Published March 20, 2018
In this new series, we will take a look at our diverse and awesome mentor team here at MentorCruise. Building this platform wouldn’t have been possible without the support of them. Today, we are going to talk to Sebastien Provencher.
Hey Sebastien! Before we get started, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself!
I’m a serial startup entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in product management and business development. I have experience in adtech, media, local commerce, social media and artificial intelligence. I’m a startup mentor and advisor. I joined Element AI (www.elementai.com), the biggest Canadian AI startup, as one of their early employees and now work in the product team.
Over the years, you have worked on several different exciting projects and have collected a lot of experience. How did you get started? How did you get your first job?
I think what really helped me in my career is that I learned to code as a teenager. That gave me enough technical chops and culture to really be able to succeed as a product manager. After getting an undergrad degree and a MBA in marketing, I was hired as an e-commerce product manager at the Canadian Yellow Pages. That was the first time I was exposed to product management and truly loved it from day 1!
You work at Element AI now. What do you do there?
I joined two weeks after the official launch, as one of the first employees. I spent 15 months in a business development role, talking to hundreds of potential business customers. Since the beginning of January, I’m now using that extensive market knowledge in Element AI’s product team, helping ship our first products.
You founded a lot of companies in the past. What is the best advice you can give someone, going down the same path?
Building startups is super hard! There’s a lot of moving pieces and you need a lot of resilience. I think the best advice I would give is to join a growing startup for a few years and learn as much as you can about them. And once you feel it, you can start of launching your own company.
You are based in Montreal. Do you think it is more difficult to acquire customers and investors there than in the US / SF?
From a funding POV, I think that was true ten years ago when I did my first startup. The Montreal (and Canadian) startup ecosystem is now much more mature and we can now attract investments more easily. For customer acquisition, it’s not more difficult than the US/SF. In fact, the fact that Canada is multicultural is definitely helping us with customer acquisition in regions like EMEA and APAC.
You are already an experienced mentor. What is your desired mentee like?
I like mentees that are mature enough to understand what they know & what they don’t know. Also, this might sound basic, but I like mentees that listen and incorporate mentor advice in their thought process. Many startup entrepreneurs are cocky and believe they know better, making the same mistakes I did all over again (and against my advice). Not that I have all the answers, but there’s no need to make basic mistakes given all the advice available out there. :)
Anything you would like to tell us?
Creating and launching my own startup was a very positive life-changing event for me. I wish I would have done it earlier in life. So, if you feel the calling (even if it’s scary), do it!
Sebastien is a new mentor on MentorCruise. Visit his profile now and get mentored by him: https://mentorcruise.com/mentor/SebastienProvencher/.