Tech titan Michele Romanow recounted her entrepreneurial journey – an experience she calls “messy, difficult and surprising” – at OpenText’s EnterpriseWorld in Toronto.
That journey started while she was still a student at Queen’s University. She teamed up with two classmates to brainstorm what they called “the next million-dollar idea.”
They landed on caviar and fish farming, a business that had her catching, gutting and cleaning sturgeon on New Brunswick’s coast the summer after graduating. Romanow said those four months in the fish business taught her to be scrappy – really building something from nothing – and left her with one big realization.
“I needed to move myself from someone who is constantly planning to someone who executes,” she said.
Addressing hundreds of listeners, Romanow shared how she landed an executive position at retail giant Sears where she saw e-commerce blow up. She side hustled to launch deals site Buytopia, which became the fastest growing site of its kind in Canada – and her full-time job. The company is set to go public later this year.
It wasn’t all success for Romanow. She noted that she had many businesses during the Buytopia days that didn’t work out.
“We don’t talk about how often we have to fail to move forward,” she said. “When you get started in a space, you don’t know how it’s going to turn out.”
The Dragons’ Den advisor briefly touched on her latest startup, Clearbanc, a fintech company set out to change small business lending.
Romanow’s talk at the Women in Tech luncheon was the first of its kind at the annual user conference.
At the event, OpenText CEO Mark Barrenechea brought attention to the software company’s commitment and progress towards gender diversity, noting their 14,000-person team is 23% women – above the national average of 18%.