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Forty Under 40 Award winner Q&A: Yvette Wu

This year’s cohort of recipients will be celebrated at an event Feb. 7, 2024

BIV is recognizing Yvette Wu, co-founder and CEO and Yield Exchange Inc., and 39 other exceptional business leaders as part of the 2023 Forty Under 40 Awards cohort.

Longer Q&As with each recipient are included in BIV's annual Forty Under 40 Magazine (out in print Dec. 11). Award winners will be celebrated at an awards gala Feb. 7, 2024.

This profile may have been edited for length and clarity.

What career highlight are you most proud of?

Beating the odds to secure funding for Yield Exchange this year is something I'm immensely proud of. At a time when investors were barely considering new startups and knowing that only two per cent of global VC funding goes to women, it meant so much to have an amazing group of partners excited about our vision and trust in that we'd execute. Since securing funding, we went from six Canadian municipal clients to over 100 in six short months! Let's go!

What was your toughest business or professional decision?

I've always wanted to start my own business but as a parent, it's terrifying to put that security on the line, no matter how much you believe in yourself. My husband and I actually spent a year living with our kids on a single salary to know what that would feel like, but in the end, it all comes down to taking that leap. With very few success stories from people who look like me in fintech, I had to dig deep for the confidence to trust myself and I'm so glad I did.

How do you lead?

Honestly, I don't really like the term "leader." You hear so much noise about "great leaders" or the "best way to lead", but I've always found my inspiration in the talented people I work with. I think leadership isn't something anyone owns. I see leadership every day from my team, but also from many young people and women in the world working to make change for each other. I see my job more as a facilitator of leadership and I do everything to help bring the best from those around me toward the shared vision we're building together.

What is the biggest lesson you've learned in business?

Learning to let go of all the narratives and transactional thinking that prevents us from building connections we can't even imagine. At first, the pressure around what it meant to be a woman founder shaped my views of networking and competition. It was when I started to meet other founders going out of their way to support each other and build community, that I realized the true value of relationships. We're all trying to disrupt the status quo, which means we have to stay open to opportunities we never expected, and then have the confidence to take them.

Best piece of advice ever received?

Going into fundraising, I realized I held this mindset around asking for capital, almost like I was going around begging for money. It was other women entrepreneurs who helped me see that I wasn't "asking for money," I had a rocket ship that was about to go off and anyone lucky enough to get on now was in for the ride of their life. It flipped the whole power dynamic in those conversations. Reframing can be a powerful tool!

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Truthfully, nothing! Even if I could go back, I doubt my younger self would listen to my advice and I'm glad she wouldn't. I feel like all the strength, resilience and wisdom I have now is because of the times I didn't listen to advice. I really believe we need to make mistakes to grow and it's all those mistakes that led me to who I am today. Even if I told my younger self to "be more confident" or "know my value," I've had to go through all the motions to break out of my shell.

What's left to accomplish?

In the big picture, it's always about finding new ways to disrupt the status quo and broadening what paths feel possible for myself and for others. Every time we’ve reached a milestone for Yield Exchange, we just find a new one, and then another, and another. We've started with municipalities but there are so many other non-profits, First Nation communities, and small and medium businesses we could support, that we're barely tapping into. Our platform is all about giving these communities access and breaking barriers to financial power, and we have so much more to give. We're just getting started.

Is there anyone you would like to thank or acknowledge?

My parents and my family have been such a well of love that I've drawn through everything. They firmly ground me with perspective of what really matters. I also want to give my overwhelming gratitude to the Yield Exchange team and to the broader community of supporters, who've gone above and beyond any expectations to bring this thing together. Truly, I could not have done it without everyone.

Read Q&As with all 40 award recipients here. Tickets to the 2023 Forty Under 40 Awards gala on Feb. 7 are now available.