, amongst others, Google, WeWork, and Money2020. (Nominated by Out in Tech. First published on the Ladderworks website on August 9, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.