Challenge Evasion the entrepreneur who had the crazy idea of

Challenge Evasion: the entrepreneur who had the crazy idea of ​​locking people in a room

What do escape games and roller coasters have in common? These are playful universes that evoke strong sensations. And entrepreneur Dave Welsh is eager to visit.

The founder of Défi-Évasion was a professional golfer at the age of 18. He spent winters in Florida while studying finance from afar.

“My dad said I would retire with $2 in my pocket!” he recalls laughing.

It was still a mountain top.

He was then offered to become a franchisee of a company that sold education savings plans. First descent.

“It took me seven months to make my first sale and I was only getting paid on a commission basis!”

Still, Dave has given himself the tools to make saving attractive to families. He made every possible mistake along the way, but patiently built an office of seven representatives.

Second peak.

Inspiration in Nashville

Then, in 2014, while Dave was traveling to Nashville with his father to listen to country music and indulge him, he stumbled upon one of North America’s first escape rooms to open. And why doesn’t it exist in Quebec, he wondered?

“I told my girlfriend we had an opportunity and I wanted her to come with me. On January 1st, 2015 we quit our jobs to lock people in rooms!”

Dave Welsh founded Defi Evasion.


Dave Welsh founded Defi Evasion.

First month, 199 customers. Next 200 customers. It was a second bottom. And when Dave spoke to bankers and insurers, people thought he was a nutcase. But little by little, word of mouth spread and the company grew from two arcades to eight, in addition to mobile challenges in semi-trucks. In 2019, a second branch was opened in Quebec.

“We had the wind in our sails and I wanted to dominate the world!” recalls Dave.

A family with no income

And the terrible descent of March 2020 is here. Everything had to close, about sixty employees had to be laid off. As young parents, Dave and his wife ran a business that had no income, so they had no salary.

After a terribly stressful first week, Dave went into solution mode with a creative team. This is how online puzzle games were born. The first, rudimentary versions were sold as PDF, but they quickly evolved.

“We sold over 100,000 games in the first year. It brought positive results and saved the company,” says Dave.

The Challenge Evasion rooms will be closed for a total of 23 months. They’re doing well now, and even bankers who were skeptical about the business model are now demanding games designed specifically for their employees. Défi-Évasion is also launching Mind Opus for growth in English Canada and the United States.

“I feel less need to dominate the world, but I see opportunities and continue to move forward at a good pace,” reflects the entrepreneur, who is happy to be able to bring his creative team back into the company after the turbulence of the pandemic.


Entrepreneurship is…? “Get out of your head and get into the action.”

Who inspires you? “My grandfather, a straight man who made his mark. He touched on politics, which might interest me later.”

You become a politician, what do you change first? “I want to find a way to get people more interested in political and social issues.”