Featured Startup: PerfecTemp
By Claire Chen
Evan Korte (BU ’19) and Jacob Staab (EN ’19) became student entrepreneurs only a few weeks into their freshman year, when the two roommates entered the Boeing Patent Challenge in September. Their pitch, PerfecTemp, won them a place amongst the top six finalists, as well as the Skandalaris Cup and the Y’s Thoughts Venture Challenge later that year.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your co-founder, majors, extracurricular interests?
A: I am a Leadership and Strategic Management Major, considering a double major in Marketing or Economics and Strategy, and a German minor. Outside of PerfecTemp I do DSP, and play ultimate Frisbee with Contra.
Jacob is a mechanical engineer, and he’s leaning towards a material science focus, and he’s getting a minor in business strategy. Outside of PerfecTemp he’s getting involved in DSP and in Y’s Thoughts.
Q: How would you describe PerfecTemp?
A: PerfecTemp is revolutionizing outerwear by creating thermally adaptive modular insulation. The idea is that the insulation in your jacket will change based on the ambient temperature.
Q: How did you guys come up with this idea?
A: So, two weeks into school, Jacob asked me if I wanted to go to the Boeing Patent Challenge that we were hosting here, and I said “Okay, we’ll do this if we get a good idea.” The goal of the Boeing patent challenge is to bring Boeing intellectual property to the consumer marketplace, by researching all the patents that Boeing currently has and finding ways to apply them to different fields. I think there’s no bigger consumer marketplace than clothing, so I said, “let’s look into Boeing’s material science and see if there’s anything we can bring to clothing.” So we did the Boeing Patent Challenge and we were finalists, and then we told Boeing we wanted to keep running with it, so we did a little bit of lab testing on the patent and entered the Skandalaris Cup, which we won for consumer-facing products. Then we won the Y’s Thoughts Venture Challenge, and after that Boeing granted us a license for the patent.
Q: How did the lab testing work?
A: We ended up reaching out to a materials company and getting some samples, and then we worked with Dr. Marcus Foston, who’s a materials science professor here. We did some tests in his lab to prove that a discrepancy in coefficient of thermal expansion between two polymers could warp the system of the two. So we successfully proved that, and afterwards Boeing was willing to give us a license to the patent if we could develop a prototype, which we are working on right now.
Q: So are you attempting to work your insulation module into an actual piece of clothing, like a jacket?
A: We want to be able to create one module of insulation. The hard part is really going to be creating a structure, to get it to warp repeatedly over—the goal is a thousand cycles.
Q: What are your long-term goals for PerfecTemp?
A: In the end, we want to be a manufacturing company, and sell to large clothing companies like NorthFace, Columbia, or Marmot. We see that as the best way to make profit because we don’t want to have to compete making our own jackets against these proven companies, with loyal customers, so we figure if we can create a product that they like, they’ll put it in their jackets, and we can tap into their consumer base. Our end goal is to be a manufacturing company, but it’s a long way off.
Q: And have you heard about any other companies that are doing something similar with insulation?
A: Well, no one is creating thermally adaptive insulation like we are, but the general structure for insulation companies, like the manufacturing and then selling direct to companies is the industry standard. Most of these clothing companies do not do research and development, they just do field testing for marketing purposes, so they’re always looking to buy the next best insulation from insulation companies.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about WashU?
A: Well, I would say the people, and Jacob and I gawk at that all the time. There are so many places we could’ve ended up; I was one day from going to another school and Jacob had offers from tons of other schools, but we both ended up here, as roommates, and we have a company now. It’s crazy. But I think that that sort of talent is all over WashU, you can always find people who are looking to do cool things, and we have a good startup community that’s getting stronger and people are doing really great stuff, so I think definitely the people. But not for their friendliness, or the party atmosphere, I think it’s for like the people’s ambition that’s most exciting.
Q: Thank you so much!
PerfecTemp is now in the process of applying to the Y Combinator seed accelerator for the Winter 2017 session, as well as continuing to develop their insulation prototype. To hear about more about PerfecTemp’s journey, check out founders Evan Korte and Jacob Staab on LinkedIn. For more on WashU’s outstanding entrepreneurs and the campus startup scene, join Y’s Thoughts!
Y’s Thoughts Blog Writer