During a BBL encounter, we had the opportunity to know Pivalia’s story, wich is also Lucas Canrné’s story. Conversating with Ricard Castellet, CCO of Barcelona Tech City, Carné exposed both his personal trajectory and the one behind Privalia, its process, how the project came to life, hits and failures that over the years, led to the sale of Privalia to Vente Privee for 444.1 million euros. This makes him a reference as the leader in this sector.
THE DECISION TO BECOME AN ENTREPENEUR: BETTING ON IT
A bicycle accident that let him out of the game for a while, allowed him to see his life with some perspective and realize that being a consultant wasn’t what he wanted to do anymore, getting out of what he calls “the hamster wheel”. Besides, having the entrepreneur virus, being in a comfortable economic situation and, according to him, “not having anything to lose”, were the reasons to take the adventure of start his business at 35 years old.
“Lots of good things happen from unexpected situations”
Carné tells as an anecdote, that after another bike accident that ended up with his hip broken, he had to spend a whole summer working aside with Privalia’s legal adviser to solve some relevant company issues, and there started the relationship with the woman he married.
PERSONAL DIFFICULTIES AT THE BEGINNING
Investing a small patrimony that could generate from its previous job, gave him the opportunity to take a chance, because he had no family to support and the rest of his family were fine economically.
Lucas confessed he went back to his mother’s house to live after selling all he could, those were difficult times. He even had to ask his mom for money to take potential investors to dinner, for example. Lucas adds that It’s no ice to be 35 years old and having someone asking you where you are going, with whom, and what time are you coming back. And that is how he starts the frenetic adventure where the first year and a half were full of moments when they felt at the edge of the cliff.
LUCK IS IMPORTANT
Despite at the beginning they thought Spain wasn’t the best market to launch Privalia, time proved them wrong. The online clothes selling business model fitted perfectly to the place and time. Lucas explains it this way “We started acquiring registers o Privalia for 0,5€ when in Germany the cost were 5€ and for England were 10€, and lower conversion per buyer.
This way they thought they were playing in the third league at the worst market, but turned out that just with 300.00€ they were able to live for an entire year and had spectacular growth. Other player at UK, spent 2,5€ million and their metrics regarding single users, single buyers, etc, were worse than theirs.
In Privalia detected, at that moment, there was a chance in under developed countries regarding to e-commerce B2C ant their model fitted to those markets and they had the experiences executing it in Spain. “With time passing, you realize you have been lucky. I’m talking here from the tip of the iceberg and I’m not here for being the smartest or clear sighted. I was lucky to launch a business model in a determined time and place and stars aligned”.
PRIVALIA’S SUCCESS KEYS
According to Carné, he and his partner have been leaders, not managers. They didn’t start in Privalia as managers, they created Privalia from scratch, which means:
- Having a clear vision
- Create a company culture
- Attracting talent according to you project and make them feel your project is also theirs.
- Despite of weaknesses like not having a strong technological culture at the beginning, they exploited their strengths and the efficiency of the capital.
- Not let get carried away by the market overheating, like their experience in Brazil because of the lack of professionals, ad maintain faithful to the strategy of making each euro account.
- Value your parent and put him/her before egos in order to go at the same direction.
All this pursuing an end: make thing happen (get clients, deliver products, sell, get offer). Besides, Lucas points there’s an initial key element, which is being lucky to get something that’s going to work, something you don’t know until you try.
- Getting investment.
- Sector’s huge inflation and the difficulty to attract talent. “You couldn’t have a fraught meeting with someone because next day they were already working somewhere else with 60% better paid”.
- Turning money into a real innovation.
- Breakdown of the founding team. “We started being 5 people and ended up being 2”.
- Being technologically behind the competition. “you compete with companies with teams in Dublin, San Francisco or New York with the capacity if innovate faster. That gives you the feeling you will have to scratch for half million euros in sells”.
- Lost focus because low humility. “There was a time when we lost the essence of spend efficiency and that led us to invest heavily on bad ideas with millionaire lost”.
- Putting attention to distracting projects and losing focus on your core business, on those things that made you what you are. “If the business model is good and works, invest at least 70% of your resources to make sure it still works. Competitors are going to be on the map there’s is not a private field. If you let it unattended, lost is irreparable. People at the company look where the leader looks”.
For Barcelona Tech City, having this significant learning spaces is an opportunity to reinforce relationships between the digital and technological ecosystem members and share these experiences with other entrepreneurs. This allows the ecosystem strengthening.