I met Susie through the Barclays Techstars Accelerator in NYC, when her startup, Pluto Money, was selected in the fall cohort. Pluto Money is the future of mobile banking for Generation Z. The iOS platform (featured on the app store as “New Apps We Love”) uses behavioral economics & AI to guide Gen Z towards their financial goals, starting in college and growing with them. Users take on tailored personal & social challenges to reach their goals, and can anonymously compare finances to similar peers. You can watch Pluto’s demo day pitch here.
Susie and her team came to the accelerator with a vision to set up Gen Z for long-term financial success. I have been a mentor ever since, and am so proud of the work that they have done to bring their vision to life.
How/why did you get into tech?
My family wasn’t well-off when I left home at age 12 and moved here alone in pursuit of better education and opportunities, so financial struggle has always been a backbone of my story. In my junior year of college, I had to give up my dream of studying in Italy for financial reasons. I then learned that I was among millions of students that were making the same difficult choices. I finally said “no more” and set off to solve the lack of financial education, resources and empowerment tools in college. I was an Art History & Italian student with no tech background, so you can imagine the learning curve!
What role do you play in the tech ecosystem?
Challenging the status quo with diversity, I hope. I felt like a minority in every case stepping into the tech scene — I am a female, person of color, recent grad, humanities educated, first-time tech founder, driving a change in fintech without a banking background. Everything came with a higher learning curve and higher risk but that also meant more lessons gained, different perspectives into an old industry, and most importantly, mentors and peer founders who are equally as diverse and driven as I am to change and open up this scene. I’m sharing my story as much as I can, and also mentoring students without STEM background to jump into tech!
What do you believe is the most exciting tech trend for 2019?
Growing awareness and efforts in ethical technology. Between the traditional form of consumer “consented” data sharing and new technologies like AI, machine learning and VR, tech companies now have overwhelming opportunities for and access to consumer data, and it’s only going to uprise at an accelerating speed. I think we’re going to see more and more demand for transparent business models and “good” use of data that puts consumers first.
Who is a person in tech that inspires you? Why?
Arlan Hamilton. The story of her building Backstage Capital from the ground up is nothing but untraditional and awe-striking. She fought for diversity in tech, and when she succeeded, she never stopped giving back. I relate to her struggles and admire her resilience.
What advice would you give for someone who wants to get into tech?
Ask. For. Help. Whether you’re an early stage founder or a newcomer into the tech scene, changing the system and creating an impact is not one person’s job. You need a team, mentors, advisors, peers, users — whoever believes in you, ask for help. Ask for their opinions. Ask to do it together.