Business COVID-19 Podcast Women Who Lead

Mission Critical E01: Michele Romanow (Serial Entrepreneur) on How Entrepreneurs Can Help Solve Today’s Toughest Problems

Michele Romanow

Entrepreneurs are built to withstand incredible pressure. As a result, they know a thing or two about supporting one another as a community. Michele Romanow is a serial entrepreneur, investor on Dragons’ Den, and co-founder of the world’s largest e-commerce investment company, Clearbanc. In this episode, Lance and Michele talk about equity and equality, humility, and how entrepreneurship can be a vehicle for solving today’s toughest problems—especially if we work together. 

KEY HIGHLIGHTS

[3:13] A company for founders, by founders—Michele Romanow built Clearbanc as a tool to help other entrepreneurs.

[12:48] Empowering founders can be the most effective way of changing the world, but access to capital is unfairly distributed. As a result, the best ideas are not always the ones that win.

[20:43] COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the business community but it has also accelerated e-commerce retail sales by ten years, and we aren’t going back.

[24:20] It takes a village to build something great. “If you want to be successful, you can’t do it alone… You are not scalable as a single person.”

[26:52]  Entrepreneurship is tough and mired with failure. As Michele Romanow puts it, it is a career where you are constantly getting a black eye. Humility is incredibly important.

[30:06] Leadership is not static, it is dynamic and evolves. The skillset and approach required to build a company at the start is different from what is required of you when a company is more established.

Listen to the episode below or your platform (Apple, Spotify, etc.) of choice.

INTERVIEW

[INTRO]

“E-commerce went from 14 percent of retail sales up to 29 percent in 12 weeks. I mean, that is a 10-year trend that we accelerated.” 

Welcome to Mission Critical, a podcast about the big picture, the purpose, and the values that drive today’s most game-changing companies, entrepreneurs, and leaders. I’m your host Lance Chung, Editor-in-Chief of Bay Street Bull, and I’ll be introducing you to a group of brilliant minds who are making an impact on the world and forging the path ahead. While they may all be very different from one another, the question remains the same: What’s your mission?

It is our very first episode and who better to kick off season one than a dragon. That’s right, we are speaking with Michele Romanow today, co-founder of Clearbanc and investor on CBC’s Dragons’ Den. Michele is a force. She’s a game-changer and serial entrepreneur that is in many ways, one of the most recognizable faces of Canada’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. But perhaps most importantly, Michele has always subscribed to the idea that entrepreneurship provides the quickest path to solving today’s toughest problems and has long been a champion of Canada’s ability to produce world-conquering brands right here in our own backyard. 

Lance Chung: We have Michele Romanow here today, who is a multi-hyphenate serial entrepreneur. She is the co-founder and president of Clearbanc, as well as a dragon on Dragons’ Den among many other things. Michele, thank you so much for joining us today. How are you?

Michele Romanow: Pleasure to be here and always wonderful to be interviewed by people that have supported me early.

Lance Chung: I wish we could be having this conversation in person, but all things considered it’s nice to be able to hear your voice. As I mentioned, you’re a serial entrepreneur that is involved in a multitude of diverse businesses and industries. So there is a lot that we can explore and unpack today but as I mentioned, I think what I really want to focus on is the bigger picture of it all and what gives you purpose across your businesses and collective experiences—what’s the common denominator that ties everything together? 

Why don’t we start with Clearbanc? You started Clearbanc in 2015 with your co-founder, Andrew D’Souza and Clearbanc is a venture capital firm that specializes in non-dilutive revenue share agreements with startups. From my understanding, it is now the largest e-commerce investor in the world having invested over a billion dollars into 2,800 companies across the States and Canada, and has done a great job of funding eight times more women than traditional venture capital companies. That’s not bad for a company that is a few years old. If we start from the beginning, what inspired you to start a company like Clearbanc?

