Five years ago, DailyPay co-founder and CEO Jason Lee was trying to order pizza on Grubhub when a question popped into his head: Why isn’t Domino’s on Grubhub? He went to a bistro owner, who happened to be a friend of his, and asked to read their Grubhub merchant agreement. “When I finally read it, what I discovered was we as consumers are paying for the pizza tonight when we order it. But Grubhub actually is not paying the restaurant owner for 45 days.”
From therem, he set out to solve this issue around cashflow. “I wondered if that impacts not only restaurants, but everyday Americans. And when I started to dig into it, I realized that’s just like payroll. Every day we work and that money is actually ours, but we aren’t paid for that work until weeks afterwards. And that’s really where the history of DailyPay began.”
Lee sat down with us to share how his company works and his thoughts on the future of on-demand pay.
What were some of the first steps that you took to get DailyPay off the ground?
The first thing I did was I researched the issue. What I discovered was that 80% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck at that time. This problem of actually working today, but not having access to that money for weeks later, was impacting the vast majority of Americans. And so I became passionate about this problem. I went out to talk to people in the streets in different parts of the country as to how it was that they were dealing with this asynchronicity, and I got all sorts of weird answers back. I got things like, “Well, I have to borrow from friends and family”; “I’ve got to go to a payday lender”; “I overdrew my bank account.” But the most common answer was, “I just pay things late. I usually pay a $35-$50 late fee with that.”
I really wanted to use the background that I have in financial engineering combined with the background of my co-founder, who was a web developer. We got together in my basement and started coding the product about six years ago, and the rest really is history.
Walk us through how DailyPay works.
DailyPay is a super simple application through your employer. We offer you an app, and that app very simply says how much you have earned in real time to this very minute on a given day in a given week. And that balance accumulates every single minute that you are working. The technology is essentially calculating exactly what you are owed. It’s really your money. You just haven’t received it yet. And then what all of our funding and our financial technology does, is it provisions those funds into your app. And so, for example, if you’ve worked and earned already $189 and 55 cents, based on what our technology is figured out about you — and that’s on a net basis — that gets provisioned into your app. Think of it like Square, or maybe Venmo or PayPal. Once that money is in the app, that money can be instantly transferred. It’s just like any other app that you might have on your phone, only this time, it’s with money that you haven’t yet received from your employer, but you’ve already earned, visa VR technology.
How can companies who are listening to you or reading this right now work with you?
We work with a lot of large companies who are offering this to their employees, but we also work with companies you haven’t heard of, [like] a 1000-person nursing home in the middle of Tennessee that’s employing a number of hardworking essential workers and needs to ensure that their employees are financially healthy and can pay their bills on time. Also, it’s an amazing recruitment and retention tool.
In addition to running DailyPay, you and your wife started the Alicia and Jason Lee Foundation. Can you tell us about some of your projects?
Hate crimes against Asian-Americans are up 335% just in the last year alone in New York City. The reality is there are a lot of New Yorkers who frankly feel unsafe, either being on the subway or maybe even walking in their own neighborhood. And so what we are doing is we are sponsoring free self-defense classes across multiple locations across the city. It initially started with elderly Asian-Americans. The interest in our class has been so significant, we’ve now expanded that to all demographic, all ages and the classes continue to grow.
Can you tell us where you think the future of finance is heading and the role that on-demand pay will play in the future?
I think on-demand pay won’t exist anymore in the future. Meaning, forget this notion of it being special, that just because you happen to work for an employer who offers this benefit, that you can now control the timing of your own pay. That should be how pay exists already, because the reality is it’s your money. It’s just that it’s not accessible yet. And so our view of the future is that pay amount will be completely fungible with your checking account, with your savings account, with your brokerage account, because the common trait across all of these things is it’s your money and you should have access to it, whenever you want.