How Michele Romanow Net Worth Went From Startup Founder to Tech Investor Over $150 Million
Michele Romanow net worth, is one of Canada’s most successful tech entrepreneurs and investors. She co-founded financial services company Clearbanc in 2015, and currently serves as the company’s president. Romanow is also an investor on CBC’s Dragons’ Den and has backed over 50 startups. Her net worth is estimated to be around $150 million in 2023, making her one of the richest self-made women in Canada.
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Michele Romanow’s Early Life and Education
Michele Romanow was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1984. She developed an entrepreneurial spirit early on, founding a friendship bracelet business in elementary school. Romanow received a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Queen’s University in 2006. While at university, she started a business selling pudding cups to raise money for charity.
After graduation, Romanow worked briefly in private equity in Toronto. However, she quickly realized that she wanted to launch her own business instead of investing in other companies.
Early Startup Ventures
In 2008, at just 24 years old, Romanow co-founded her first major startup, Evandale Caviar. The company produced caviar from sturgeon fish in the Canadian Maritimes. Romanow started the venture after discovering large amounts of high-quality caviar being exported from Canada. Unfortunately, the economic recession hit later that year, making the luxury caviar untenable. Romanow had to close Evandale, realizing she “started a business with the world’s most unnecessary luxury product” during a recession.
Despite this early failure, Romanow was undeterred from tech entrepreneurship. She saw the growing opportunities in e-commerce and digital discounts. In 2010, she launched Buytopia.ca out of her Toronto apartment. The website offered discounts on local services, events, and restaurants. Romanow came up with clever tactics like using luggage tags as the delivery method for gift cards. She grew Buytopia to over 500,000 subscribers without any marketing budget.
Success with Snapsaves and Groupon Acquisition
In 2012, Romanow co-founded her third venture, Snapsaves. The app provided deals on restaurants when users “snapped” photos of their receipts. Snapsaves essentially offered cash back incentives for dining out. Romanow had seen the success of receipt scanning apps in the U.S. and wanted to bring the concept to Canada.
By 2014, Snapsaves had 250,000 users. The rapid growth attracted the attention of Groupon, who acquired Snapsaves for an undisclosed amount that year. The deal marked Romanow’s first major exit and cash windfall. It also gave her extensive experience growing and selling a tech startup.
Co-Founding Clearbanc and Growing Net Worth
In 2015, Romanow partnered with Andrew D’Souza to co-found Clearbanc, an online lender designed specifically for entrepreneurs. The company, also known as Clearco, provides fast and affordable funding to e-commerce businesses in exchange for a flat fee and revenue share agreement. This innovative funding model helps entrepreneurs grow their business without giving up equity or paying high interest rates.
Clearbanc has invested over $3 billion in 5,500 companies to date. The company has created a data-driven underwriting platform that can approve funding in as little as 24 hours. Clearbanc has touted a repayment rate of over 93% from its investments.
Romanow served as Clearbanc’s president and helped grow the company to a valuation of $2 billion by 2021. Her work with Clearbanc has been the biggest driver of her rising net worth. Romanow owns a minority equity stake estimated to be worth around $100 million. She has reinvested much of her earnings into Clearbanc as it has rapidly scaled.
In 2019, Romanow’s net worth was estimated at $5 million by Canadian Business Magazine. By 2021, Forbes and other outlets estimated her net worth between $100 to $150 million. The growth is remarkable for an entrepreneur still under 40 years old.
Investing in Startups on Dragons’ Den
Aside from her Clearbanc role, Romanow has become an active angel investor in startups. She leverages her experience running and selling companies to identify promising early stage businesses.
In 2016, Romanow joined the cast of Dragons’ Den, a reality television show featuring entrepreneurs pitching for investment. She replaced longtime Dragon David Chilton in season 10 and has remained on the show since.
As of 2022, Romanow has invested nearly $8 million into 50 companies through the show. Her investments focus on consumer products, healthcare, food & beverage, and software startups. Romanow negotiates for equity stakes averaging 10-20% in the companies. Some of her most notable deals include Spring Financial, Pantry Pakistani, EduPlay, and Pumps2Go.
Romanow views appearing on Dragons’ Den as a way to give back to future entrepreneurs. She enjoys helping founders refine their business models and messaging. The publicity and brand building from the show has likely contributed to her growing net worth as well.
Philanthropy and Recognition
Aside from business, Romanow is passionate about philanthropy. She has donated to causes supporting women’s leadership and equity in technology. Romanow also supports local arts and education in Toronto.
She served on the board of directors ofTELUS Spark Science Centre and the Rideau Hall Foundation. Romanow received honors like Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 and being named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.
In 2018, Romanow won Angel Investor of the Year from the Canadian Innovation Awards. The award recognized her contribution to helping early stage companies.
Key Takeaways on Michele Romanow’s Journey to $150 Million Net Worth:
- Romanow got an early start in business, founding a friendship bracelet company in elementary school. Her first major startup, Evandale Caviar, ultimately failed due to poor timing with the 2008 recession.
- She found success with Buytopia and Snapsaves, two e-commerce companies offering deals and cash back rewards. Snapsaves was acquired by Groupon in 2014, providing a windfall.
- Romanow co-founded Clearbanc in 2015, which has become a $2 billion unicorn thanks to its revenue share funding model for e-commerce. Her equity is worth around $100 million.
- She has invested nearly $8 million into 50 startups through appearing on Dragons’ Den since 2016.
- Romanow’s net worth has rapidly grown from an estimated $5 million in 2019 to between $100-$150 million by 2023.
- Her success has been recognized through many awards, including Angel Investor of the Year in 2018. Romanow is considered one of Canada’s most influential investors under 40.
In just over a decade, Michele Romanow has gone from struggling startup founder to a tech entrepreneur and investor worth over $150 million. She overcame early failures and pivoted her expertise to capitalize on two key trends – digital discounts and e-commerce finance.
Romanow’sco-founding of Clearbanc and minority ownership has been the key driver in her rising net worth. She has since become an active angel investor, using her experience to spur the next generation of Canadian startups. Romanow serves as an inspiration that perseverance and the ability to adapt leads to success in entrepreneurship, even after initial missteps. Her story shows how retaining equity and reinvesting wealth can compound returns over the long run.