Categories
Team Spotlight

Team Spotlight: Peyton Swift – Operations Associate

Peyton Swift (she/they) works in Operations at Daylight. She studied psychology and criminal justice at George Washington University and has experience in helping build fintech startups. Most recently Peyton worked at Savi, a startup helping people with their student loans. Peyton is excited to use her lived experience as a biracial lesbian to make Daylight the best possible banking platform for the community.

What steps led you to Daylight?

It was all thanks to the Out In Tech Slack group! I was actually clearing my Slack notifications (I hate having any notifications) and I saw a message from Billie about an open position. I figured, why not? So I messaged her and we had a lovely conversation. After our initial chat, I realized I was really excited about Daylight and the potential opportunity to help with building a digital banking platform for the LGBT+ community. Everything worked out and here I am, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

When was the first time you thought about money?

The first time I can remember thinking about money was when I was younger and my elementary school would have a donut sale every Friday. Donuts were 75 cents each, so most people would just pay with a dollar and get a quarter in change. My three siblings and I never wanted to ask our mom for money for donut day because we didn’t want to stress her out, so we would ask everyone who had a donut if we could have their change until we’d all saved up enough to each get a donut ourselves.

What was your “aha” moment with money?

When I was a freshman in college I got a credit card because my bank encouraged me to. I figured I would use it for small purchases to build up credit and learn how to be responsible with money, and it was exciting! Except then I would use my credit card for almost everything. Two months and $3,000 in debt later, I realized I couldn’t just spend money and “figure it out later” and that I actually needed to learn how to budget and prioritize my spending. It took me until a year after I had graduated from college to pay down all my debt, and now I’m much more conscious of budgeting and my spending, especially when it comes to credit.

What do you do outside of work?

I have a dog, so I spend a lot of time lounging around with her. I also am a big sports fan so I will watch almost any sport if it’s on. Favorites are rugby, football, soccer, hockey, and MMA. I’m also a huge sci-fi and fantasy fan, so I read a lot. I just finished Dune, which was amazing. I’m about to start a re-read of the Stormlight Archive (you should absolutely read it if you haven’t.) I play lots of video games and am currently replaying The Last of Us Part 2. Finally, when it isn’t a pandemic I love to get drinks with my friends and just chat and enjoy being with them.

Favorite LGBT+ business?

A League of Her Own in DC is easily my #1. Everyone there is friendly and it is a really fun space. Unfortunately, they’re closed right now, but you can still support them if you buy some merch from their website!

Categories
Team Spotlight

Team Spotlight: Ethan Teng – Product Lead

Ethan is the Product Lead at Daylight. He studied Computer Science at Stanford and has worked in both tech and non-profits for the past 20 years. He was most recently the Head of Growth at Recurly where he helped lead the company to a successful acquisition. He’s thrilled to join the Daylight team and combine his work experience in Product and Growth with his lived experience as a gay, immigrant, Chinese-American to build the first digital banking platform for the LGBT+ community.

What steps led you to Daylight?

It’s all thanks to Billie and Out in Tech! I was just starting to consider changing jobs after my last company got acquired when I happened to stumble upon a job posting Billie had shared in the Out in Tech Slack community, saying Daylight was looking for a Product Manager. It was the first time I had logged into that Slack in months, and Billie’s post just happened to be the first one I saw. To whatever cosmic forces were at work that day, I’m forever grateful!

When was the first time you thought about money?

My family was quite poor when we first immigrated from Taiwan to a cramped studio apartment in Dallas, TX. One of my first memories as a child in the US was sitting with my parents around a cardboard box that served as our dining room table, eating a homemade cake for my birthday. But, no matter what our financial situation was, my parents worked hard to raise me in an environment where I never had to worry about money. I only appreciate now as an adult how stressful it must have been for them, but they did an incredible job; I never wanted for anything growing up. For my parents, their priority was that I do well in school and get into a good college; they would take care of everything else. So, I never really thought about money till I graduated college and had to pay my own bills — including $100K in student loan debt — for the first time in my life.

What was your “aha” moment with money?

