Have you ever wondered how to empower hourly workers and give them a stake in the long-term success of their work? Salt Labs, an innovative HR and financial technology company with a mission to help individuals own the value they create, is challenging the status quo by implementing forward-thinking solutions and paving the way for a more equitable future for all workers. Join us in this TechBullion interview with Salt’s CEO Jason Lee, as we explore how this New York based entrepreneur is making waves by empowering frontline workers.
Please tell us more about yourself and your journey as an American/New York based entrepreneur?
As a New York-based entrepreneur, I’ve always been driven by a deep passion for entrepreneurship. This drive started at a young age when I sold thirty $1 boxes of peanut M&Ms for my brother’s school trip and managed to sell them all for $2 each, earning myself a $29 profit.
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, I went to Wall St where I created financial products and developed a new market in derivative-based share repurchase. Several years later, I founded DailyPay which grew to be a $2bn HR/payments company. We created a revolutionary change in the way employees get paid by inventing “on-demand pay”, which is now being adopted globally. Our team there also founded Friday, a digital banking app for hourly workers. Most recently, I founded Salt Labs, a company focused on tackling the wealth gap disparity in America.
Through my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve had the opportunity to create meaningful change. It is really only by the power of technology do I get the opportunity to touch so many peoples lives in a positive way and that is what keeps me motivated to keep innovating and building.
What is the Salt App, what inspired the Idea and what solutions is it providing?
Salt Labs’ mission is to enable hourly workers to own the long-term value of their work. While at DailyPay we solved for the liquidity problem, offering access to earned pay before payday, I was troubled by the fact that the hourly workers’ value still ‘resets’ every pay period. In our vision for the future of frontline labor, employees will not simply work for pay. They will also work for an ownership stake in the world they are helping to build. By giving employees ownership tools they want to use, we can reduce turnover rates, which cost employers upwards of $1 trillion every year, and increase job satisfaction and productivity to the benefit of the greater economy.
Salt is our first product created by the Salt Labs team. It is a loyalty app that enables frontline workers to earn and accumulate Salt, our a native unit of reward point, as they work. The rewards points have asset-like properties in that they are transferable and don’t expire. Once earned, they fully belong to that worker. In that way, each Salt earned allows the hourly worker to build a balance in something for the future, and to have a tangible representation of the value they created at work. Right now Salt can be saved and redeemed for goods and services, but in the future, there will be redemption opportunities that are further asset-like in nature.
Why did you choose New York as headquarters for your companies when they have all been backed by Silicon Valley based investors?
I am committed to New York. I stayed through 9/11, the financial crisis, COVID. I am raising my family here and have now founded three companies in this brilliant city. In my mind, New York is the epicenter of diverse talent and entrepreneurial grit, and I feel grateful to be able to tap into that as we build.
With the internet creating more opportunities to earn in this digital age, what do you think that means for the future of work?
My colleague Alison Stapleton and I were just talking about this very question. The advancement of the internet, specifically from web 2 based internet protocols to web 3 opens up the possibility that you can own to some degree parts of the internet yourself. For the first time ever, thanks to the power of the internet, a normal consumer can earn meaningful ownership interests in their favorite brand or company by owning a piece of the underlying network upon which her platform is built. This will bring a whole new definition to the concept of what one ‘earns’ as individuals interact with big companies, be it as a consumer or an employee.
We see an undeniable shift where people now want to exist more in community and to own the outcome of their efforts. At Salt Labs, myself, Alison, and the rest of the team, are dedicated to building an ecosystem where empowerment, democratization, and ownership are central to the future of work. We aim to provide hourly workers with the opportunity to earn ownership and equity by leveraging modern technology in this digital age.
We understand you are also involved in charity work to support New York, would you like to share some of your charity projects with us and if there are more opportunities available to support your projects?
In 2020, alongside my wife, I founded the Alicia and Jason Lee Foundation based in New York City. We really have three pillars that are close to our hearts that we dedicate our support around, namely relating to criminal justice reform, financial literacy, and community initiatives. In 2021 we began an initiative to sponsor free self-defense classes in New York City for elderly Asian-Americans following the rise of violence against Asians. The results were truly amazing, and a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of New Yorkers. Since we initially supported that effort, these self-defense classes have grown beyond New York and have become a national offering, sponsored by major brands around the country. We’re always looking for organizations that align with our philanthropic efforts, and you can read more about our efforts or contact us at aliciaandjasonleefoundation.org.
How do we start using Salt, what is the user response on the app so far, any success stories you would like to share with us?
Well, Salt might not exactly be for you – as we are available exclusively for hourly workers, but if there are any readers out there working on the frontline you can download the app on the app store or at app.saltlabs.com.
While we’re still early days, having just launched our alpha in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico at the start of April, we’re seeing some really incredible signs so far. In just 5 weeks over 10,000 users signed up. Already, people are associating Salt with their work and building their balance to redeem for really great and unique experiences or self-development opportunities like a Masterclass subscription which we’re really excited to see.