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Salt Labs helps hourly workers build future through rewards app

Salt Labs, a new loyalty and payments technology company whose mission is to reward hourly employees in Puerto Rico through their work, has already signed up 20,000 users for its app, which it introduced to the island in April.

The loyalty app enables frontline workers to earn a reward currency called “Salt” for every hour that they work: Eight hours of work equals eight Salt points that can be redeemed or saved for later use. Essentially, Salt Labs wants to encourage hourly workers to “own the long-term value of their work” on top of their regular paycheck.

The company milestone was reached months ahead of the projected September target, Salt Labs CEO Jason Lee said in an exclusive interview with News is my Business.

“The launch of Salt in Puerto Rico has been unbelievably exciting. After two months, we already have 20,000 members building for their future,” he said.

Initially, the app will enable users to redeem their Salt points for goods and experiences, but eventually, Lee said the goal is to work directly with employers to be able to offer tools that build long-term wealth, such as bonds or other financial instruments.

“Imagine a world where in the future you could trade your Salt in for maybe a savings bond, maybe a down payment on your car, maybe an initial down payment on a mortgage. And that’s really our vision — where we’re starting today is helping people,” said Lee, who, along with Rob Law, previously co-founded unicorn company DailyPay, which created the on-demand pay industry to address income inequality for hourly workers.

Unlike white-collar workers who have different opportunities to build long-term wealth through company stock plans, partnership interests or even 401k plans, it is often the case that frontline workers aren’t afforded those same opportunities for a variety of technology or cost-related reasons. This has resulted in a growing wealth disparity, Salt Labs’ mission states.

Lee explained that the company chose Puerto Rico to launch the app after seeing the island’s poverty rate, which hovers at about 40%, “twice as high as any state in the continental U.S.,” he said.

“We felt like if this doesn’t work in Puerto Rico, it’s not going to work anywhere. We felt that people in Puerto Rico are the most likely to adopt a product like this and we just kind of fell in love with the people down there. People are so entrepreneurial, and they just want more and unfortunately, the job opportunities, or those earnings opportunities aren’t so obvious in Puerto Rico,” Lee said. “Also, Puerto Ricans are very digitally enabled, they have their smartphones.”

As part of its debut on the island, Salt Labs partnered with four-time NBA All-Star and current Guaynabo Mets squad member, DeMarcus Cousins, to further reach the population of hourly workers and provide them the opportunity to build generational wealth while feeling more valued at work.

Growing up in Mobile, Alabama, Cousins is no stranger to the financial struggles millions of Americans face while trying to provide for their families and establish financial stability. While his own professional basketball career had many adversities, Cousins’ work ethic and persistence have led to his success.

“I have been fortunate enough to be in a position where my determination and commitment to putting in the work helped me get to the NBA and play basketball for a living,” said Cousins, who uses the app. “However, I recognize many frontline workers haven’t been given the same opportunity to be rewarded for their effort. I’m excited to partner with Salt Labs to help change the lives of hourly workers and leave a legacy off the court, on an issue that is close to my heart.”

Because the adoption rate of the app has been accelerated, Salt Labs is now working on adding new features and “examining how employees and how workers actually view Salt in the context of their work,” Lee said.

For example, he said the company will investigate whether users would want to be rewarded for working extra hours, taking additional shifts or for other opportunities.

Before launching the app, Salt Labs confirmed it had raised $10 million in a pre-seed funding round earlier this year. The financing was led by Fin Capital, with participation from Anthem Venture Partners and other investors.

As it dives into other services, like partnering with employers to offer workers various perks, it will establish a compensation model for itself, providing the technology to launch these motivational tools to boost productivity, “which can’t be forced, it has to be motivated,” Lee said.

“The way to do it is to get them more engaged in their work, and the way to get them more engaged in their work is to give them something else. It’s to make them feel like they’re earning something that they can actually use for the future,” he explained.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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