Emil Michael: Why I Gravitate Toward Iconic Brands

Emil Michael has worked with some of the most influential brands in the global market, including Uber, Gopuff, Revolut, and Klout.

The seasoned tech exec says he’s always been attracted to ideas that could change the world in some way. From Facebook and Amazon to Netflix and Google, Michael says he asks himself, “Can it be a winner?”

Michael has a knack for investing in stellar startups. He says he has a specific set of standards he applies and boxes he checks off. The first thought he considers is who’s running the company. Then he ponders if the idea is big enough.

Emil Michael Puts Investments to the Test

“Can it be a cultural, iconic company?” Emil Michael asks. “There are other people who want to build snowflake software and no one knows really what that is. And then there’s one building iconic brands — and so I gravitate to the iconic.”

Emil Michael has invested in four companies since leaving his top spot in the ride-sharing industry, when the British fintech app Revolut immediately caught his eye. He says he tends to invest in and advise brands he believes in. His interest in Revolut was piqued after working in China from 2013 to 2017.

“What I saw there was they were skipping over paper money and they were moving to these electronic payment systems called Alipay and WeChat Pay. You were seeing this friction-free payment flow, and it was no fee,” Michael recalls. “So people were avoiding the banks and using these financial tools to conduct their financial life and I was like, ‘This is going to happen all over the world.’ And it’s happening all over the world with PayPal, Venmo, all these things are changing. And the old financial consumer banking system, where you go sit in front of a teller, those days are numbered.”

Emil Michael has invested in the consumer goods and food delivery service Gopuff, which is something he anticipates will continue growing at rapid rates. “For quick commerce, I see massive growth as people double down on saving a trip to the convenience store,” Emil Michael says. The brand, founded by two college friends, launched its Gopuff Kitchen prepared-food division last summer. “It’s designed for your instant needs. And that is the future because we’re all getting more impatient,” Emil Michael explains.

Quantum computing leader D-Wave is another brand Emil Michael’s been eager to work with after his SPAC DPCM Capital acquired D-Wave Systems to form D-Wave Quantum Inc. (QBTS). D-Wave, which is exclusively building annealing and gate-model quantum computers, was appealing to him. The $1.6 billion deal will put an even bigger spotlight on quantum computing, according to Michael.

Riding the D-Wave of Technology

“I’m especially excited about the leadership under Alan Baratz,” Emil Michael said during an investor presentation. “He is both technically deep in a way that is unique in the industry and commercially minded. And D-Wave, therefore, I think has the best chance of being the largest quantum computing independent player in the market. They have real customers today with real applications, delivering real revenue to the business.”

According to Baratz, the brand is the first and only commercial quantum computing company solving real-world optimization problems today. Baratz also told TD Ameritrade Network quantum computing could impact current complex problems from employee scheduling and autonomous vehicle routing to loading containers onto ships.

Baratz says QBTS is slated to begin trading toward early Q3. Emil Michael says he also likes D-Wave because of its fresh look at the world.

Funding the Future

As a global business leader and the father to a young daughter, Emil Michael says he frequently thinks about the future and the world his daughter’s generation and upcoming generations will inherit.

The ever-advancing field of fintech continues to excite the forward-thinking CEO. And when it comes to success secrets in making it in that world, Emil Michael admits risks must be taken.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” he says. “There are very few entrepreneurs who’ve been successful who have just been lucky all the way through. I don’t know any, not Brian Chesky at Airbnb. Jeff Bezos almost went bankrupt by Amazon. You could go story by story. Steve Jobs was kicked out of Apple. Everyone has had their tough moments and just if you can be resilient through them, I think you have a better shot at success.”