How did you come up with the idea of becoming an engineer?
I was born in Cameroun. I always loved aeronautics and aerospace since I was the age of five. I dreamed of everything that flies and I always wanted to be a pilot, an astronaut or an engineer. Because I am now an engineer, I know how to build space shuttles, I can fly them and test them. I was always fascinated with everything that takes off.
How did you discover Switzerland and Neuchâtel?
I discovered Switzerland through family about a decade and a half ago. I have family that studied in Lausanne. I also have cousins that live in Zug and in Zurich. They always encourage me to consider Switzerland as a business expansion because my skills could add value to the Swiss economy.
Where do you see opportunities for expansion in Neuchâtel?
I see a lot of business that are specialized in biotech, medtech with very special processes. A company like Comelec in La-Chaux-de-Fonds does special coating (parylen) and machining are now EN9100 certified aeronautics. So I see a possible expansion in specific sectors with very demanding skills, not just in the European Union but also in America.
How easy is it to start a business in Switzerland?
My biggest struggle was support. I came here by myself, I did not know anybody, I had to integrate. I had to do a lot of networking. I believe that if you are not tenacious and if you do not really have patience with, not only establishing yourself, but giving time your business to build, you might be very discouraged. Le service de l’économie made a difference for me, especially Jean-Luc Bochatay and Ana Pinto. They made my life a complete dream when I came here. They helped me integrate, they helped me assimilate and network. They also helped me see the beauties about the canton that I did not know at all. The culture was not a problem. I speak French, I have travelled a lot, around the world and I am used to being culturally integrated.
What is culturally different?
In the USA and in Canada, entrepreneurship is just “hey, let’s do it”. There is no feeling in that. If it does not work, make something else. By contrast, in Switzerland, it is very difficult to break the ice. The Swiss culture is very square and structured. And this may lack innovation. When you come with fresh ideas, there is a way to do things; the goal is not to go fast, but surely. I had a hard time adjusting. But once trust is there, then, everything works.
What would you improve in the Neuchâtel Ecosystem?
The openness to completely reinvent and transform. I believe many companies are product-centric. I believe they have to be more customer centric. That requires a huge mind-set change. There is also an established way of doing things. People are most of the time, unwilling to change. In the US, I really love the speed of change. Never ever stays the same in their mind. Finally, I noticed that a lot of knowledge is not documented, which is a risk, when people retire for example.
What do you think about the quality of life in the region?
Everything is small and close. There is honesty and integrity in people. It can take a while. But you can trust them once they’ve opened up. That is so reassuring. It is not tangible, it is in people.
Video : Julien Humbert-Droz
Interview : Victoria Barras