Name: Ernesto Riestra Martínez
City, Country: Mexico City, Mexico
Degree course: MSc Mechatronics
Year of graduation: 2001
Employer/name of startup & position: Metagraphos, Technology Director and Founder
Why did you choose this degree course at TUHH, and do you think it was a good decision?
Although I studied my BSc in mechanical engineering, I have always had an interest in programming so it was the natural decision to try to enroll on a MSc course that combined both fields. For me, the subject of mechatronics extends the physical hardware of purely mechanical devices in the same way that intelligence extends our biological essence. As humans, we are not that far from other animals in terms of physical “hardware”, but it is the brain “software” which sets us apart in terms of amazing new possibilities. It is through software that we make a mechanical system behave in amazing ways.
What are you doing now, and did your studies at TUHH help?
I am the founder and technology leader of Metagraphos, a seven-year-old company that offers training content development, online learning and other education technologies. I apply everyday analytic and development skills to the improvement of the solutions that we employ to innovate education. Currently, I am working with virtual reality systems, and that has required very specific knowledge – and even some algorithms from scratch – that reminds me a lot of the skills I developed while at the TUHH. But the way my experience at TUHH helped the most is not with the specific models and algorithms. Instead, it is the engineering design mindset and the fact that you gain experience as a problem solver which really helps.
What are the most important facts about your startup?
Metagraphos is a completely digital culture firm. We are very small, around seven full-time team members. We also have many part-time colleagues who prefer to have their regular day job, but turn into rock stars for us at night. The company is very active in the field of internet and online learning, as well as virtual reality for training, and holds a position of Vice Presidency of Education and Culture at the Mexican Internet Association, where we are treated as equals with other very relevant IT corporations. We also have our own platforms for training, like yeira, which is one of the most intuitive ways to create an online courseware site for individuals, coaches, experts and small businesses, and to sell subscriptions to your contents.
What is the greatest thing about your job?
The family-work balance, which permeates across all team members while, at the same time, the flexibility to work on great ideas and having the freedom to explore them and prototype a new concept or solution. In addition, we are able to steer our direction with a very efficient decision-making committee. We are fully into ‘bootstrapping’, a model of funding a startup without external investors. This means the company is very sensitive to financial issues, which pushes us to prioritise expenses every day, but is also very quick in pivoting and adapting to changes, with no shareholders or investors to update or even convince.
In your opinion, what should (future) founders consider before they start a business?
The first step is to build your support network with friends and family. Moreover, some ideas cannot be evaluated until they hit a market, so try to reach that market even if it is a single customer. Whenever you are not building your service or product offering, get to learn something new. Find a cofounder that shares with you “why” he or she does this, not necessarily the “what” or “how”. Most importantly, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that being busy means being important. Be available, answer the phone, reply to emails, and share time with friends and loved ones. Starting up doesn’t mean shutting yourself off from the world. You can still be focused while being socially aware and connected.