Meet our Barcelona MD, Priscilla Lavoie

What’s a typical day in the Demium office for you?

As Managing Director I make sure everything runs smoothly at Demium, meaning everyone has what they need, when they need it. This is different everyday and could be anything from putting together demo days for entrepreneurs to showcase their startups to investors, to finding a cool new office space for our growing incubator. In addition, I do as much as I can to make sure that Demium is a big part of the local ecosystem, and vice versa. 

What can you tell us about Barcelona’s start-up ecosystem?

There’s always something going on. If you want to learn something cool, meet interesting people, or share your skills, there’s an event pretty much every day of the week you can attend to do so. Plus, labour and office costs are relatively cheap compared with other major cities, so you can run your business here, have high-paying clients elsewhere, and make a nice profit.

How has your personal experience been in the start-up world?

I started my professional career 13 years ago running a telesales team in a small startup in the US. I then moved to a SaaS startup where, after a while, they were acquired by software giant OpenText for $35 million. I continued on, but I soon realised I wasn’t cut out for the corporate world and decided to try something new. I came to Barcelona in late-2016 to start Bida, a subscription app where members received a free drink or tapas daily at any of our partner bars and restaurants for €10/m. We raised financing, reached over 10k users and had partnerships with over 100 bars and restaurants in the city. For various reasons I decided to close the company in early 2019 and that’s when I joined Demium.

You’ve worked in various cities, why choose this one?

I have lived and worked in three countries and have travelled to over 35. I’ve seen and experienced a lot, and that is why I know Barcelona is a special place. This city has a special soul and quirkiness to it that I love, and it reminds me of Montreal, where I was born and spent a good chunk of my life. Except it’s much warmer here.

Describe the AllStartup Weekend in Barcelona…

It’s a fun but intense weekend – we go pretty much non-stop Friday to Sunday. During this time candidates work in teams to create and present a startup they’ve devised over the weekend to Demium staff and a jury of investors. What I enjoy most about the ASW is the energy and excitement from the candidates. They’re always so thrilled to do something unconventional and meet likeminded people on a challenge they’re passionate about.

Name an essential characteristic for any budding entrepreneur.

The number one thing I look for in entrepreneurs is commitment – how dedicated they are to their goal and how hard they’ll work to achieve it. Without commitment even the best businesses fail.

What is the most valuable experience an entrepreneur can gain?

That’s a hard one to answer, but I’d say previous experience as a founder is very valuable. It takes a lot to be an entrepreneur, but if you’ve already been through it and want to do it again? Well, that’s a good sign. It also means you’ve learned a lot and, hopefully, also learned from your mistakes, so you’ll do a better job next time around.

Statistics state that 90% of startups fail – is this true?

It wouldn’t surprise me, considering how “hot” it’s become to launch a startup. It’s also easier than ever to start something, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to start something successful. It takes the right mix of team, market, timing, financing and a dozen other factors to be successful, much of which is out of a founder’s control. That said, it’s all the more rewarding when one does succeed and, for those who fail, it’s an amazing learning experience at the very least. 

Why do you think so many start-ups fail?

Founder issues, lack of product-market fit and, well, a lack of cash.

How would you advise someone worried about the risks of starting their own business?

I was once in a very similar situation and my husband helped me get through it by asking a very simple but profound question: “What’s the worst that can happen?” When you really think about it, the answer usually isn’t so bad and so the risk of starting something new no longer seems so daunting.

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