Gig Wage, a payments platform founded by a Black former college basketball player in 2014, recently announced a partnership with online banking giant Green Dot that could take the Dallas-based startup to the next level in its mission to ensure underbanked gig workers have access to financial services.
Green Dot is funneling $2.5 million into a partnership with the young company to create services for underbanked independent contractors, commonly known as gig workers, reported Bloomberg. A person is considered underbanked if they use financial services outside of a traditional bank account, like payday loans and check-cashing places.
Approximately 16 percent of adults were underbanked in 2018, according to the Federal Reserve. Black people account for 35 percent of underbanked adults. Additionally, Black households are more likely to be without a bank account at all.
“The 1099 economy is exploding, and Gig Wage is thrilled to bring a truly comprehensive solution to market,” Gig Wage founder and CEO Craig Lewis said in an Oct. 27 statement. “As we laid the foundation to offer financial infrastructure for the ‘Future of Work,’ it was abundantly clear Green Dot was the best partner for us to help the most people.”
The 6-foot-6 Lewis, a former small forward at Morehead State who also played pro basketball in Europe, told Harlem Capital in 2019 interview that he launched his company with a focus on business payroll and HR application services before he pivoted to specializing in the burgeoning gig economy sector.
Now, after several years of growth, the company is in its $7.5 million Series A round of funding, including the last month’s $2.5 million capital infusion from Green Dot. Under the partnership, Gig Wage will be able to provide banking services, including accounts and debit cards, to people who do not work a traditional 9-to-5 or get a consistent paycheck.
Lewis was already in talks with Green Dot when the country was thrust into unrest over the high-profile deaths of George Floyd and several other Black victims. After Green Dot CEO Dan Henry overheard a loud Black Lives Matter chant, the men had a dialogue about race.
“That sound gave Dan and me a chance to break away from the transactional part of the conversation and talk about how I was feeling at the time,” Lewis recalled to Bloomberg. “That was at the top of mind for me every day. There was no separating the grind of being an entrepreneur with the grind of being a Black man in America.”
Their talk motivated them to cement the partnership to promote financial equality and success for Black and low-income workers.
“For every George Floyd murder we see, we need to stop those things from happening, but we also need people to be successful,” Lewis said. “We need people to have courage to build amazing companies. We need to be able to lobby and write checks. That’s what drives my passion to help people get paid.”