After traveling for a year around the world to set up the first edition of the Seedstars World startup competition back in 2013, Alisée is now managing the company and taking it to the next level. The competition is now present in 85+ cities and by next year the Seedstars Group will be launching 15 strategic hubs (seedspace co-working activities, acceleration programs and academy centres) around the world. She now has accumulated deep knowledge of trends in technology, social media & consumer behavior in Emerging Markets. Alisée is a board member of the School of Management of Fribourg and a member of the Swiss National Innovation Council. She was nominated Social Entrepreneur Forbes 30 under 30, Innovation Fellow of Wired UK, 50: Europe’s most influential women in the startup and venture capital space and the 29 Powerful Women by Refinery29.
Q: Born in France, you define yourself as an expat product as you have lived abroad most of your life and travelled to more than 50 countries. What lessons did you take out from that and how did they shape you as a person and as an entrepreneur?
Even though I have a strong french background and influence, I never really considered myself just French due to my upbringing in different parts of the world. It shaped me in the sense that it definitely gave me the obsession to travel and discover new cultures. I think it also helped me build a level of openness to different types of opportunities, jobs, ways of living and finally a bit of resilience and comfort with the unknown.
Q: What pushed you to leave L’Oreal and create Seedstars World? What are the pro and cons of working in a corporate and in the startup environment?
I was content and for me that in many ways was unhappiness. I think I fundamentally had little clue about myself and so embarked in my professional journey by choosing “a job” for all the wrong reasons (status and security). I think in a corporate, if you are not highly self-aware and motivated you can quickly lose yourself in the “bureaucracy” and lose the big picture, the purpose. You can quickly lose accountability and lack the perseverance to reflect and build something of value together with your team. I learned a lot about social pressure, the dynamics of how a business at scale runs and just a certain level of hard skills that were very useful. Finally, I learnt what I did not want to do, and that has a lot of value. You learn a lot in both worldsand I think, more and more, corporates that are willing to embrace the global changes and adapt with this generation that is much more entrepreneurial, purpose driven and seeking more autonomous opportunities will succeed in attracting great talent to have an impact.
Q: Tell us more about Seedstars World. What’s the main objective? What are the values you look for in a startup? According to what criteria do you select the emerging markets?
Our mission is to have an impact in people’s lives in emerging markets through technology and entrepreneurship.
The opportunities (hence challenges) are endless so ideas are not the issue. Once we have evaluated the quality of the business model and its opportunities for growth, we try to recognise if this is the right team and if they have what it takes to execute their strategy and drive the business in the years to come.
Q: Give us an example of one success and one failure that have shaped you in an important way.
Success — Retaining and motivating our top talents. The motivation and dedication still impresses me to this date! But more surprisingly, it is also what impresses the most our investors, startups or partners that collaborate with us. Lesson: people are priority.
Failure — I was unable to retain a great talent that I believe would have contributed a lot to the mission of Seedstars. We missed the signs of the talent’s exhaustion and sense of loneliness (lack of leadership support). Lesson: We are now 120 people in the organisation and our current organisational structure and leadership model is already obsolete, we need to evolve!
Q: As your father is a venture capitalist, did he inspire or guide you towards this industry in any way?
I don’t think he led me towards the industry but he definitely inspired me to “build” something. It is really fun now to find ourselves in similar events and of course extremely valuable for me to receive his advice and support.
Q: How do you describe your life as an entrepreneur in one word?
Three: Healthiest of Insanities.
Q: Do you think that entrepreneurship is something that is in the DNA or can be learned?
Both. Some have no choice and are entrepreneurs out of necessity, some fundamentally believe it is their mission to change the status quo, whilst others are born with that DNA of wanting to build something new and involve others in their journey. With the democratisation of technology, the rise of the millenials and its global community, I wonder if it is also generational. We, millennials, see life differently and do put a lot of emphasis on our personal purpose and how our day to day actions will reflect our values and so entrepreneurship becomes an attractive career path. Now, what makes a great entrepreneur is another subject! 🙂 But it has something to do with:
1. knowing the type of entrepreneur you are and what team you need to surround yourself with;
2. having resilience and a certain obsession with agility;
3. finding a mission and valuing it worthy enough for a lifetime dedication.
Alice at Dmexco
Q: You are a symbol of female entrepreneur. Have you ever encountered any obstacles along your journey due to your gender? What’s your advice for inspiring women entrepreneurs?
I have not encountered any obstacles to this date however I am of course aware, more and more, of the gender biases (and more broadly biases towards different minorities within the industry). First of all, I realised that I was the first perpetuating these “unconscious biases” in the wording I would use (and still today — someone in my team recently pointed out that she was uncomfortable when I said “girls” when referring to her all women team) and more shockingly in the management decisions that I would take due to the fact that the men had a tendency of being more aggressive on issues like compensation or getting a promotion. So before giving advice, I had to be very conscious about my biases and start from the basics by changing the words that I use: “Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character.” — Margaret Thatcher. And I believe that my personal efforts are a reflection of the efforts we in the Group are implementing in order to ensure the growth and “happiness” of ALL our talents. So for example, we are using a tool to change the semantics of our job descriptions to ensure that the wording is not excluding certain talents or training our managers to make sure they know how to assess the performance of a talent and more importantly build a personal growth plan. Finally, when looking at my personal journey, it has been very important for me to identify that I have an “imposter syndrome”(which from the discussions that I have had seems to be something that many women feel) and accept it! So my advice here would be to embrace the imposter syndrome and build the right support group. Concretely, have 3/4 people that you can call at anytime to share your doubts so that you do not lose great opportunities because of that fear of being an imposter. Definition of the imposter syndrome: is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud” when in the reality they absolutely do have the capabilities to accomplish the mission.
Q: What do you do when you are not at work? What are your passions?
Family, friends, food, yoga, dancing, hiking, traveling, traveling, traveling, documentaries, series and movies.
Q: Do you have a lifestyle motto that guides and motivates you? If so, what is it?
– “Do something every day that scares you” — Eleanor Roosevelt
– “KISKIL — keep it simple, keep it lean” — Seedstars Motto.