At Interplay, we believe that “why now” is one of the most important questions to ask when evaluating an early stage startup. For a business to be successful, it’s critical that there are active macro factors driving sustainable growth. The best startups will take advantage of technological tailwinds, such as generative AI, as well as cultural tailwinds or shifts in consumer behavior, such as the normalization of online dating. If market timing is off, then even the best products will fail. 

We’re committed to investing in founders who deeply understand the market, the customer they’re building for, and why now is the best time to introduce their product. Emily Luk, Co-Founder and CEO of Interplay portfolio company Plenty, is keenly aware of the importance of market timing and is building her company around specific demographic and technological shifts that she believes will shape the next 10 years of consumer fintech.

Plenty is a modern wealth management platform that aims to transform the way couples and families manage their money. Today, Plenty specifically targets the Millennial generation entering their 30s and 40s and navigating marriage, family planning, home ownership, and other big financial goals. With more than 6M Millennials getting married in the last two years alone, this market is growing quickly. Plenty’s flexible “yours/mine/ours” model allows couples to map how they’re already managing money into the wealth platform. Plenty is also investment-oriented, with a product suite that allows couples to easily save and invest towards their shared goals using financial products previously only accessible through wealth managers. 

Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Emily and discuss her journey as a founder, the current state of consumer fintech, and why now is the best time to bring Plenty to market. Please enjoy this interview and feel free to reach out to our team with any questions about the business. 

Q: Give us some background on yourself; what was the path that led you to become the Co-Founder and CEO of Plenty?

A: My path started when I was young with the stories that my parents told. I come from a family of immigrants, so it was important to my parents that my brother and I understood our history. I heard stories of my grandparents on both sides starting and growing their own companies. One of my grandfathers started a company that he ran for 20 years before starting another company and running that for nearly 25 years. My parents started a business that they ran together for 18 years. They were stories of how blood, sweat, and tears could lead to building something that otherwise might not exist. 

My parents would ask my brother and me from a very young age how we would handle different situations that came up at their company. “Business” never felt foreign, it felt easy and natural. Key principles like the business exists to serve customers, sell great products, and earn more than you spend were ingrained from a young age. I had  side-hustles from 5 years old onwards and eventually decided to enter venture capital when I graduated.

In VC, I was able to get closer to the founder’s journey and learn how to evaluate businesses on a more analytical level. I found myself gravitating toward the fintech space and eventually decided to join Stripe as an early member of the growth team in 2015. I worked on building a sales playbook for startups, launching Stripe Atlas, building a global VC and accelerator partnership network, launching the pricing + deal desk function at Stripe, and I thought deeply about the TAM and revenue opportunity for Stripe’s product roadmaps. 

Once Stripe scaled to 1,500-1,600 people, I felt I was getting further from the zero-to-one stage of a company’s journey. I joined Even when they were about 30 people, a startup with the mission of helping individuals living paycheck to paycheck reach a point of financial stability. I started as Chief of Staff then stepped into an acting COO role and helped scale the company to over 100 employees and over 1.5M users before getting acquired by Walmart. 

At Even, I met my now husband and Co-Founder, Channing Allen. We spoke a lot about products that could change the trajectory of a family; and so often, we spoke about how it needed to be more than just banking and budgeting. There needed to be growth - through investing, there needed to be guidance - but not only if you could afford it. We heard from so many users at Even talk about having come a long way but not knowing who to trust or where to start when it comes to growing their money for the future. And as we looked at the population demographics in the U.S. and thought of the 72M Millennials now entering these crucial years, we saw an opportunity to build something more at a time when it was needed most. 

Q: What differentiates Plenty from other wealth management applications? Why is now the time to go to market with this product? 

A: Great question! First, more than 65% of Millennials are now married or in long term partnerships (an unprecedented 80% are in dual career partnerships too). The last generation of fintech built for where Millennials were 10 years ago, when they were individuals managing money on their own. This generation has changed a lot in even just 5 years. Second, the median age is now 33 years old... they’re the largest generation in the workforce, and the next decade will see the fastest growth in income compared to any other decade in someone’s life. 

As Millennials enter this period of their lives, they’re becoming serious about long-term financial planning, and yet, the current market has failed to meet them where they are. Most quality wealth management services are expensive and only available to high-net-worth individuals. And the pay-thousands-to-a-financial-planner upfront or a 1% fee on a $250k portfolio still prices out the majority of this generation.

Making small changes - 1% more in savings rates, 1% more in returns, 1% less in taxes, 0.50% less in fees - we did the math. For everyday Millennial couples, that could be $1M more for retirement. The key is starting earlier, and we are building the company that makes that both simple and affordable for more everyday families.

Finally, we’re technologists. Channing and I have each been in fintech now for almost a decade. In the last generation of consumer fintech companies, the majority of companies focused on digitizing and building out one product, whether it be saving, investing, budgeting, etc. With the boom in embedded fintech infrastructure in the last 5 years, we believe there will be 2-3 new platforms that re-aggregate all these products and finally have a business model that can challenge the big banks in a way that the last gen of single product companies never could.

Q: What do you think have been the biggest developments in the fintech industry over the past 10 years? In your opinion, what trends will define the next 10 years?

A: The last decade of consumer fintech development was pivotal in normalizing digital adoption and building trust in fintech brands. Companies like Paypal, Chime, Wealthfront, Dave, and Acorns paved the way for building trust with consumers and making them comfortable in a digital world where they were no longer walking into a bank branch and directly interfacing with a human. 

Another important stepping stone was  Robinhood. Robhinhood encouraged Millennials to start investing; and going from never investing, to investing something is meaningful progress. Estimates are that 30% of Millennials started investing for the first time during COVID as a consequence of using Robinhood. Now, a lot of folks lost a lot of money too, and there were lessons learned from that, but the majority of this generation now has something in non-retirement accounts.

As we think about the next decade, I go back to mapping where Millennials are right now in their lives. Millennials are entering their 30s and their 40s. For most people, this time is characterized by getting married or partnering up, having kids, getting promotions, earning more than you did in your 20s, and thinking about bigger life and financial milestones like retirement, or buying a house.

Our plan is to continue thinking about things from a generational perspective as Millennials continue along their life path and need financial products for their kids, aging parents, and more. We’ll think about the biggest social changes shaping peoples’ lives and work our products around their needs over the next decade.

Thank you again to Emily for taking the time to sit down with us. Please visit the Plenty website if you’d like to learn more.