It’s not everyday you get to sit down with a dragon. However, when you listen to Mission Critical’s inaugural episode, you get the chance to sit in on conversation with Dragons’ Den’s Michele Romanow.
Romanow earned her place as the youngest dragon in the den as a serial entrepreneur. Now, as the co-founder of Clearbanc, she is continuing her entrepreneurial journey, while simultaneously helping other founders with their own.
Clearbanc’s method of investing in companies using AI (artificial intelligence) has revolutionized the way entrepreneurs can fund their businesses. More so, this numbers-based method has allowed for a more levelled playing field for entrepreneurs.
As a powerhouse herself, who is backing the entrepreneurs of the future, Romanow was the perfect choice as the first guest on Mission Critical. Whether you haven’t listened to the episode yet (although we highly suggest you do) or you want to revisit the conversation, here are our favourite takeaways from sitting down with Michele Romanow.
1. Entrepreneurs drive change in the world
From the creation of Uber to Shopify, entrepreneurs dictate our future with perseverance and innovation. Uber revolutionized the public transportation industry, while giving the average person with a car the ability to earn money on their own terms. Shopify simplified the online world to help small businesses tackle ecommerce—something that evidently became a key to surviving the pandemic.
It’s safe to say that entrepreneurs shape the world as we know it.
While the journey from an idea to a world-changing platform or application isn’t easy, embarking on an entrepreneurial path is something to be proud of and admired.
Romanow knows this to be true, as an entrepreneur herself, but even more so as co-founder of Clearbanc. “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,” says Romanow.
She later goes on to credit the success of Facebook as having kicked off the entrepreneurial frenzy and inspiring people to create something new rather than working for big, established companies.
2. In order to have meaningful change in the world, we need to level the playing field
Speaking of Facebook, did you know that 77.1 percent of American VC(venture capital) deals went to white founders, most of them Ivy League-educated men in Silicon Valley?
This is not to demonize the innovation that’s happening in San Francisco, but what about the founders outside of this bubble? Through using AI and taking away the ‘need-to-know the right people’ of VC funding, Clearbanc has opened doors for founders who otherwise may not have had access to funding. By doing so, Clearbanc has democratized the funding process: it’s not who you know, it’s whose idea is best.
“There have been so many founders that have been overlooked. We build a much better place when we can give everyone equal access,” says Romanow. Through using AI, Clearbanc is creating that equal access and funds 8x more female founders than the VC average because of it.
3. COVID-19 accelerated the ecommerce industry growth by years
While COVID-19 had devastating effects around the world and on numerous industries, it has had an undoubtedly positive effect on ecommerce growth. As the physical locations of businesses closed down in the early months of the pandemic, it forced many retailers to think about their online strategies more seriously than ever before.
“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,” says Romanow.
4. Entrepreneurship is a long, hard road, best walked with others on your side
“You are not scalable as a single person. Look, it took me a long time in my career to learn that,” says Romanow. “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”
While it’s easy to look at the success of businesses like Amazon or Apple, and have Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs immediately pop up in your head, it’s important to remember that they didn’t get there alone. The same thing goes for every business, no matter its size.
If you’re a budding entrepreneur, hone in on your strengths and ask for help when needed. Not only will it alleviate some of your stress, but you will have other people to weather the storms and share your successes with.
5. Adaptability is key to becoming successful
Michele talks about the different walks of life that founders come from, and how there is no single trait that stands out from another when it comes to becoming successful.
While there is no ‘tell’ when it comes to who can go the distance in entrepreneurship, one thing that is important, is the willingness to be flexible and constantly learn.
“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,” says Michele. “And the reality is you actually need to keep adapting your leadership style.”