Eytan Bensoussan, 36, is co-founder and chief executive of NorthOne, a tech-powered banking service for startups, freelancers and small businesses. NorthOne’s mission is to empower entrepreneurs and save them time and money through its platform, which automates and simplifies their banking and financial management.
At McGill, I was very active in many extracurricular groups. It helped me quickly figure out that I wanted to be part of a group of people committed to a vision and a cause – sometimes leading them, sometimes being led, but always being a part of something mission-first. And, as my career was navigating itself, it became clear to me that this drive would express itself best in the business world.
Law school was a real lesson in self-awareness. I went from being among the top of my class in the faculty of science, to the bottom of my first-year law class. I sat in the dean’s office two or three times in my first year, saying that I wanted to quit. Then one day, I realized that I hate quitting far more than I hate suffering. So I buckled down and decided to go the distance to finish among the top of my class once again.
You always want to be Michael Jordan on the basketball court, not Michael Jordan on the baseball field. In law, I saw people that were loving every aspect of their learning and professional experience, and I wanted to feel like them. But law was not the place for me to become that person. It didn’t feel “right.” I suppose it always comes down to my self-awareness. If I realize I’m on the wrong court, it’s time to ask myself some hard questions.
Starting in consulting, it couldn’t have been more engaging and thrilling. Five years in, I started realizing that my basketball court might again be elsewhere.
One of the things I learned is that putting on blinders to achieve a goal can be an effective way to get to the finish line. It’s my personal bulldozer approach. However, you have to then ask yourself: Do I actually want what I just achieved? I will die on the treadmill rather than get off and quit. I will just go and go, and sometimes I need a friendly tap on the shoulder to remind me to back off for a second and just recalibrate.
When I left McKinsey & Co., I wanted to invest myself in something that had a real societal impact. But I knew from other experiences that I didn’t want to be doing that through an NGO – I wanted to use the forces of capitalism to improve the lives of people around me.
NorthOne is the result of investing myself for societal impact. Small business is one of the most effective ways for many people to get out the door and change their situation in life. But small businesses are also terribly difficult to succeed in. If we make that life a little easier, saving these businesses time and money, we will do a lot of good for a lot of people. That’s where NorthOne comes in. We believe that reducing income inequality, increasing economic mobility are the outcomes of an empowered small business sector.
I break the spectrum on extroversion. Speaking to people gives me energy. Likewise, surrounding myself with an amazing team at NorthOne is a way to leverage that. I’m constantly interacting with people that inspire me.
Mentors don’t need to be older than you, and they don’t need to be more senior in the hierarchy. Some of the people who were junior to me at McKinsey have been my mentors over time.
I’ve looked at my career as a succession of iterative career moves. Each time, you get a little more knowledge as to what you’re good at, what you love, what you don’t. And over the course of my studies, each summer internship and each job helped me get a little closer to co-founding NorthOne, where I feel alive and fulfilled on the daily.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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