Michael Kadisha of Treedom: “You can snap one piece of wood into two, but many of them together can withstand the pressure”

“You can snap one piece of wood into two, but many of them together can withstand the pressure.” My grandfather told me this before he passed, referring to the relationships we would work to foster in our family. His hope for us was to stay together always. This has become a driving pillar for us — an […]

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“You can snap one piece of wood into two, but many of them together can withstand the pressure.” My grandfather told me this before he passed, referring to the relationships we would work to foster in our family. His hope for us was to stay together always. This has become a driving pillar for us — an unconditional commitment to one another.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Kadisha, Founder and CEO, Treedom.

Michael Kadisha is an impact entrepreneur and investor who focuses on leveraging technology to address some of the world’s most pressing needs. He believes the status quo focuses too greatly on the economic implications of technology, and not enough on the societal and environmental solutions that technology is able to offer. Michael founded Treedom, a software platform that creates a community for students, non-profit organizations, and corporations who wish to support and promote a social, civic or environmental cause.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I made the decision to pursue this career path because of an unshakable sense of responsibility to direct my attention to a real solution. I wanted to know that I did my part in helping to move us forward and grew up believing that creating value is a function of how many people’s lives you can improve. At first, I wanted to become a doctor, but was always attracted to the idea of scaling impact through software. I wanted to create a solution that would adapt with the times and last for generations. A platform that evolves as the needs of society evolves and provides inherent and propriety value. And to me, Treedom is that solution.

I believe the best manifestation of impact is in promoting an educational system that develops people that think like entrepreneurs, with a commitment to advancing some part of society by asking the right questions. If we are not prioritizing this in our schools, then the work we are doing today to advance our society may be for nothing. We must prepare future generations to confront life with the courage to continue it forward. To invest in our collective success is to elevate our youth and to support them as they learn and develop into culturally and globally aware citizens, understanding their unique power to positively contribute to the very world they dream of living in.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We think nothing is more disruptive than disruption in education. To create a sustainable model of success, educating our youth effectively should be priority number one. A practical educational experience should function to cultivate a sense of curiosity within the student, but far too often, this is not the case, as the educational system has fallen deep into a trap of teaching to the book and the prioritization of assessment outcomes. But as time goes on and we continue to unlock more of our collective consciousness, we are simultaneously given new questions seeking answers, and some of the questions we have been asking about the way we teach our youth are finally being deliberated. Generations before us worked to unlock human potential in the curiosities they explored, and the generations after are responsible for delineating its implications in the new world. If our educational system is not committed to promoting this, then it is not functioning in its best form.

My dad would often remind me of a company that had developed an advanced glass technology prototype that had no useful applications or customers at the time. Until one day, a young man unexpectedly calls the CEO of this company, Corning Inc., to tell him that he needed to use this type of glass for a new phone he was developing and wanted all existing and future units of production. That young man was Steve Jobs, and that glass technology was applied in the first Apple iPhone. I mention this because while the future is difficult to predict, we can work today to prepare ourselves for tomorrow’s opportunities. Our educational system has needed innovation for some time as the world’s challenges, like global warming, has demanded for students to be better prepared for the world in which they’re going to adopt. And now, because of COVID, the world is finally paying attention. It is because of this that we believe the work we are doing today is disruptive. Our mission is to make learning relevant and engaging through real-world applications, cultivating a model of curiosity and passion, so that as we are all working to develop a better world, we have people who will not only continue our work, but create it themselves.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Mistakes can be funny. For us, it became clear that the biggest mistake I had made was hiring a bit too many outside firms to help us in our design process, and not believing in myself or my team to actualize the vision we were building towards. The answers were inside of the company, waiting for us to seek. We had to look within ourselves and ask some difficult questions about our driving principles to become more intentional and empowered in our ideas. From then on, we worked from the inside out. And this was the inception of our company culture, developed through our collaboration and trust in one another.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I think the most influential mentors in my life have been my family members. In the business sense, most mentors enter the life of the entrepreneur during a new venture; but mine have been with me since I was a young. My elders were my teachers, in every sense of the word, and they took a considerable interest in leading me and mentoring me to where I am today. When I was young, each day my dad would take my brothers and me to school and he would make it a point to remind us that we must be leaders. He didn’t mean it in any way other than to conduct our lives displaying the qualities of an elevated heart and mind. It was hugely influential in my life and continues to be my driving motivation in the work I am doing. We can all be leaders; sometimes, we just need someone to believe in us until we can do so in ourselves, which is why I created this company. We are developing a mentoring functionality within our software for students; because we must believe in them and be their champions so that they can believe in and champion themselves.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I think differentiating between positive and negative disruption is, by nature, a function of time. Progress has never come easy. To advance, things have to break, systems have to change, and people must elevate themselves to either charge that change or accept it. Humanity is continuously forced to expand, even if it is born out of pain and despair. In creating art — it may be difficult at first to see the beauty in change, but with time, we see the artist’s vision come to life, most times in ways we had not anticipated. Even Picasso had critics, and yet today, he remains the top-ranked artist based on sales of works at auctions. “Disruption,” to “disrupt,” means to interrupt natural flows — that is never easy, but always necessary if we aim to better ourselves and improve our human experience and build a future brighter than today.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