When I graduated college, Google was “just another startup” in a sea of startups, and the job opportunities seemed endless. But, after only a year of working at a medical tech startup, the first dot-com bubble burst and I found myself unemployed along with so many others. The few companies that survived were only looking for people with far more experience than I had, so not only was I unemployed but I was also unemployable. As a result, I quickly blew through whatever meager savings I had. I didn’t know there was a thing called unemployment insurance, so I didn’t apply for it. I was paying full COBRA rates for health insurance because I thought I “had to”. And I still had $100K in student loans to pay off. So, not knowing what else to do, I took out a bunch of credit cards and soon found myself living off of nearly 100% credit for more than 6 months. It would take me nearly 10 years — and eventually, credit consolidation — to learn how to budget and live within my means, and slowly dig myself out of that hole.

What do you do outside of work?

I’m a classical ballet dancer! I discovered ballet very late in life: I was already in my mid-20s when I started, which is when some professionals are already considering retirement. I happened to live next to a ballet studio when I first moved to San Francisco, and decided I wanted to try something new to meet people. I got hooked from day one and haven’t stopped dancing — and performing in an erstwhile Nutcracker — since.

Favorite LGBT+ business?

I’m fortunate to live in a city (Oakland) with so many vibrant, thriving LGBT+ and Black owned businesses. With so many to choose from, I’ll focus on some favorites in my immediate neighborhood:

Alchemy Coffee Collective: an amazing coffee collective that is 100% black and brown worker-owned. And they make a legit flat white.

Nick’s Pizza: Nick grew up in this neighborhood and came back after 4 years working in fine dining and pastry in NYC to set up his own shop here in his hometown. His rotating, seasonal sourdough pizzas are a staple of my diet.

Categories
Team Spotlight

Team Spotlight: Matt Modrowski – Design Lead

Matt is the Design Lead at Daylight. He previously worked for Monzo on their expansion into the US where he was responsible for the internationalization of the UK-based business for the US environment.

What steps led you to Daylight?

I’ve been building things for the web for the past 15 years, trying to create products that help serve the underserved. Most recently, I helped with product design at two FinTech startups and it was through a co-worker that I was introduced to the Daylight team. I immediately fell in love with Daylight’s mission. Queer banking? Sign me up.

When was the first time you thought about money?

I was lucky enough to have parents that taught me money basics early in life by giving me a small allowance every week in exchange for doing chores around the house. I remember just wanting to save up enough to get a Sega Genesis.

What was your “aha” moment with money?

I’m not sure that I ever had an ‘aha’ moment with money, but rather a series of accumulated experiences — from earning and saving with an allowance to figuring out to manage a part-time job while in high school. But I think the biggest moment was college / moving out on my own and figuring out how to budget.

What do you do outside of work?

I love movies and TV, especially older film classics. My husband writes about media for a living, so there’s always a good opportunity to watch interesting new things — we just finished watching “I May Destroy You” and are currently working through “Lovecraft Country.” When I’m not doing that, you’ll find me out hiking, baking, or playing video games (currently replaying Alan Wake).

Favorite LGBT+ business?

Outfest is a wonderful organization that supports LGBT+ media and arts, including their yearly Outfest Film Festival here in LA.

Categories
Team Spotlight

Team Spotlight: Rob Curtis – CEO and Co-Founder

I’m Rob Curtis, Co-Founder of Daylight. I’m a proud Aussie who’s been living in London for 14 years and in the middle of relocating to Los Angeles. Though as I write this I’m currently in Mexico with my fiancee where we can enjoy some sunshine and delicious food while being close enough to pop across to LA and meet our team as we need. 

In London, I was lucky enough to work on lots of wonderful projects in finance, banking, and the third sector. More recently I’ve been closer to my passion as a serial LGBT+ entrepreneur.  I was previously Managing Director of Gaydar, a dating site for 1.5m LGBT+ people which taught me a lot about the internal lives of the community. I then built a couple of start-ups – the latest one, Helsa is a mental health platform that connects LGBT+ people to specialist mental health support. 

What steps led you to Daylight?

Daylight is the culmination of my work as an LGBT+ entrepreneur, an activist, a professional in finance, and as a consumer frustrated with banking in general. 

It’s been a long journey as a gay man learning how to thrive (not just survive) as an adult in a world that’s not often designed with us in mind.  So I’ve tended to be most interested in “grown up” things that I had to figure out myself like investing in mental health, having a life plan, and managing my money. I do a lot of public speaking about LGBT+ mental health and entrepreneurship at businesses like Google (for OutinTech) and in professional settings as a Board member of Series Q, the network of LGBT+ entrepreneurs in the UK. 