Michele Romanow: It was our experiences as founders… Every once in a while, someone will be like, You know you run a huge fintech company? And I’m like, Yeah! It’s pretty weird because I knew nothing about financial services before starting this but what I did deeply understand was what it was like to be a founder. Then on top of that, Andrew and I had very different stories as founders and operators. I mean, he had raised a ton of venture capital for different companies and had been really successful at that. He also saw the dark side of that where boards changed their mind overnight, people can get fired overnight, and ultimately you have no control of the baby you’re building. What I had seen as, I mean, I’ve been a serial entrepreneur from the very beginning and so what I realized as a founder is that if you go to Stanford or Harvard in the US it is not hard to raise venture capital because you have everyone in your network with an enormous amount of capital. But if you are actually anyone else, for the most part, it’s incredibly hard to raise capital and most founders don’t go into business to be like, I can’t wait to fundraise. No one thinks: I can’t wait to fundraise, I can’t wait to do my accounting, I can’t wait to choose a credit card. No one thinks about that! They think about, I want to build something that changes people’s lives and inspires people and delights my customers. So that’s when we came up with, what if this could be a far easier process to do this? And a lot of it was inspired, weirdly enough, by Dragons’ Den.

Red square with white writing and blue iconI think it’s funny, people are like, you got a great idea from reality television? And I’m like, I sure did. Right? I’m watching all of these entrepreneurs give up huge portions of their company, right? Like, look for a hundred grand I’ll give you 20 percent of my company. They’re selling iPhone cases and they have great unit economics, they need to do more advertising. And it was on the show six years ago that I said, Look, there’s something here where this doesn’t make sense for either of us. As an investor, the iPhone case company is not going to sell to Apple for a 10 times multiple, and for the founder, they’re going to be really resentful when I own 20 percent of their business. So it was really on the show where I said, Look, instead of me giving you a hundred thousand dollars and taking 20 percent of the company. Why don’t I give you a hundred grand and you give me five percent of your revenue until you pay me back my money—so, a hundred grand plus six percent. This wasn’t very expensive capital. This wasn’t a loan, there was no personal guarantee, or fixed payment timelines, or compounding interest. This was truly a revenue share deal and you know, frankly, I didn’t think that this would become such a revolution. What we did discover after is today 40 percent of VC dollars go straight to Google and Facebook. So founders are using the most expensive capital to do something that’s repeatable and scalable. And then it was like, we just made it so much easier. I mean, we called our product the 20-Minute Term Sheet, [where] you come in, you give us access to your data, and in 20 minutes we can say, look, we can give you between $10,000 up to $10 million. And that was game-changing for entrepreneurs. I mean, what do we raise money for Clearbanc? Every time it’s taken us three to six months. So we’ve been able to really change and revolutionize a business for founders and maybe more importantly, and it goes back to your very first question, it’s like, Why does that matter? And I think that matters because I’m a firm believer that if we want things changed in the world, empowering founders is the absolute best and most effective way to do that.

Lance Chung: Well, entrepreneurs are some of the world’s greatest problem solvers and are always looking ahead and trying to fix and make things more efficient. It totally makes sense. Going back to when you were starting Clearbanc, the nature of the business really challenges the status quo of how things typically operate. Was it difficult to get people on board with that mission, and believe in that vision, and that product initially?

Michele Romanow: Lance, I did 300 meetings on Wall Street to hear the word no in different accents and different forms of the word no. I think the rudest one is probably like, Miss, you don’t understand credit. And our thesis was always that if you could use AI and automate the underwriting that VCs effectively did. I mean, VCs look at the same sort of thing. They look at the total size of your market. They look at your return on ad spend. They look at your lifetime values to acquisition ratios. If we could automate that, we could use that and make very good decisions and then have actually effectively lower losses than anyone else. But no one believed us because we were new and this hadn’t been done before, and this asset class hadn’t been built before. And so that’s what you hear at the beginning. You hear a lot of no’s and ultimately you get a yes, and the people that backed us, you guessed it, were other entrepreneurs because they totally got it.

Lance Chung: If I’m a startup founder, can you walk us through how they would go about starting that process with Clearbanc? How did they take the first steps? 

Michele Romanow: You can come to us through Clearbanc.com. You can reach out to one of the folks on our team and then what you need to do is share access to your data sources just so we can read them. These are things like your payment processor or your ad spend account and your bank account, so we can understand how your business is doing. And then typically if you remember your passwords, that takes like 20 minutes and in 20 minutes, we can say, this is how much capital we can give you. These are the terms of this capital and this is the other benefit of being in our portfolio. We’ve built a lot of those things this year. Recently, we just launched this tool called Valuation, which allows you to see how much your company is worth, which again, in the same way that like forever, it’s been the people that had the money, but chose what companies, right? If you were the king 2,000 years ago, you chose what companies got built. And if you knew the king, you got funded and if you didn’t, you didn’t. We’ve kind of always known that the best entrepreneurs—the ones with the most grit and the most hustle—often didn’t come from the most privileged upbringings. Here, we just look at people based on their data and nothing else. We funded eight times more women than the venture capital industry average. And this has nothing to do with the pipeline. This is just because we use data to make our decisions. We have funded founders in all 50 States in America, which compares to venture capital where 80 percent of VC dollars last year went into four States in America. And so we’ve always had this ethos that we are by founders, which is Andrew and me, for founders.

