Michael Bronfein got his start as a butcher in a family supermarket. Since then, he has built a billion-dollar business, runs a multibillion-dollar private equity fund, and is now operating a growing wellness company with an emerging portfolio of cannabis-based products.
During his appearance on the Dealmakers Podcast, Bronfein talked about the most important thing in the organizations he has built, financing and fundraising, startup exits, and the future of the cannabis space.
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Preparing Yourself To Be A Startup CEO
Michael Bronfein grew up in Baltimore, MD, where he also headquartered his most recent successful startup.
From an early age, his mother taught him to be independent. She told him that he could accomplish anything he wanted, as long as he committed himself to it.
That’s something that has really stuck with him since he was five years old. Even if that sense of independence often also frustrated his mother as a child.
So, in addition to playing sports, he started his own hustle, mowing lawns at 10 years old, and then going to work at his uncle’s supermarket by the time he was 12.
Michael continued working with his uncle through college. Eventually, becoming a butcher in that supermarket. He learned a lot there. Perhaps most importantly, to talk to your customers, listen to them, and design things to make them happy.
He says that his uncle and cousin really ran and grew their business with the lens of their customers. Focusing on how to delight the customer in a way that’s more advantageous than their competitors. In Michael’s own businesses today, he tells his team that there’s only one thing that matters, delighting the customer.
Bronfein says that if you ask your customers what they want, they will tell you. If you give that to them, they will beat a path to your door, and won’t be easily lured away by competitors. You’ll also be focused on creating the things that they will pay for, versus what they won’t.
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Studying Accounting & Being a CPA and CEO
Michael chose to study accounting and become qualified as a CPA. He saw that as the foundation for understanding the flow of money in a business. He says that if you get that, you understand how things work, can make decisions faster, and understand the fundamentals of a business’s health.
On graduating college, he was very interested in becoming a CEO himself. The person who would drive strategy and results. While having your independence and control.
He wanted to be a good CEO. So, he went to work in banking before starting his own company. Furthering his understanding of money and financing in business.
Not only the basics of credit, but also what separated the few successful businesses from the failures, what the mistakes were, and what the winners did right.
Financing & Exits
Michael Bronfein was able to build his first pharmaceutical company using debt financing while retaining his equity in the company. A business he grew to $1.2B in operating income, and sold to a publicly traded company.
He also made investments in order companies, as well as building another $500M pharmacy company.
Seeing his success, some of his friends asked him to help transition their family office into an institutional investment firm.
Over the next 10 years, he helped them raise seven different funds, and grow it to having $4B in assets under management.
There he learned to be really disciplined in backing those that were able to hit their next milestones consistently and to keep performing.
To ensure the companies he invested in were also disciplined in structuring and maintaining the right seats on the bus.
His most recent company has raised over $50M itself, and after their current raise sees the next step as an exit, probably in the form of going public in the next two to three years.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Michael Bronfein was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.
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Today, Michael is the CEO and co-founder of Curio Wellness. A cannabis-focused health and wellness company that he was talked into starting by one of his daughters.
She pulled him out of retirement to build a substantial new venture in the emerging cannabis space. They have really honed in on the medical side of this industry, with a growing portfolio of products, and four pending patents. As well as preparing a huge harvest for opening up to adult use.
After becoming one of the largest companies of its kind in Maryland, they have also recently moved to Missouri, where they expect similar success.
The Future Of Cannabis
Looking forward, Bronfein expects the FDA will take over regulation of the cannabis market.
He does not agree with cannabis being a scheduled drug as it is. While other guests on the show have had opposing forecasts, he believes that despite the current ongoing war on drugs, this classification will change and that Congress will wake up to treating cannabis like any other product in the US.
That still may mean that regulations and oversight remain fragmented on a state-by-state basis. Which is why his company has focused on becoming the market-dominating player in the individual states they operate in.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- Starting a business with family members
- Cannabis and its many health and wellness applications
- Building your operations and model right, before scaling and expanding
- Balancing your propensity to go fast, with what your team can handle