A drink a day keeps the doctor away – okay, that’s not a saying, but it could be a slogan for Bida, a subscription-based app that’ll get you one free drink every day and help you discover Barcelona’s coolest bars for 9.99 euros a month. It’s an absolute bargain, and which city could be a better host for such an app than Barcelona? But, just like all young startups, Bida has to find its way to a solid user base, and for that, it needs someone who will stop at nothing to make it work. So how was Bida born, and how are those free drinks going to end up in our hands? Find out from the girl behind the app, Priscilla Lavoie.
From Montreal to Barcelona
Priscilla Lavoie, the CEO of Bida is one of those enviable people that seem to be drawing on inexhaustible pools of energy, and just radiate positivity wherever they go, even when they’re constantly running from meeting to meeting. Originally from Montreal, Canada, Priscilla grew up in Florida, and had her first encounter with the startup world right at the start of her career, when she got her very first job doing sales and marketing for an early stage startup. Since then, she’s done business development for several tech companies, and got her taste of the corporate world along the way – but as a true startup-soul, her personal drive and thirst for adventure just wouldn’t leave her be until she started working on a project of her own.
She got involved with the Barcelona tech scene when she did her MBA at IESE Business School, and, like many of us do, fell hopelessly in love with the city. After two years of living here, she returned to Montreal, but never quite settled in. “I always wanted to come back to Barcelona,” she says. “I kept trying to figure out a way to move here.”
One day, she suddenly had an almost magical moment of clarity, and since she’s not someone to shy away from a challenge, she decided to listen to her intuition. “One day, I was reading TechCrunch, and I came across an article about an American subscription-based startup that managed to raise quite a bit of funding and was doing really well. Their story fascinated me so much that I couldn’t stop Googling them until two in the morning. And at that moment, I decided that I needed to be in Barcelona and create something similar of my own. Three days later, I was boarding a plane with a one-way ticket to Barcelona,” she recounts.
An App That’ll Buy You a Drink – Every Day
Even though she originally intended to stay for two weeks, it quickly turned into two months. Since then, her husband has also joined her in sunny Barcelona, where she’s working hard on growing Bida.
“Right now, we’re talking to investors, coming up with new ways that people can use the app, and adding new venues. Meeting with bar owners has been a great experience, they’re all super open to trying new things. We’re currently working with twenty-five bars, and we’re slowly adding more. Our goal is to have at least five people claim a drink at each of our partner bars per week. That’s our most important KPI,” she says.
Finding a solid user base is key, and it looks like the idea of a drink subscription app may be appealing not only to Barcelona locals, expats and college students, but also to short-term visitors. “We’ve noticed that tourists are much more likely to hop into a cab and drive halfway across town just to go to a specific bar that they’ve read a good review on than people who live here. Locals usually stick to a handful of places that they like in their own neighborhoods, but they do meet up with their friends in the city center,” Priscilla says. “So we’re also working on a way to make the app available for short-term use.”
Bureaucracy Versus a Contagious Passion for Startups
When I ask her about her experience with Spanish bureaucracy, and all the hassle that comes with trying to set up a company as a foreigner, I notice the all too familiar crease that everyone who’s ever had to get any paperwork done in Spain has appear on her forehead.
“To be honest, I knew it would be bad, and it was actually worse. In Canada, basically all you had to do if you wanted to set up a company was open a bank account and sign a paper. Here, I feel like we’ve been through a million administrative rounds, and we’re still not done. On the other hand, the people that I’m in touch with have been extremely helpful, I’ve gotten so many new contacts since I arrived, and they’re all amazing,” she says, proving that I wasn’t wrong when I claimed that she oozes positivity.
As a female entrepreneur from a foreign country, Priscilla is in for rough a ride – but she’s okay with that. “I moved around a lot in the past, so I’m used to feeling like an outsider. As for being a woman, I’ve learned to use that to my advantage! Plus, if being a woman is supposed to be a disadvantage, then it’ll be an even bigger achievement when we succeed,” she says.
When I congratulate her on the progress that she’s made so far with Bida, and how fast things seem to be working out for her, she says: “Everyone keeps telling me that, but I feel like things are moving at dinosaur speed. I wish they were faster. But maybe I just expect too much of myself.”
Priscilla’s passion for startups is nothing less than contagious. “My husband used to work for a large company, and I kept dropping little hints and trying to convince him that he should try doing something outside the corporate world. I must have been successful, because now he’s also working at a startup,” she says.