And so Valuation was a part of that, where it was like, you should know what your company is worth because you can’t negotiate with someone if you don’t know what you’re worth. For founders, you’re so disadvantaged because maybe you’ll get to see what your company’s worth when you do a fundraising round or when you sell your company maybe a couple times in your career. But if you’re a VC, you value companies every single day. So we wanted to give that information back to founders so you can actually see week to week on how your valuation is changing and then how you can improve your business, how you can meet folks in our network that could potentially buy your company, or VCs that could invest in equity.

Lance Chung: You also launched earlier this year Runway. Was that something that you were working on pre-COVID or was that kind of a quick reaction as a result of COVID and acknowledging the needs that were presented there?

Michele Romanow: Runway, which is this idea that we could use our capital to extend the runway of your business and it can be used for any purposes, it wasn’t just to be used for ad spend, it could be used for inventory or payroll or whatever else you needed. That really came out of our reaction to COVID because we went into a pretty significant economic crisis. No one knew what was going to happen, and everyone was worried about the survival of their companies. And so, we built this product around being able to help with that.

Lance Chung: Now Clearbanc uses AI, artificial intelligence, to evaluate startups and essentially democratize access to both capital and valuation, which are two critical components to a company’s growth, to a startup’s growth. You’re essentially leveling the playing field. It sounds, I guess, like a relatively simple question, but why is this so important and relevant to the conversations that society is having today around equitable access, whether that’s in business or in society in general?

Michele Romanow: I think that all of these conversations, if you look at the root of so many problems, they do involve access. They involve access to education, resources, and capital is an enormous one. This was one of the things that I remember. I joined the cast of Dragons’ [Den] when I was 28, so I was pretty young and people really want you to help entrepreneurs. So it’s like, well, can you do a course or can you do a talk? And I just remember this moment where I was kind of sitting there and I’m like, if you really care about empowering founders, you have to care about the capital problem because that is where businesses often take flight. And there are some incredible bootstrap companies. I’m not taking anything away from them, but for most people you need some form of capital to scale up. Because that has been so unfairly distributed, you are not seeing the best ideas win, and the best ideas are good for all of us because they create the best companies. Now today, companies have a social fabric to them. They have a culture and they have ways that they give back to their community that builds us into a much better society. So we think every time we empower a founder, we empower the world that we want to build and continue to live in.

Pink square with blue writingLance Chung: It contributes to a barometer of the time where, as consumers, we evaluate the companies that we are loyal to by a shared vision and shared values. It’s not always just about a product or a service anymore. It is about how you invest your loyalty in a company that shares the same values, the same social values. When we create more space for diverse groups of companies that are able to grow, we’re acknowledging a wider perspective of people, we’re acknowledging our community. 

I was reading a report earlier today from 2018, but in the States only 2.2 percent of $130 billion of total venture capital investments went to female founders. And in Canada, I believe only four percent of VC funding went to women-led companies. And yet with those numbers, female entrepreneurs contribute $148 billion every year to Canada’s economy and on a global scale, rank first when it comes to creating and running their own businesses. So I guess it’s not so much of a question, but a statement that you’re acknowledging and directly addressing through Clearbanc, this gap and this opportunity to really build a foundation and a launchpad for diverse companies.

Michele Romanow: I get really hesitant with saying people did this out of being evil or bad, right? The old system is a human-to-human based system. Like for me to invest in you, I have to know you. And so it made sense and there was a level of trust when you went to the same schools or when you ran in the same family circles or any of these things. That’s why we see geographical hubs of venture capital where there’s companies built in Silicon Valley and New York. And so it wasn’t like these people set out to do something wrong. It was the limitation of the model that they were using that in a human-to-human business, you can’t meet that many humans. You can’t evaluate them. You can’t get on 800 flights a year, I might’ve tried. I think I hit 150 one year, but you can’t do that.

