Why Alisée de Tonnac should be your role model

I am in love, or at least I think I am since the day I met her. And I am pretty sure that by the end of this letter you will be too.  But I promise you, this won’t be one of these cheesy declarations where I will spend 2 pages speaking about how beautiful the woman of my dreams is. This isn’t because she’s not beautiful (I mean, just Google her name and see for yourself), but because this has nothing to do with why I found her so stunning in the first place.

A compelling character …

Roaming through the Internet, it is very easy to know that Alisée de Tonnac is the 29-year-old CEO (and co-founder) of SeedStars World, that she graduated from HEC Lausanne and obtained a Master’s degree from the Bocconi. You can also see that she first traveled the world in 2013 after quitting “one of the biggest luxury cosmetic corporations”, a job that left her “unsatisfied” (in her own words). If you get a little lost in your research, you might stumble upon completely useless information (she is myopic, she often wears black and she has a signet ring at her right pinky) but also much crazier things, like the fact that she made it to the “Forbes 30 under 30” as a Social Entrepreneur. But what about her vision?

Looking at (often incomplete) bios online won’t help you much. To understand more about what Alisée stands for, you should read her own articles (which you can find on her LinkedIn profile) or even better, watch her speak. Be it on Youtube (she has an impressive number of videos talking to a journalist or an audience, amongst which 3 TedX talks) or live (as I had the chance to do twice), there is something about the way she talks that makes you want to listen until the end. As egotistic as it may sound, people are hanging on every word she utters because they feel empowered; they listen because it feels like any of the things they ever wanted to accomplish are finally within their reach.

Alisée de Tonnac speaking during the Women in Digital Switzerland Summit in May 2017

And a powerful voice!

However, let us not forget that besides the form of her speeches, there is also an important content. What really gives the power and importance to Alisée’s voice is the originality of what she speaks about. She doesn’t simply have an Instagram-perfect story, she actually lives in accordance with what she professes: believing in emerging markets. Even though emerging markets are booming, innovating in every field you could think of and offering great prospects of evolution, few people are willing to bargain on emerging countries, let alone leave their cozy lives in postcard Switzerland to start anew in an off-the-grid city without running water or sewers like Lagos. But that is what Alisée did, and this shows just how committed she is to her work and her ideals.

As she told me once, it’s not easy following your dreams and being sure you are making the right decisions. But in the end, Alisée did with her life what entrepreneurs in emerging markets do with their start-ups: seize the opportunity even though the upfront cost may be high. Whatever the hardships, passion and hustling are what keep people focused on their goal; and more often, these hardships come from within. During the Women in Digital Switzerland Summit in Geneva, Alisée got very candid one of these issues which she called “The Imposter Syndrome” (otherwise known as this tantalizing voice that sometimes creeps into your mind to repeat “You are not good enough” and “You shouldn’t be here”).

The cure she gives is perhaps her most valuable lesson: surround yourself with loving people but mostly, never stop going forward. To succeed, you must be willing to fail and get back up on your feet to fight for what you think is right. I can only be thankful for Alisée’s own fearlessness (and her good friends), allowing her to become the voice of emerging markets in a market that doesn’t take them into account (a real mistake when we know that more than 88% of the world’s population lives there). “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world” because hopefully, we will very soon associate Mexico, Nigeria and Indonesia with innovation, connection and power instead of simply with drugs, corruption and overpopulation.

Last modified: 31 août 2020

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