Davis Smith, (WG ’11), discusses how a chance meeting at a Lauder Reunion brought him closer to his dream of starting Cotopaxi
How did you and Stephan Jacob (WG ‘11) become co-founders?
“Stephan and I ran into each other at the Lauder reunion in 2013 and were both exiting our previous ventures simultaneously. I shared a new business idea I was working on, and by the end of the weekend, Stephan had joined me as my Co-Founder of Cotopaxi. We’ve since raised about $11mm in venture capital and have a team of about 30 employees. If we hadn’t attended the Lauder reunion, we would not be working together, so it was truly a life-changing experience for both of us. ”
What gave you the inspiration for Cotopaxi?
“My family move to Latin America when I was a child, so from a very early age I was exposed to people living in extreme poverty. My father was also an adventurer, so I spent a lot of my youth in the outdoors. It was these early experiences that inspired to create this business. I was an entrepreneur before business school, and Stephan and I both started our own venture-backed businesses after graduating from Lauder/Wharton. Toward the end of 2013, I decided I wanted to build a business that was about giving back, helping people, and making the world better. I was in the earliest stages of building out the team when Stephan and I met at the LGAW ’13. I was telling him about my upcoming plans, and he told me about the recent sale of his business. We immediately started talking about how we could work together. He had been in the German Special Forces before business school and had also spent time working for a nonprofit in Indonesia, so we shared a lot of the same interests. We were very close friends in business school and even did our Lauder GKL project together in the Philippines – studying entrepreneurship and its impact on poor communities. Needless to say, within a couple days we had a deal struck on working together.”
How did you both choose the name “Cotopaxi”?
“The name Cotopaxi comes from a volcano in Ecuador, where I lived as a teenager. I used to go backpacking there with my dad, and the international school I attended as a kid was called Cotopaxi. The name has always been special to me, and we thought it would be a great name for a business dedicated to the outdoors and social impact.”
Learn more about Cotopaxi at https://www.cotopaxi.com/
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