And so that’s where the power of data and AI can change everything. To us, these points on access to founders from everywhere, no matter what you look like, and no matter what gender you are are not talking points. We’re not on a stage saying this. We think this is an opportunity. This is incredible. But there have been so many founders that have been overlooked. We build a much better place when we can give everyone equal access. It’s exactly what you said, the consumers decide—and they are. People are voting with their wallets and they should. We should be backing the businesses that create the type of world we want to live in. That’s why in more competitive economies, you see way more innovation than in economies where you have a few oligopolies and monopolies.

Lance Chung: Would you consider Clearbanc also kind of like a Tinder or a matchmaker for investments because you also facilitate connections between startups and potential investors, as well.

Michele Romanow: I think revenue share capital is fantastic because you don’t give up a piece of your company, you have the capital you want to grow, it’s not very expensive, we don’t have security in your company, we don’t have a personal guarantee. I would have taken any day of the week when we were building [my first company] Buytopia or any of the work that I’ve done. I fundamentally believe that depending on what you’re doing, you should be using different sources of capital, depending on how you’re spending it. So, especially for things like inventory, when you invest a dollar and you make three dollars, you should be using way cheaper capital than equity because equity takes your control away. It takes a piece of your company away and it’s irreversible. You can’t get it back. I mean, technically you can, but it’s extremely difficult to buy your investors out after they’ve invested.

But if you were taking true, insane, zero-to-one risk, you need to hire a hundred data scientists to do something, or build a rocket to the moon, or enter eight different countries at once where there’s a real chance that that could all fail—that’s true equity risk and therefore you should be looking at equity investors to support you to get there. There’s companies in our portfolio that are on that track and we do want to be introducing them to the right investors. Because we get so many referrals from investors, we’ve created this great network of VCs where they tell us, Look , if you have consumer companies doing this much in revenue and growing quickly, I want to meet them. So we facilitated introductions for almost a hundred of our portfolio companies today and they’re highly curated. You’re meeting five people that really want to meet you.

[INTERLUDE]

Michele’s company Clearbanc, which she started with her partner Andrew D’Souza, is, according to the brand, the largest e-commerce investor in the world. They’re driven by what they call Canadian values—ie. their commitment to diversity manifested in fair access to capital using artificial intelligence to assess investment opportunities. That’s right—no human bias. That’s important when you consider the fact that in 2019, 77.1 percent of American VC deals went to—you guessed it—white founders; most of them Ivy League-educated men in Silicon Valley. On top of that, only nine percent of transactions went to women and a measly one percent to the black community. Clearbanc, on the other hand, has backed female founders at eight times the VC industry average proving their thesis works, and that no matter who you are, where you come from, the best ideas, the best companies, are the ones that should be funded. They’re helping to level the playing field.

Lance Chung: 2020 has undoubtedly been a very busy, volatile, challenging, interesting year. In terms of COVID-19, how has that impacted your business and what opportunities have you seen arise as a result of COVID-19? 

Michele Romanow: This is a year unlike any other year. I actually think in some ways it will be interesting to step back and just realize how far people adapted and how quickly people can adapt because sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough credit for that. I think for us, I think we are really lucky. When we started Clearbanc, we had a few different other businesses that we were doing. One of them was backing Airbnb hosts. I mean, if we had been in that business and COVID hit, and what happened to the travel industry, we would have been in a really, really rough place. And so we got extremely lucky. We backed all e-commerce companies and as a percentage of retail sales in America, e-commerce went from 14 percent of retail sales up to 29 percent in 12 weeks. I mean that is a 10-year trend that we accelerated. We went from e-commerce 2020 into e-commerce 2030 in 12 weeks. So, it’s pretty incredible and we’re not going backwards on this because everyone learned to buy everything online. Think about your parents. They were probably scared to buy groceries online because the berries would be squished. Well, they learned to buy groceries online and it was a great experience! Categories we never thought would really get penetrated—colour cosmetics, where it was like, you had to try this on—became fully online.

Blue square with orange writing and iconLance Chung: I’ve also noticed you’ve been very active and vocal in your own personal efforts to assist in COVID-19 relief efforts with PPE distribution. Can you talk a little bit more about what you’ve been doing on that side as well?

