Founder Stories: Ana Paredes, CMO at SimSkills
Ana Paredes is the SimSkills CMO, a real-time leadership training simulation tool for employees. Ana is a Venezuelan entrepreneur who joined Demium in 2021. She participated in an AllStartup Event and was one of the winners. She went on to take part in the Incubation Programme where she met her “fellow travellers”: SimSkills CEO Santiago Oddone from Argentina and SimSkills CTO Dekel Abelson from Israel.
Together, they decided to create the startup that would solve a problem 80% of employees face today: their lack of leadership soft skills. After several months of hard work, they pitched their project to Demium Capital and managed to raise seed funding to support their plan. But who is Ana and what led her here? Discover more, in this interview.
Walk us through your employment history. What was your vocational experience before joining Demium?
I come from Venezuela where I got my degree in Social Communication from Monteávila University. As soon as I finished my studies, I began to work for DLB Group, an advertising agency. I had an account planner job and got promoted to account director within a year. Later on, which was 12 years ago, I moved to Boston to pursue a two-year MA degree in Integrated Marketing Communications. In parallel, I did a Negotiation and Conflict Resolution course, at Harvard University. Back then, my dream was to work in the Cosmetics and Perfume industry. So, I decided to go for it. I did some networking and was able to contact the Kendo Team, a brand incubator, in San Francisco – whose location was at the Sephora headquarters. I went through a brand positioning selection process for the new Marc Jacobs beauty line and passed it. I got into an internship programme and worked for them over the summer.
Once the practice programme was over and I had gotten my MA degree, I found a Marketing Coordinator job at LVMH, in New York. A year later, I was given a brand leadership role for Givenchy Cosmetic Skincare, in the US. I had already spent 9 years in the States and was drawn by the quality of life people enjoy in Spain. My family still lived in Venezuela but went to Spain for their holidays. That’s why I had a good understanding of the country itself and was convinced it was bound to become my next residence.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I was a Senior Marketing Manager at LVMH in Spain till the summer of 2021. The idea of starting something of my own was already at the back of my head for nearly a couple of years, but I never found the courage to make it happen. I did some research and hit upon several entrepreneurship programmes. I’ve always wanted to try something other than a corporate job so my mind was made up – follow my dream and do what my gut feeling was telling me to.
How did you hear about us and what motivated you to join us?
I was looking for entrepreneurship programmes that didn’t require “an idea” to start a business. I applied to Lanzadera and Demium, but I geared towards Demium because they offered me a programme in Madrid, meaning I didn’t have to relocate. Besides, even if I didn’t get them to invest in my idea, I would still be part of a free programme and have a coworking space to do my work. It was right when I found out that the Demium Fund invests in pre-seed stage startups that I saw the light.
I ended up participating in the AllStartup Weekend and I just loved the experience, the people I met and the vibe.
Does your family have a history of business ownership?
My dad is an engineer and runs his own business. My mum is a professional translator who works from home.
What did you like most about the months you spent in the Incubation Programme?
The entrepreneurial community I became part of, is one of a kind. Ongoing learning since day one, be it in technology, business models, fundraising or entrepreneurship itself. The list is long… Demium dynamics and encouragement are matchless. I’m thrilled to have met my associates and head over heels with SimSkills. Plus the mentors I got to know at Demium are highly professional, experts at their craft. I’ve learned tons from them.
Have you met anyone who’s been successful in setting up their own business?
See, that’s the thing: I didn’t have the slightest idea. I knew nobody, far less any female entrepreneurs in my circle of friends who had started a business in a foreign country. No starting point there…
How do you like spending your free time?
I love my weekday routine: I get up at 6, meditate and do exercises like spinning, boxing or yoga, and I eat healthy. Overall, I like doing things that help me be better, listening to podcasts or reading. I’m quite inquisitive. I’m always looking into new things. At this time, for example, I’m wrapping up a Digital Management Course at Nuclio. To me, this is a stage of professional development, and personal growth just as well, as I’m spending a good deal of time among eager and competitive people. I hadn’t actually had the luck or the occasion to meet people brave enough to step outside of their comfort zone. Becoming one of them has been truly satisfying.
What would tell someone who wanted to start their own business?
Go for it! The values and vibe of the startup culture have nothing to do with the corporate world. Truth be told, there are good things in both, though in the startup ecosystem it’s hard to see a Monday face at the office. It’s a roller coaster, I’ll give you that. Then again it’s so rewarding. No two days are alike. The collaboration dynamic is powerful. Entrepreneurship is like family and having found one like Demium, makes the startup journey a walk in the park.