“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”

20141009_141114In May 2012, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg delivered a very inspiring speech to the graduating class of Harvard Business School. Among all precious nuggets of advice, one has stuck with me. It was a conversation she had with Eric Schmidt in 2001, then CEO of Google, as she was contemplating a role there. She wasn’t sure she should take the job. That’s when Schmidt told her the following:

“Get on a rocket ship. When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves. (…) If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”

Ever since I left  my startup Needium, in 2012, I’ve been trying to find that rocket ship and it’s my great pleasure to let you know I’ve finally found it. I’m very excited to announce I will be joining Montreal-based Element AI as a Program Director.

What is Element AI?

Element AI is the platform that will help organizations embrace an AI-first world. Composed of a research lab uniquely connected to the world’s best academic ecosystems (Montreal alone has 150 world-class researchers in various AI topics), Element AI will launch and incubate advanced AI-First solutions in partnership with large corporations.

What’s my role at Element AI?

Program directors are the backbone of Element AI’s innovation projects. I will help the company identify opportunities and package AI-as-a-Service solutions that have maximal impact for our clients. When these solutions take the shape of spin-offs (i.e. when we’ve found a scalable, repeatable business opportunity), program directors will become entrepreneurs-in-residence and, eventually, CEOs of these new ventures.

Buzz!

The company has been generating a lot of buzz since the launch on October 25.

Why I’m excited to join Element AI:

You probably already understand why I’m excited about the opportunity, but here are a few additional bullet points:

  • Working with amazing, world-class founders
  • Having a front-row seat to this new AI-first world
  • Having a key leadership role in a high-potential startup
  • Working in a space that represents a huge, game-changing opportunity
  • Building a robust AI ecosystem in Montreal

The Ask:

  1. We’re looking to add new members to our team (come work with me!):

Find out more about all the various roles here.

2. Work in a large organization and want to partner with Element AI (and me!) on a AI-first project? You can email us at projects@elementai.com. You can also contact me directly at sprovencher AT elementai.com, on LinkedIn or ping me on Twitter.

Saying Goodbye to Acquisio

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In 2015, I was approached by Acquisio to take on the role of VP Product to help the company make the transition to the local and SMB space. Another important element of my mandate was to better structure the product management team, a team that had recently started working in an agile context. I was also looking to gain experience managing a large team in a more mature technology environment. It was a perfect match between my skill set/experience/career interest and the company’s needs.

As a seasoned senior startup executive, I get approached all the time by headhunters or startup founders, but as you probably know, not all opportunities are born equal. You turn down a lot and refer these people to your talented friends/contacts. A few weeks ago, I was approached for a new role. Turns out it was the opportunity “you can’t say no to”. I won’t go into more details right now, but I can tell you Friday November 4 will be my last day at Acquisio.

I had a great time at Acquisio. I learned a lot and I extensively contributed to the organization. Thank you to the founders for your trust, my c-level colleagues and my amazing product team. You guys rock!


I’m very excited about what comes next. Stay tuned for my new role announcement in the next few days.

Sebastien Provencher, Local Marketing Expert, Joins Acquisio as VP of Product Management

Extremely happy to announce I’ve joined @acquisio as their new Vice President, Product Management.

The official release:

MONTREAL, Sept. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Acquisio, a world leader in digital and programmatic marketing solutions, has welcomed a new VP of Product Management to their executive team, Sebastien Provencher.

The Montreal-native local marketing expert has accepted the role of VP of Product Management with Acquisio and will help the search marketing company make the important shift towards more of a mobile and local customer base, which includes the development of new products exclusively for local small to medium businesses (SMBs).

Acquisio’s New VP of Product

Sebastien Provencher will use his experience as an entrepreneur in the local advertising market to drive the company forward.

“I aim to use my expertise and knowledge of digital tools coupled with my understanding of how small business owners operate to bring products to the market that make sense and help SMBs thrive in the difficult economic environment,” explains Sebastien Provencher, the new VP of Product.

With more than fifteen years of hands-on product management and business development experience, Provencher has helped generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue throughout his career. Acting as an advisor to startups, founding multiple companies and working for various industry leaders, Provencher is a digital marketer who has a lot to bring to the table at Acquisio.

“At this point in my career this Acquisio is the right place for me to be,” saidSebastien Provencher. “I know the company needed someone like me and I’m very happy with where the company is and what the challenges are.”

“Having an industry leader like Sebastien Provencher direct product is a huge win for our company. He brings a wealth of knowledge to the table regarding both local markets and product development, and we are confident that by welcoming Provencher to the leadership team we can better execute on our goals and grow immensely under his leadership,” says Marc Poirier, CEO.

About Acquisio

Acquisio is a high-powered performance media solution that enables digital marketers to optimize their search campaigns and report on all PPC initiatives including social, mobile, and display, all in one easy-to-use dashboard.