I met Matej, my co-founder at a Series Q event when I was on a panel about motivating people in a start-up environment. Fast forward two years until February 2020 when he gives me a call saying “hey I’ve got an idea you might be interested in” and the rest is history! 

When was the first time you thought about money?

Money was something that I thought about young because my parents gave us $15 AUD (around $10 USD) every two weeks to do chores around the house. It wasn’t much but if I wanted to buy something big, I knew I had to put money away.   

But I really understood how impactful money was when I was around 13 and my family struggled to make ends meet in the early 90s recession. My parents were very stressed and I ended up delivering newspapers to houses in our neighborhood so our family would have a bit of extra cash to spend on treats like a dinner out.

I think this experience makes me the kind of person who gets anxious thinking about money so I’ve had to develop positive financial habits and not just ignore those unopened, unpaid bills sitting on my desk. 

What was your “aha” moment with money?

My aha moment came a few years ago when I was offered an appointment with an LGBT+ financial advisor. They helped me go from feeling anxious and ashamed talking about money to being comfortable opening up and trusting someone to help me figure out my financial goals and how to get there. I realized that as a gay man, I needed to organize my money differently to my brothers and how important it is to have someone who understand your lifestyle to help plan and get things in order. 

What do you do outside of work?

I spent time with my fiancee, Cesar – he is wonderful and very supportive of my crazy entrepreneur life.  I’ve always been a geek, so you’ll probably find me reading about the latest Sci-Fi show or video game on Reddit. I’m really lucky to have a wonderful group of friends from all over the world, so finding ways to spend time with them always makes me happy.  Oh and podcasts. I LOVE podcasts – you’ll hear me listening to Pod Save America, Keep It, Lovett or Leave It, Reply All, 99% Invisible, and Winds of Change which was probably my favorite podcast of the last few years (alongside a long list of fintech and business podcasts). 

Favorite LGBT+ business?

There are so many wonderful queer entrepreneurs and business leaders out there that it’d be hard to pick just one. On my shortlist, though, would be

  • Media: them.us – a media company that really gets that many modern queer lifestyles are intersectional and non-binary and there is a rich vein of important stories that aren’t being told.
  • Coffee: I popped into Bloom and Plume in LA for a take-out coffee recently. I love the community spirit there.
  • Lifestyle: I’m always impressed by the work that Robyn Exton and the team at HER do.  Queer dating platforms have always been dominated by men so it’s great to see how Robyn’s vision has been brought to life and how they’ve created a wonderful community of womxn, trans and non-binary people. 
Categories
Team Spotlight

Team Spotlight: Billie Simmons – Co-Founder and Chief of Staff

Billie Simmons (she/her) is Daylight’s Co-Founder and Chief of Staff. 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 focussed companies such as Techstars and Anthemis group. She regularly speaks on LGBT+ initiatives in mental health and technology and has spoken at, amongst others, Google, WeWork and Computer World Weekly. Get to know her below.

What steps led you to Be Money?

I was building an app to help trans and non-binary people access safe services (inspired by my experiences as a trans woman), and doing talks and panels about mental health, the LGBT+ community and technology. I actually met Rob, our CEO, at one of these panels and that’s how I first heard about Be Money. 

Before that I worked mostly in the fintech sector, either at VCs/incubators or at early stage startups, so this really is my sweet spot!

When was the first time you thought about money?

I remember getting my first job at 14 delivering a free newspaper and being so excited to get my first pay packet. £30 seemed like so much money! I was saving up for my first MacBook so I could record music on it. 

What was your “aha” moment with money?

It took me a while to have a healthy relationship with money. When I was a teenager it was always burning a hole in my pocket. When I started my transition I got into a lot of credit card debt in order to cover the expenses because I treated it like free money, rather than as a way to build credit, or to temporarily bridge expenses. 

My aha moment came when I realized that this wasn’t a viable option long term and saw my credit score dwindling. Learning how to consolidate my debt at lower interest rates was really helpful both for my mental health, and my finances!

What do you do outside of work?

I have a musical background, so I enjoy writing and making music and I also sing in choirs. I’m also a big sci-fi and fantasy reader, so I’m always working on something. I just finished reading Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments.

Favorite LGBT+ business?

I just bought some prints from Ashley Lukashevsky who is an amazing artist based in LA. I’ve been a fan of hers for years!