Michele Romanow: It was really interesting when COVID hit my longtime business partner Anatoliy [Melnichuk] who I built Buytopia and Snapsaves with, gets a call from his ex-girlfriend who’s a doctor in New York City, and she’s like, Look, I’m being sent to work with a mask in a Ziploc bag and I’m going to have to intubate COVID patients. He was like, this is crazy. I mean, there’s gotta be a way. We’ve been sourcing products for e-commerce companies for a decade now, there’s gotta be a way that we can help on this. And so, I think we got the first order of 200,000 N-95s and I posted it on an Instagram story. And Lance I’ve never seen anything in my life go viral like this. It wasn’t like people were responding on Instagram. Within hours I was getting hundreds of emails [from] fire chiefs in Cape Breton, hospitals, all sorts of places. The first order we really did was a charity initiative and then we were like, Okay, this is actually a way bigger need. This is really like all the credit here goes to Anatoliy. He was the one that figured out how to get the product off the ground and find incredibly reliable long-term manufacturers of the stuff that had been doing this for years. There was a huge logistics problem where he figured out that you couldn’t just book commercial flights to build this stuff. You actually needed armed security from the factory all the way to Canada to do this. I still remember the night that he called me and he goes, You know, we’re going to have to book our own 747. And I was like, well, how much is it to get a 747? And he’s like, a million bucks. And I was like, that seems really scary. And he’s like, we have to do it. And that’s what we had to do is book basically these private charters once a week to be able to deliver this stuff. And I’m just immensely proud of what he’s been able to do. I mean, we’ve delivered over 10 million masks and over 4 million gowns.

Lance Chung: It’s incredible and it’s honestly so amazing that you were able to harness those resources in a time where the community felt very vulnerable. I guess ultimately what I’m trying to get to with everything that I’ve been asking is, I’ve noticed your personal initiatives as a mentor outside of Clearbanc, and your efforts with COVID-19 relief, and your work at Clearbanc. And the common thread is that they all contribute to this idea that entrepreneurs should be a resource to others. We need to help each other out. Yes, of course we’re pursuing our own ambitions and goals, but I feel like with entrepreneurs there is this duty to a community to help each other out. How do you think entrepreneurship can be of service to the community and accelerate problem solving, as you mentioned earlier.

Michele Romanow: It’s entrepreneurs that build our communities. I think one of the hardest things for me to see was just the devastation of local businesses during COVID-19 because most of the businesses had kind of a couple of months of cashflow to go off of. You walk down the streets now to just see some of the stores and the leases, it’s emotional. It’s heartbreaking for me to see that. I think one of the things you learn very early as an entrepreneur is that if you want to be successful, you can’t do it alone. And it feels like you could do it alone. And we have a bit of a false narrative in the media that single founders… Steve jobs did it all alone. You do this with a team and you do this with a community. So I think that that’s why you have to care because you are not scalable as a single person. Look, it took me a long time in my career to learn that. My solution was not just to put in more hard work. It was actually that I had to bring other people along with me that could help me and that could be way better at so many of the things that I completely suck at. I think that’s why you build a community because ultimately we don’t do this alone and you get so much more successful. This is truly one of those like high tides raises all boats and I would compare it to countries, right? Silicon Valley is successful because it is a community, and Israel is successful because it is a community.

Green square with pink writing and logoLance Chung: So, you’ve experienced COVID-19 as a business owner, you experienced the recession with your first business, and then also just deal with the day-to-day struggles of entrepreneurship. How important do you think humility is for an entrepreneur? I think there is this kind of rockstar sensationalism that surrounds the culture of entrepreneurship but I don’t think enough is said about being humble.

Michele Romanow: This one kind of cuts both ways, because really before Facebook, people did not want to leave school and leave business school and become an entrepreneur. They wanted to leave school and go work at McKinsey and go work at investment banks. And those are fine professions, but they’re not the professions that build our economy. They’re the professionals that change ownership and optimize things. The real builders, the entrepreneurs, are different. In some ways, I think that this rock star movement that was really pioneered by Facebook—like this incredible story about how a student at Harvard could create something that became one of the world’s most powerful companies—was an important movement. You could see it in MBA schools. You could see that for the first time people wanted to go to tech startups or build their own companies versus going to work on Wall Street to go to work for big consulting firms.

