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Signals Fintech Founders: Plenty's Emily Luk

On lessons from Stripe, inspiration from Costco, serendipity, and the next generation of consumer fintech (for couples!)

Signals Fintech Founders: Plenty's Emily Luk

Aaaaaaannnnnnd we’re back. Hey Everyone! Dez here from This Week in Fintech. It’s officially 2024. We’re all getting back in the swing of things, and I could not be more excited (and slightly nervous) about what’s to come in 2024. We’ve got the 2024 election here in the US (nervous). We’ve got a hardware renaissance in the tech world (excited). But most importantly, we’ve got another year for the fintech community to continue to build, to iterate, and to pull forward the future of financial services. So to kick off the new year, I am so happy I get to share my conversation with Emily Luk, the CEO & Co-Founder of Plenty. Let’s dive right in.

Emily, so excited to be doing this interview. I think the best place to start is: Could you introduce yourself, Tell us a little bit about your background, as well as what Plenty does?

Sounds great, thank you so much for having me! A little bit about me: I am a friendly Canadian, I was born in the province– ”state” equivalent– where we are known for oil and cattle, so I’m always up for a great steak. But a lot of what brought me to start Plenty started in my family roots. My grandparents started a business. My parents started a business and ran that for 18 years together, and so it was very natural to always talk about starting and running companies, and that was what we talked about at the dinner table.

Plenty is a wealth platform for couples to invest and plan for their future together. We're built for the reality that most millennial couples nowadays are in long-term partnerships or married and most are dual-career. As a result of that, they think about managing money in a unique way that’s different from prior generations. We’ve launched our private beta in 2023 and are gearing up to fully launch Plenty in early 2024.

What was the business that your parents started? What were those dinner table conversations like?

They didn’t work in tech. And so sometimes when I talk about the world of venture and am we talk about profit margin, my parents are a little worried. My parents started a textiles manufacturing company, where they would design, manufacturing, then ship what teams or employees would wear, whether that is, you know– clothing for the Edmonton oilers or winter jackets for the government, or uniforms for people working the provincial fair.

Yeah. So what was your, kind of, path into tech? How did you go from the world of growing up in an out of world of atoms to, you know, making a career in a world of bits?

Yeah, great question– I love that framing of it, too. My parents always thought that I would start a company one day. My parents surrounded themselves with other people who started companies, so it always felt like that was the most natural path. The concept of an office job wasn't very normal in our household. So I went to university, graduated in 3 years, studied business, and history, and econ and biology–, kind of just studied all the things I enjoyed. From there I knew I wanted to get as close to starting companies as possible so I could start getting the experience that I would need to one day start my own company.

So I started my career in venture  when I was in 20, had someone take a bet on me. I worked at the BDC IT Venture Fund, where we looked at a lot of different Canadian companies either expanding across the country or expanding into the US market.

I had found my way into that and it was truly a stroke of luck, you know– right time, right place. It was actually running into someone when I was walking around campus that ended up ultimately leading to that job offer.

Awesome. And this is actually a theme throughout all the interviews: The importance of luck and serendipity. So maybe not in terms of getting your first job right into school, but do you have any anecdotes of luck or serendipity while you were at Stripe? I think people will be very curious about the roles you had there– what that experience is like, knowing that it's one of, you know, the largest private companies in the world today.

Yeah, a great question. I think so much of my experience at Stripe– and even getting to Stripe, and then everything within Stripe– was luck too, and I always frame it as you know, “I've worked hard to give myself chances to get lucky.”