With more than 500 agencies and 25,000+ advertisers in its portfolio, Acquisio is recognized as being one of the fastest growing companies in North America, winning the Deloitte Tech Fast 500 and Fast 50 awards for three consecutive years. The Acquisio software is used by companies like GroupM, Sensis, Hanapin Marketing, iRep, YPG, YP and Microsoft.

With its headquarters in Montreal, Acquisio also has offices in New York, Seattle,London, and Tokyo. For more information, contact Acquisio.

The end for Folders (and now looking for my next role)

12 months ago, almost to the day, I started working with my co-founder Christian Lavoie on a new startup idea. After brainstorming for a few weeks, we settled on the idea that would become Folders.

Our idea was very ambitious. In customer interviews with local retail businesses, we realized that most were still storing their product and customer data in spreadsheets or even on paper. Others had data locked in their old point-of-sale (POS) or in their accounting system. And, even worse, they were not doing anything with it. Very few small businesses were using modern CRMs or POS.

So, we set out to build a better solution for the 80% of small businesses who were collecting data, but not doing anything with it. The resulting prototype allowed customer/product data upload (from a spreadsheet), manual entry or sync (from Quickbooks & Shopify). It did not stop there. We also gave them access to best-of-breed marketing/management apps to make that data actionable. Customer data would unlock email marketing, loyalty, invoicing and scheduling functions (and more in the future). Product data would unlock e-commerce functionality and shopping site syndication. We were, in effect, creating a basic dashboard to manage & market a small business. We talked to retailers and many loved the idea. We talked to potential resellers to help us scale sales and many loved the idea as well. We talked to a few fundings sources and many liked the idea.

Fast-forward to the last few weeks, we tried raising a pre-seed funding round on the early interest from all stakeholders. That would have enabled us to move full-time on the project and pay us a small salary, but we did not succeed. Everyone loved the team, but there were recurring doubts about the small business beachhead and how Folders would succeed against larger marketing or CRM platforms. Most wanted to see more traction. And, to get to that, it surely meant 6-12 more months of bootstrapping (getting customers onboard, signing reseller agreements, etc.). In a startup, when that happens, it’s a good time to assess where your project is and what the future looks like. It’s going to take time, so you want to make sure you’re ready to embark on that new round. For personal reasons, I wasn’t.

We’ve therefore decided to wind down the project and I’m now officially looking for a new full-time role. What I’m looking for: senior digital exec role (VP, C-level or General Manager), ideally in product management, strategy, partnership development and/or operations. My core expertise is in local search/local commerce, marketplaces, digital advertising, social media and digital tools for small businesses but I’m definitely open to other sectors. Size of company doesn’t matter, as long as it has a solid entrepreneurial culture.

If you hear of anything interesting in your network (I’m open to relocation to the US or to Europe), do let me know. You will find my LinkedIn profile here and you can reach me by email at sprovencher AT gmail.com.

Update from the startup trenches + some availability for freelance consulting

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Happy new year! As many of you know, I decided late last year to jump back into the tech startup fray and create a new company with a very talented technical cofounder (and ex-Googler) Christian Lavoie. The first few months of a new startup are really about validating hypotheses and blocking & tackling, including things like market opportunity, sanity checks on the idea, early business case, product requirements, first mockups, technical prototypes, incorporation, customer discovery, etc. Things are progressing very nicely on that front and you should expect our teaser site very soon! Stay tuned.

As I did in 2006 when I cofounded Praized Media, I’m doing 10-15 hours per week of freelance consulting. That model allows me to work the rest of the week (40+ hours) on my new company. I just finished a very interesting mandate with the City of Montreal’s Smart City office and I’m now available to take on a new one.

I usually work with tech startups and larger organizations on the following mandates:

  1. Product Strategy & Management
  2. Product Reviews & Improvements
  3. Strategic Partnerships
  4. General Management & Operations
  5. Assistance with VC fundraising
  6. General Strategy

If you’re interested in hiring me as a freelancer, you can ping me at sprovencher AT gmail DOT com or leave me a message below.

Mise à jour au sujet de mon projet de startup + quelques disponibilités pour mandat de consultation

Excellente année 2015! Comme plusieurs d’entre vous le savent, j’ai décidé en fin d’année dernière de me replonger dans le monde merveilleux des startups et de créer une nouvelle compagnie avec un cofondateur technique très talentueux (et ex-Googler), Christian Lavoie. Les premiers mois d’une nouvelle startup consistent surtout à confirmer les hypothèses et à poser des bases solides pour le projet. Nous avons donc travaillé sur des éléments tels que l’analyse d’opportunité de marché, la validation de l’idée, le plan d’affaires de base, les définitions de produits, les premières maquettes, le premier prototype technique, l’incorporation, les entrevues clients, etc. Les choses avancent très bien sur ce front et vous devriez voir apparaître notre site « teaser » très bientôt!

Comme je l’ai fait en 2006, lorsque j’ai cofondé Praized Media, je garde de 10 à 15 heures par semaine pour la consultation avec des clients. Ce modèle me permet de travailler le reste de la semaine (40+ heures) sur ma nouvelle startup. Je viens d’ailleurs de terminer un mandat très intéressant avec le Bureau de la Ville Intelligente de Montréal et je suis désormais disponible pour prendre un nouveau contrat.