So, I think some of that’s important because this is a tough fucking career. It’s really nice when you see the glamorous moments [but] 80 percent of this career, you fail. Your products don’t work, your ideas don’t work, your marketing campaigns fall flat, no one cares about what you just built. That is perpetual and it doesn’t matter if you have a lot of experience doing this, the process of building something is just filled with failure. In many ways, I’m happy there’s a little bit of a silver lining there where it’s like, Okay, but if you keep doing this, there is some celebration. And therefore humility is incredibly important because this is a career where you are constantly getting a black eye. It doesn’t matter how successful you are. We can talk about the failures of Amazon, and Microsoft, and the biggest companies. They’re all on display for all of us. I think the other thing is that that humility is so important because as businesses and as times adapt, you need different things to be successful today than what maybe made you successful when you started a couple of years ago. That humility allows people to see that.

Lance Chung: Now, as a judge on Dragons’ Den, as someone who invests in multiple companies, as someone that’s created a company like Clearbanc, what are some of the common denominators that you’ve seen across the businesses that have done well in regards to their overall mission and what they’re looking to achieve, and how they’re looking to change the world? 

Michele Romanow: I’ve gotten to see lots of companies over the years, which is amazing. Our model of Clearbanc is looking at really solid unit economics and everything else. I think when you look at the correlation between all of that and all of the different kinds of equity deals I’ve done backing founders, what shows up every time is founders that have an enormous amount of persistence and grit, because it was kind of what I was saying before. This is a really tough career and if you think you’re going to be successful on your first go and put everything into that, and then are devastated when it doesn’t work. This is never going to work for you because unfortunately you have to do that sometimes half a dozen times, sometimes a dozen times, before things actually start to work. 

I’ve tried to narrow the personality type. Sometimes people have a chip on their shoulder for a lot of different reasons. They have something to prove to their family, or their significant other, or their sibling or something. Those personality types are almost always successful because they are just not giving in. Some of it is sheer necessity. I see this in founders where they need this to work. Like, they do not have a lot of other options, and that makes for extraordinarily successful founders. And then on the flip side of that, I’ve invested in a couple of founders that get lucky on one of the first ideas that they try. They always struggled the most because it’s very hard for them to see that they have to adapt and change as their companies grow. 

One of the hardest things for me to learn as a founder, I still see, and you can see with all of the public displays of founders that have been taken down, is that what builds you to a series A company is actually a very different skillset than what builds you to a series C and then to a public company, because so many people doubt you along the way. It’s easy to get ingrained in this idea that like, well, I need to keep being a certain way or I need to keep leading a certain way. And the reality is is you actually need to keep adapting your leadership style.

Grey square with dark green writing and logoLance Chung: I guess that comes back to this discussion around humility, as well, and being able to understand, and be able to accept change, and the fact that you may need to look inwards about change as well, and that leadership is not static, it’s dynamic, and it needs to adapt according to external and internal factors.

What still surprises you about your work? You’ve built up a really amazing career. You’ve seen a lot of great companies and met a lot of great people. What is something that still surprises and excites you?

Michele Romanow: A diversity of both innovation and challenges. The best part about my life is every day that I wake up, two times a week something is going to blow up and I have no idea what it will be. I have no idea! Some of it is going to be like, confetti blow up. Like, Wow, that worked better than I ever thought possible. And most blow ups are like, Oh, that seems like such a tiny, stupid risk that now blew up in our face. And putting out fires! I think this job is never, ever boring andI love that part about it because it is by definition, full of surprises.

Lance Chung: So just coming full circle here, what would you say is your overall mission? What’s the bigger picture and call to action for Clearbanc, and your role as a leader in the entrepreneurial ecosystem?

Michele Romanow: My ultimate goal is that everyone with a great idea that’s building a great business should be able to build that dream with the funding and all of the knowledge they need to do that. That’s a big lofty mission and if we can just make a little dent in that, I think we can have a decent,

Lance Chung: Well, that is a great note to end on. I really appreciate you being able to take the time today to chat with us. It’s been a pleasure and I hope we can chat again soon. It was fun. 

Michele Romanow: It was awesome, thank you for having me.

[OUTRO]

Entrepreneurs often face a long and winding road ahead of them—a path mired with failures and no guarantee of success. It is a difficult journey and, as such, underscores the importance of community. Entrepreneurs are not alone, nor do they build companies on their own. It’s crucial to understand that as Michele puts it, you are not scalable as a single person. Today’s startup success stories are the result of a team effort, and that’s why I wanted to speak with Michele. Because beyond ambition and entrepreneurship, the big picture is really about community. It’s about helping your neighbour during the hard times and celebrating together during the good times. It’s about our duty to each other so that we can all come up together. That’s what it means to be a leader.

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