Lauren Simmons has accomplished a lot in her young life.
At 26 years old, the native of the Atlanta suburb of Marietta has already had a handful of successful careers. She’s a public speaker, author, producer and financial guru. She’s most known for her breakthroughs on Wall Street.
When Simmons was 22, she became the youngest female trader in the 225-year history of the New York Stock Exchange. She was just the second Black female ever to trade on the NYSE floor and spent two years working there, earning the nickname “Wolfette of Wall Street.”
Now Simmons is embarking on a new journey. She’s in production as the host of a new streaming series called “Going Public,” which is set to debut this fall. The 10-part series will debut a diverse cast of entrepreneurs looking to find investors who can help them get their businesses listed for trade on the Nasdaq. Simmons will follow five business owners seeking to get an initial public offering, or IPO, so their private companies they’ve founded can be publicly traded.
“I’m just glad to be the new face of finance and give accessibility to a demographic that has been shut out so often,” Simmons told Atlanta Black Star during an interview on April 1. “When the creators came to me and told me about this idea, I absolutely loved it. I love the people that we’re attaching to this show. All the companies are from diverse backgrounds. We really wanted to make sure that we weren’t just highlighting the everyday Wall Street companies that often lack diversity, or they’re mostly white men. … I’m just so excited to be part of this journey and to be able to host and to take everybody through this process.”
IPOs are expensive, multimillion dollar endeavors, Traditionally, the companies seeking their first Nasdaq listings have sought benefactors with deep pockets to raise capital. Simmons said it cost $1 million to invest in an IPO before a regulation change during the Obama administration. The Jumpstart Our Business Startups, or JOBS, Act of 2012 relaxed Securities and Exchange Commission rules for many companies seeking to go public. The bill allowed them to solicit over the internet and crowd fundup to $1 million from pools of small investors to bankroll their ventures.
Then in 2015, the SEC began offering Regulation A+ IPOs, also known as “mini-IPOs,” which offered companies the chance to raise capital form both accredited and non-accredited investors and pay far less in fees than they would for a traditional IPO. “Going Public” will take advantage of Reg A+ with an option for all viewers over 18 to invest in the companies featured on the show.
“This is really how we have conversations about closing the wealth gap,” Simmons said. “And really investing money long term that can really make a substantial life change, especially being a woman, but also being a minority.”
Simmons revels in the chance to take viewers behind the curtain and give them a peek into the extensive “roadshow” to win over investors and the due diligence process necessary for private companies to get a fresh listing on the stock exchange.
“[The audience] gets to essentially have a seat at the table and they get to see what it is that we do on Wall Street,” she said. “I think to break it down. even further, to me, this is like an extension of ‘Shark Tank.’ On ‘Shark Tank,’ the companies go in, they pitch their company to get funding and then what happens next. Some of the companies that will be featured on ‘Going Public’ have actually been on ‘Shark Tank.’ So it’ll be cool to see their journey from ‘Shark Tank’ getting funded and then being able to again lift up to Nasdaq and to be able to go public. It’s just such a phenomenal feat; and for every day people to be able to invest in the next Amazon and Tesla, it’s going to be absolutely incredible.”
The series will feature a panel of renowned business leaders like Priceline founder Jeff Hoffman and Jaime Schmidt, the entrepreneur who founded deodorant company Schmidt’s Naturals. Crush Capital, a fintech company that aims to democratize access to the investment markets, is the driving force that had the vision for the show.
“We are honored and excited that Lauren has chosen to join us and help make business history. She has been shattering glass ceilings and defying expectations her entire career,” Todd Goldberg, Crush Capital’s co-CEO, said in a statement. “‘Going Public’ was conceived to give retail investors a direct route into the IPO action and provide a funding platform for exciting new entrepreneurs. There is no better person to be the voice of that mission than Lauren.”
Simmons had a keen interest in architectural engineering as a high school student and grew up with dreams of one day becoming an architect. After high school she was not able to get into the architecture program she sought, and enrolled at Kennesaw State University, where she majored in genetics. Her goal was to become a doctor who specialized in genome editing to alter DNA so children wouldn’t be born with genetic disabilities like Down syndrome.
While working on her senior thesis, Simmons realized the technology to carry out the genetic editing was decades away. So after graduating in 2016, she decided to move to New York City for a career change. Through networking, she met Richard Rosenblatt, CEO of Rosenblatt Securities. Rosenblatt was struck by Simmons’ confidence and took her under his wing.
He offered Simmons a career as an equity trader for Rosenblatt, a Wall Street investment bank and brokerage firm. She took the job and her story quickly made her a sensation as one of the few minority women ever to trade on the NYSE floor.
“I’ve been in a lot of male-dominated spaces,” Simmons said. “But I think being in the heart of finance and being surrounded by so many people talking finance and numbers and at such a fast pace, I mean it was completely different and new worlds. But I was grateful for all of it.”
Her story has been featured in Forbes, Politico on CNBC and shared extensively on social media. Simmons was named to Ebony’s Power 100 list in 2018, Harper’s Bazaar’s Women Who Lead 2019 and Politico’s 2018 Women of Impact.
Since leaving Wall Street in 2018, Simmons has been an executive producer on her own biopic, an upcoming film in which she’ll be portrayed by “Dope” actress Kiersey Clemons. Simmons has also authored a finance book and toured the country sharing her life story and an inspirational message of hope for young women.
“Get out of your head, you are limitless. If you believe you can, you will,” she offered. “I think a lot of great opportunities are thrown people’s ways. And I think oftentimes they’re uncomfortable with doing something new or being in a new environment, so they turn them down. And I say don’t. Take that head on, have the full courage, be flexible. It may not be in alignment with what your plan is, but I think if you can be flexible and understand that life is intentional, it’ll all start to make sense.”