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People Make Winning Companies, A Founder’s Story with Mike Serbinis

Michael Serbinis is a serial entrepreneur, tech innovator, and most recently the founder and CEO of League. With more than $1B of exits, he is known as a visionary leader and entrepreneur who has built transformative technology platforms across several industries. With his expertise in quantum computing and AI, Serbinis founded and helped build Kobo, Critical Path, DocSpace, and now League.

Can you share a little about your childhood and where you grew up?

I grew up just outside of Toronto in Hamilton, Ontario, and was raised by my parents who had immigrated from Greece. I was the kid that liked to break things and put them back together. In high school, this proclivity helped me win Gold at what I like to call the “nerd Olympics,” also known as the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. It propelled me into work opportunities with Microsoft, NASA, Rockwell Aerospace, and Intel. It was an incredible place to start my life-long career in technology.

How did you get started as an entrepreneur?

At the end of college, my peers were attending job fairs, pounding the pavement for work. Me, I got a call from a guy I knew in my freshman year. He said, “Hey, you should come work with me and my brother to develop this internet company.” The company had no name and no funding. The job had no pay, and I would be sleeping on their couch. This seemed like a crazy idea — especially to my immigrant parents — compared to the six-figure salaried position I was considering at Microsoft. But I did it. I accepted the offer from Kimbal Musk to work with him and his brother, Elon, to develop the company that would later be named Zip2.

What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?

Early on I learned the immense value of company culture. When starting my first company, DocSpace, I focused on our people and tried to foster a team atmosphere rather than just building a better app or technology. Creating a positive culture was the aspect of the company that I devoted the most energy to as a co-founder and CTO, and I took a great deal of pride in the success we had in nurturing that culture.

If you give people a mission that they’re passionate about, and you set high goals and a global ambition, people become better versions of themselves. They grow. They rally and collectively make something so much bigger than the sum of its parts. It’s the people that make winning companies, not just cool technology, patents, or slick products.

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