Je travaille habituellement avec les startups et grandes organisations sur les mandats suivants en technologie :

  1. Stratégie et gestion de produits
  2. Améliorations sur produits existants
  3. Partenariats stratégiques
  4. Direction générale et opérations
  5. Assistance à la souscription de capital-risque
  6. Stratégie

Si vous êtes intéressés à m’engager en tant que pigiste, vous pouvez m’envoyer un courriel à sprovencher arobase gmail point com ou me laisser un message ci-dessous.

Photo Flickr: Esparta Palma – “La Quebrada Cliff Diver statue

Mission accomplished. Now looking for my next opportunity.

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Flickr photo by Crystal

Two years ago, I was offered an amazing opportunity by Craig Smith, HomeAdvisor’s President, to join the exec team of this IAC company as Vice President – Product Innovation, open up their Canadian office, assemble a team of tech rock stars and operate as a startup within this larger organization. It was the perfect professional segue after six years at Praized Media/Needium, my own startup.

Over the last 18 months, we’ve built this great local marketplace, HelpedBy, where Canadian consumers can find trusted home improvement service professionals. Thousands of professionals have signed up to be part of this new vertical search site. And last week, we launched the complete vision we had crafted in 2012. Check it out at www.helpedby.ca. I’m very proud of my team and the work they’ve done.

And now, it’s time to move on. What’s next for me you ask?

First, I’ll take a few weeks of vacation and try to go offline. Summer in Montreal is beautiful.

Then, I will start looking for my next opportunity. I’m looking for an executive position in an entrepreneurial tech/Internet company and, like last time, I’ll keep an open mind and listen to ideas, suggestions and proposals. Potential roles that would be of interest include VP Product Management, Chief Operating Officer, General Manager, or other similar senior positions. As a well-rounded technology exec, I bring general management, product management, business development and strategy skills to any team. I am willing to relocate to the US (preferred cities: New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco) or to Europe for the right opportunity.

As I’m not in a hurry to pick a new role, I will also make myself available for consultation mandates. I will also use some of this spare time to move forward a connected hardware pet project I’ve wanted to work on. My LinkedIn profile can be found here. Ping me at sprovencher AT gmail.com if you’d like to start the conversation. Talk to you soon!

Mission accomplie. Et maintenant, à la recherche de ma prochaine opportunité.

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Photo : Crystal sur Flickr

Il y a deux ans, Craig Smith, président de HomeAdvisor, m’a offert l’occasion extraordinaire de joindre l’équipe de cadres supérieurs de cette société du groupe IAC en tant que vice-président, innovation produits, pour ouvrir leur bureau canadien, assembler une équipe de vedettes du Web et opérer comme une jeune pousse au sein de cette grande organisation. C’était l’enchaînement professionnel parfait, après six années au sein de ma propre startup, Praized Média / Needium.

Au cours des 18 derniers mois, nous avons bâti une grande place de marché en-ligne, HelpedBy, où les consommateurs canadiens peuvent trouver des entrepreneurs en rénovation de confiance. Des milliers de professionnels se sont abonnés à notre service et font désormais partie de ce nouveau site de recherche vertical. La semaine dernière, nous avons finalement livré la vision complète que nous avions définie en 2012. Vous pouvez voir le résultat à www.helpedby.ca. Je suis très fier de mon équipe et du solide boulot qu’ils ont accompli.

Maintenant, il est temps de passer à autre chose. De quoi à l’air la suite me demandez-vous?

Tout d’abord, je vais prendre quelques semaines de vacances et tenter d’être le plus possible en mode hors ligne. Après tout, l’été à Montréal est magnifique !

Ensuite, j’amorcerai des recherches plus actives pour choisir ma prochaine opportunité professionnelle. Je cherche un poste de direction dans une société en technologie/ Internet opérant en mode entrepreneurial et, comme la dernière fois, je garderai un esprit ouvert et écouterai les idées, suggestions et propositions. Les types de rôles potentiels qui pourraient m’intéresser incluent vice-président gestion de produits, chef de l’exploitation (COO), directeur général, et autres postes similaires de direction. La compagnie qui m’embauchera bénéficiera de mes grandes habiletés de direction générale, gestion de produits, développement des affaires, et de stratégie. Aussi, pour la bonne opportunité professionnelle, je suis prêt à déménager en Europe ou aux États-Unis (villes préférées : New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco).

Comme je ne suis pas pressé de choisir une nouvelle fonction, je vais aussi être disponible pour des mandats de consultation. Je vais finalement utiliser une partie de mes temps libres pour faire progresser un projet de matériel connecté (connected hardware) sur lequel j’ai envie de travailler depuis quelques mois. Pour plus d’information, vous retrouverez mon profil LinkedIn ici. Contactez-moi à sprovencher AT gmail.com si vous souhaitez discuter avec moi. À très bientôt!