‘There’s too few LGBTQ founders’: A day in the life of Billie Simmons, co-founder of Daylight
- Billie Simmons is the co-founder and chief of staff at Daylight, a digital bank for LGBTQ consumers in the U.S.
- Billie takes a step back from her demanding work schedule to reflect on the bigger picture. Here’s a day in her life.
After Billie Simmons changed her legal name, her bank failed to fully acknowledge her identity as a transwoman by deadnaming her across their online bank account and credit scoring process. Trans and non-binary people are often neglected or discriminated against in their banking experiences. Insensitive customer service, outdated systems and security risks are some of the realities that LGBTQ customers have to reckon with on a regular basis.
Simmons decided to take matters into her own hands by co-founding Daylight, America’s first LGBTQ digital bank. The startup offers Visa cards to consumers in their preferred names, financial coaching, a personalized feed of educational content and opportunities to donate to LGBTQ charities.
“This is the best job that I’ve ever had and it feels like the most important work that I’ve ever done, because we’re solving a problem for a community that I am part of and a problem that I myself have experienced. It’s not some vague, abstract concept; it feels really tangible. I often have calls with different people on our waitlist and just to be able to listen to their thoughts and experiences navigating banking as an LGBT person and to be able to tell them that we’re solving those problems is just so rewarding,” said Simmons.
In her earlier work, Simmons founded a startup for transgender and non-binary people to have access to safe service providers and businesses. With a background in software engineering and marketing, she thrived in the fintech sector working with companies such as Techstars and Anthemis Group. As an advocate for LGBTQ initiatives in mental health and technology, Simmons has given talks at Google and WeWork.
Here is typical a day in her life:
Morning: Cycling, cleaning and check-ins
First thing I usually do is get up and work out in some form. I’m one of those people whose brain doesn’t really function without some kind of exercise getting me going in the morning. I have a fake Peloton, like a standing exercise spin bike, and I will just cycle on that for 20 to 30 minutes. I usually wake up to a bunch of Slack messages and emails from our European partners. So I will answer those while I’m cycling just to feel like I’m making the best possible use of my time.
After a workout, I will clean the kitchen every morning. I quite like puttering around the kitchen, just moving stuff around, and making myself breakfast. Either I will listen to a podcast — I’ve been really enjoying the 11:FS FinTech Insider podcast recently, to stay up to date on what’s going on, or I’ll scroll through Twitter. Sometimes I look at the New York Times, and then invariably, I’ll probably end up on Instagram as well, to see what my friends are up to.
I start my work day with a call to my co-founder, Rob Curtis. We try to kick off each day with a call to catch up and to let each other know what the other is doing for the day.
Then I’ll do check-ins. Depending on the day, I have check-ins with our PR team, our copywriter and with some of our social media team. Every morning, we have a check-in with everyone on the team, our daily stand up. Often I’ll also have some kind of check-in with some of the folks over at the Visa team as we have a very close partnership and as always, there is something that we’re working on together. Then I’ll try and get through the rest of my emails and do some writing.
Afternoon: Meetings, calls and daily reflections
A typical afternoon might look like interviews with candidates for a role that we’re hiring for. Or I’ll have a call with another LGBT founder to chat and get to know each other, because there’s too few of us so I’m always trying to be helpful and make friends in the space. Or a call with a potential partner organization. That’s really probably my favorite part of the day because I just love getting to chat with interesting people. That’s my favorite thing to do. I’m a bit of a chatterbox and I process externally. It helps me throw ideas around and I love connecting with people.
I’ll usually try and get some food in me at this point. I try to save my afternoons for more thoughtful work — it doesn’t always work that way, sometimes my day is just back to back meetings. But I try to be a bit strict about making sure that I have a couple of hours every day to reflect on some larger ideas and maybe do some writing. I help with the content strategy, externally for Daylight, as well as within our app. So I’ll be thinking about the bigger picture stuff and starting to write some of it down, as well. I just kind of go with the flow. It’s a fun rollercoaster every day, which is something I love about this kind of work.
Evenings: Wrap up call, Hanging out with friends, Skin care
The work day always ends with another call with Rob. We like to bookend our days. It works really well for us to check in about how everything that we talked about in the morning call went and if there are any updates. It usually turns into a bit of a therapy session for each other. Starting a company is hard and Rob is really amazing at being a sounding board and supporting me emotionally and mentally, as well.
I live with some of my closest friends. We cook dinner together and just hang out and eat food. I try and just completely disconnect. I’ll maybe catch up with maybe some other friends. I’m a very social person.
I think it’s important to have a very clear delineation between work and life. I mean, if there’s an emergency, if I need to spring to something, then I’ll work all night if needed but in general, I think it’s healthy to kind of try and be like okay, I’m done for the day. Now I’m going to just think about other things as much as possible.
I’m not a huge TV watcher. I usually read more than I watch TV. But sometimes I’ll watch an episode of something with my friends or read a book or just chat with some friends and then I go to bed really, really early. I usually start getting ready for bed at 9.30 p.m.
I have a very extensive skin care regime. So it usually looks like a cream cleanse, a regular cleanser, if I’m feeling really luxurious, a mask and then my daily acid treatment. I apply a kind of vitamin C serum and then lock it in with a moisturizer with ceramides on top of that and give myself a little facial massage.