“You can snap one piece of wood into two, but many of them together can withstand the pressure.” My grandfather told me this before he passed, referring to the relationships we would work to foster in our family. His hope for us was to stay together always. This has become a driving pillar for us — an unconditional commitment to one another.

“The power of the imagination is your biggest asset.” I was never a good student. I would have trouble staying engaged with the course content, no matter how much I tried. I had loved learning but had difficulty maintaining the excitement that, for me, was needed to succeed in school. I felt that my imagination was not cultivated, and when I had recognized this in high school, I came to the conclusion that school wasn’t for me. This was a very formative experience for me. It became critical for me to investigate a different learning style so that generations of students do not continue to be stripped of their child-like frame of mind and could continue to see the world as a playground for the imagination.

“There is an opportunity in every crisis.” When COVID hit, the educational system seemed to be in disarray. I had fascinating conversations with essential thinkers within the space. There was an energy that was palpable in all corners of this country, at every level of the system — our educators were not about to allow this pandemic to cripple them. They approached the crisis head-on, committing to a response that not only would manage the crisis but thrive because of it. I witnessed a deep commitment to innovation, compromise, and learning.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

Lead generation changes over time. For us, our primary strategy has been in designing a superior product. We wanted to skip much of the conventional lead generation cycle and shorten the time it takes for our customers to become our promoters. We have consistently seen that much of our business is built on school administrators and parents introducing us to others within their network because of the priority we have placed on their experience.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I am continuously thinking about opportunities to simplify and enhance dated systems by approaching the problem-solving and solution-design process with a bias for optimized simplicity. I am very optimistic about the future and what we plan to accomplish in not only education but as we expand beyond the space to redefine the way we integrate sustainability and impact into our lives. All of our initiatives focus on enhancing the present for a more resilient future.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Peter Thiel’s “Zero to One.” He spoke about the different types of people viewing the future in four distinct ways: the indefinite pessimist, definite pessimist, indefinite optimist, and definite optimist. I resonate most with the definite optimist — someone who knows the future will be brighter than the present and accepts a sense of responsibility in ensuring it as the reality. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be in this line of work.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Hope is not a strategy.” Standing on the sidelines, hoping for progress to be made organically, just isn’t going to cut it. Our success will be measured by our ambition and action, not by our rhetoric. Now is the time to do everything we can to capitalize on this moment. We are seeing it now with our collective response to COVID — people showing up in incredible ways. We are pushing our technology forward and rethinking the systems of the past. And this is because we have no choice. I say this quote because developing a strategy is a deliberate, responsible, and imperative way to ensure we thrive.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I feel I am doing that now with our work at Treedom. We are building a movement that will affect generations to come. We owe it to our kids to invest in them, and we also owe it to ourselves.

How can our readers follow you online?

They can visit our site at, Instagram, Linkedin @treedomco.

Thanks for the opportunity.

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