You may have already heard the buzz: C-leveled has a new CEO in Michael Annichine. We know it’s trite to say that we’re excited about our new leadership, but we truly couldn’t be more thrilled.
Michael is an amazing leader and an inspiring person. He has a great vision for the C-leveled team and is determined, as we all are, to make the lives of entrepreneurs easier.
We interviewed Michael to get his take on the entrepreneurial landscape of Pittsburgh, startup advice and to see if he’d spill any secrets about C-leveled’s future. Read on to see what he shares….
You’re an entrepreneur yourself, so you really understand the struggles that our clients go through and you also understand the passion that an entrepreneur feels for their work. Sometimes, it can be easy to lose that passion during the struggle. What advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs to help them not lose sight of their goals?
“Keep going! I know it sounds cliché, but get up every day and do what you believe are the right things to advance your business. Oh yeah and if you are going to be successful as an entrepreneur you will need to redefine your meaning of failure –The only thing that counts as a failure is quitting –everything else is just part of the experience. As long as you can stay in the game you have a chance to win – rebound – pivot; whatever it is you need to do to survive.
Be honest with yourself, be open minded, and don’t be afraid to change direction if you need to, but don’t ever give up that’s when you lose. It’s not always roses and you won’t be able to make every mortgage payment on time, but you are creating value and jobs and playing an important role within the community. Believe in yourself and take that seriously because you will need to strengthen your resolve at some point and those are the thoughts that will help you do that.
Also don’t look back. You can’t go back and spend that money more wisely or make those decisions better. You can only learn from your past experiences you can’t change them so you need to stay forward focused so that you can keep moving towards those goals.”
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
“No. I was at CMU planning on getting a job, but I was putting myself through school by painting houses on nights, weekends and in the summers. Meanwhile my roommate was cutting grass during the summers, so at one point a marketing professor told us we were entrepreneurs and should not be thinking about a job in the traditional sense.
Intrigued by this concept I took an entrepreneurship class the following semester and it was taught by Frank Demmler from Innovation Works. That’s the point when I realized I was an entrepreneur and have been my whole life. People always laugh at how fast I eat and I joke “that’s because I have been essentially self-employed my whole life and always on the clock” but at some level it’s true entrepreneurs are always on the clock.”
How did you feel when you started your first company?
“I guess I would say confident. I’m always confident. Scared, nervous, excited were all probably emotions that were present as well, but overwhelmingly I’m confident about what I do. When I set out to do something I usually do it. When I decided to start a company, I didn’t think about anything else but making it work. That’s not in any way an arrogant statement but I’m sure most entrepreneurs would answer it the same way. Failure just didn’t seem like an option at all. I stayed focused on making it work.”
Tell us about your plans for C-leveled. We’re definitely moving in an exciting direction. What can you share with us about that?
“Oh you’ll have to stay tuned! I can tell you that this is an extremely exciting time at C-leveled. We have some great people and we have some really exciting news coming down the pike. I can’t discuss everything we have coming just yet. I can tell you we look forward to playing a larger role in the Pittsburgh entrepreneurial community alongside the incubators, accelerators, t-beds and angel groups that currently serve our community.”
A lot of startups and established small businesses feel like they can do it all on their own. With the exception of needing funding, a lot of people try to make a go of it without consulting with teams like ours. What are the pitfalls of that approach?
“Well first I would like to say that many do it on their own and many do just fine. Successful people will always figure out a way to be successful in their endeavors. But I always believe that it’s faster and cheaper to surround yourself with a team of people who have done it before. If speed to market is important, (and it always is) then you owe it to yourself and your business to learn these lessons in the fastest, cheapest, most efficient way possible. That’s usually with the help of others who have experience.
I have done it both ways and I can tell you it will cost you more to “do it yourself.” Learning the hard way is not a badge of courage. In the beginning, I learned many lessons the hard way and I regret not figuring out this formula earlier. But, you know, I don’t look back so I’m thankful that I have the knowledge now! I am passionate about passing that knowledge along to other entrepreneurs to try and shorten their learning curve.”
How do you see the entrepreneurial landscape changing in Pittsburgh? What markets are hot right now?
“It’s getting bigger – more entrepreneurs are coming on board daily. We have to be more creative, more efficient and make better use of the available resources. The good news is that more resources are following that trend as well. More family offices are getting interested and the accelerators are working together to get larger investors to pay attention to our community. That is a good thing.”
Obviously, mobile and digital are big. What advice would you give to people starting out in that space?
“Mobile is hot. We as a society are getting increasingly mobile, so that will continue to grow and evolve. You need to be fast and ready to pivot. Align yourself with someone that knows the space. You would be amazed at how fast it moves. If you don’t know how to move with it you will never keep up.”
What do you think sets C-leveled apart from other similar companies? Why should entrepreneurs look to us for guidance and leadership?
“We have all done it. We’ve all launched businesses. Denise DeSimone (our founder and chairwoman) has had 7 exits. Plus, we stay with you. We don’t just prepare you for a demo day or funding. There is nothing wrong with either of those things they are sometimes a vital part of the journey, but running a business is much more complex than that. Getting customers is not always as easy as it looks, so we try and stay with our entrepreneurs to help them get to market. We always provide the direction, connectivity and resources necessary to make the full journey.“