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Future of Canada

From Start-Up to Unicorn Founder, Michele Romanow Says Canada’s Future is Bright

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Entrepreneur addict, co-founder at Clearco, and star on CBC’s Dragon’s Den, Michele Romanow shares her insights on what Canada’s economic outlook is and why she remains optimistic.


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What’s your outlook on the Future of Canada?

Canada’s economy has always been relatively strong. Despite unprecedented changes in the economy because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada was able to rebound in the second half of 2020 due to the resilience of various sectors. My outlook for Canada remains strong; one of the sectors that really grew over the last 2 years was e-commerce. With lockdowns and public health measures in place, the conventional way of obtaining goods and services changed to e-commerce.

When traditional sectors weren’t willing to make big bets, entrepreneurs came out in full force. We witnessed a huge surge in the tech and innovation sector with a fresh crop of unicorns like ApplyBoard, Coveo, Abcellea, Hopper, Wealthsimple and our very own, Clearco.

This is a trend we’ll see in the years to come. More Canadians are turning to entrepreneurship – which is hugely important because it shows that not only can the Canadian economy innovate at an early stage, but that we can also get to a global scale.

The future of Canada relies on what industry and government do to level the playing field. How can we help create more companies like the ones we support at Clearco? By enabling more entrepreneurs through capital and technology.

When traditional sectors weren’t willing to make big bets, entrepreneurs came out in full force.

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What’s the future for Canadian entrepreneurs? What advice do you have for them?

I think that the future for Canadian entrepreneurs is extremely bright. I get dozens of pitches weekly and what I see is that we are a country full of smart and diverse entrepreneurs. My best advice to them would be to take a chance – bet on yourself and be bold. Great entrepreneurs are built from trial and error. I have been in their shoes and know the sacrifices they must make to succeed.

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How have you pivoted your business for the Future of Canada?

One of the key things I have done in my role is to learn how to help a team that is growing exponentially operate remotely. Communication in person is always ideal. You lose the nuance and random collisions of ideas when you’re in a remote setting. Companies across Canada are going to have to find a way to adapt and help foster relationships and create organic environments all while in a remote setting. Clearco now employs 500 people across the world, so we’ve had to figure this out quickly.  We’ll see more companies move into remote settings, so it’ll be important for leaders to fill the gap of isolation that comes with working at home.

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What kind of obstacles have you had to overcome to get to where you are now?

Entrepreneurship is hard. I’ve tried so many different ideas for companies and for every single success there were 10 ideas that didn’t work out. As an entrepreneur, you must be agile and willing to re-invent yourself. In the early Clearco days, 200 investors on Wall Street told us we were crazy. They said we’d never make our model work – that we were taking too much risk on early-stage companies with no personal guarantees or collateral to fall back on. It took years to prove we could provide capital to founders and not lose our shirt! Sometimes when you’re getting a lot of resistance it means that you’re onto something big. There will always be someone that tells you that you can’t do it, you must be willing to follow your gut and try different iterations. 

See Romanow on the upcoming season of Dragons’ Den, premiering October 21 at 8 p.m. on CBC.

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