Gustavo Cadena, a former student of EPF tells us how he got his start-up idea and the events and actions that led him to his great moment of eureka.
Could you tell us what was your experience at EPF (when did you arrive, which major you studied, what is your best memory)?
I arrived in August 2013, spent 6 months at Sceaux and then a year and a half at Montpellier. I studied a Double Degree in Energy at EPF to complement my studies in Engineering Physics at the Tec de Monterrey in Mexico. Overall I had a great experience at EPF, I met very interesting people that allowed me to understand French culture and guided me towards the entrepreneurship route. Sometimes I got into trouble for skipping too many classes, mostly because I stayed up late at night building prototypes for my project. My best memory... The nights I went to Paris and walked near the Seine while trying to solve a problem in my head. I was living around 20 min away from there, so it was a good place to find some inspiration whenever I got stuck on a problem.
How did the idea of creating your own company rise, and how did you come to the idea of focusing on smart clothing?
I really wanted to solve the thermal comfort problem. While living in Mexico I experienced lots of warm weather and I thought moving to France would be better, but I found out cold can be equally annoying. Especially if you're wearing several layers of clothing and moving around the city, walking and going in and out the public transport. I realized clothing weren't smart enough to regulate our temperature. They have static properties, while your body heat and environment are constantly changing. So I started building adaptive clothing.
Did you have to face major issues in the creation process?
Yes, a lot. At the beginning you have only an idea (with many false suppositions), so it's pretty hard to build a team, therefore you need to do all the job yourself until you get to a more interesting position. Many lonely and psychologically intense moments, but you get out of it stronger, more resilient and with a good understanding of all the areas of your business, whether you like it or not. I had to learn to sew because no tailors in Paris would help me build a vest with electronics. EPF and the French government were really helpful for this initial phase, because they allowed my project to become my final student internship thanks to the “étudiant-entrepreneur” status that the government provides to students with a start-up plan.
What would be your advice to young entrepreneurs-to-be?
Find out what your passions are, especially which problem you really really want to solve, the one you are so frustrated about because all of the people that are trying to solve it are just doing it the wrong way, and you have a very different approach that can actually make a difference. If you are lucky to find this intersection of a problem you profoundly understand and that many people care about, go for it and build a company. If you're doing it the other way around, starting a company just because you want to be an entrepreneur, you will probably fail. It is a very long and difficult journey, you need to have a strong passion to be able to wake up each morning and work 12-14 hours a day to make your dream possible.
Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience and Gustavo Cadena is the living proof. We wish him success in this new adventure.