by Dana Hwu, MIT delta v NYC Program Manager
Alex Mathé-Cathala and Hugo Castalan share their experience of co-founding their business together while working in different cities and participating in the MIT delta v accelerator from six time zones away.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved with MIT delta v.
Alex: I’m from France and completed the Masters in Finance at MIT, where I met Hugo. I went to business school in France and worked in finance before coming to Cambridge. I love sports, especially soccer, and never really thought I would become an entrepreneur until I met Hugo on the soccer team!
I was always the conservative and risk-averse type regarding my professional career. As a finance guy, best practice is that you should first practice your skills at recognized financial institutions. However Hugo was quite the opposite, and when we ran across our company idea, which seemed extremely promising, I took the plunge! “In finance best practice is never good enough” our professor Robert C. Merton always says.
Hugo: I am also from France and came to the U.S. on a tennis scholarship for my undergrad. I worked at a machine learning startup before attending MIT for my Masters in Finance. I did an internship in quant research but felt like I was more passionate about starting my own company. I heard about delta v through MIT alum, Sasha Ghebali of Hardworkers, who went through the accelerator in the summer of 2019.
Where are you both located this summer?
Hugo: I started out in Normandy, France, and now I’m in the south of France.
Alex: I was in the Bordeaux area of France and I’m also now in southern France.
We were both planning on and very excited for delta v in New York City this summer, especially since our company is a fintech. But on March 9th, we flew to Paris from Cambridge for an important meeting for our venture and ended up not being able to take our flight back because the U.S. closed the border from Europe due to the pandemic. (Our apartment and belongings are still left in Cambridge!)
How has it been co-founding your startup together while not being in the same city?
Hugo: Tough moments are tougher because when you’re doubting yourself or your startup, it is harder by yourself than if we were together in person.
Alex: Yes to be honest, it’s not as exciting or productive as when we’re together in person, but we were lucky enough to live together for six months before splitting ways, so we have a good sense of each other’s working and thinking styles and went into the virtual relationship with a good foundation.
Can you describe what it’s been like going through a virtual accelerator program like delta v? What has your typical day been like, especially being six hours ahead of NYC?
Alex: From a virtual perspective, we are able to meet with more people without much friction related to location, and we definitely spend less time on commuting for various events.
My role as CEO of our company involves a lot of meetings with potential clients and advisors around the delta v workshops and speaker events we have, as I learn from them to help create a competitive advantage for our startup. I’ve become pretty aligned with the time shift because most of these people are in the U.S. as well, so I need to meet with them late at night here in France.
Hugo: My role as CTO has me spending most of my mornings coding and developing before delta v programming begins. The U.S. stock market doesn’t close until 10:00pm in France, keeping me up late at night because we have models running for our clients after the market closes.
What have been your favorite parts or greatest learnings from delta v so far?
Hugo: Having recurring meetings and structure with the accelerator has been very helpful. We were kind of on “Swiss time” before. It has also been great having access to experts like the Entrepreneurs-in-Residence and a lawyer, Scott Smedresman, to give us advice (for free, though invaluable!!!).
Alex: #1 for me has been interactions with our nine board members. They are really seasoned professionals with stellar backgrounds that are just there to help us. Our delta v alumni mentors, David Lighton, Gabrielle Haddad, and Santhosh Narayan, have also been invaluable. We ought to mention the exceptional work behind the scenes of [NYC Startup Studio Managing Director] Carly Chase and you, Dana, as well to help get us prepped and ready to put our best feet forward as entrepreneurs.
Aimvest Technologies provides an asset management platform to financial planners. We allow them to set precise targets for their clients’ portfolios and our quantitative risk-management models manage risk in real time to optimize for the probability of hitting these targets. In contrast to tedious risk-tolerance questionnaires and arbitrary risk scores that fail to maximize such probabilities, our scientific approach to risk-taking helps planners have a meaningful and trusted dialogue with clients, and reconciles budgeting with investing.