Creating an action paradise in the Alps might seem bizarre to many. Some may even ask what an action paradise is. But for Adam Bonvin, co-founder of Alaïa SA, the vision was as clear as day. Inspired by a surf trip to Hossegor, France, Alaïa Bay offers the first wave pool of its kind in continental Europe and has been called one of Europe’s most impressive surfing spots. We had a chance to catch up with Adam to find out more.
Let’s start simple: Did you go surfing today?
Yes, as usual, I try to go several times a week with friends and I always surf early in the morning, before the public session. I love to be able to watch the sunrise in the mountains while I surf.
How did you launch an action paradise in the Alps… and why?
I am a child of Crans-Montana, I grew up skiing and snowboarding in the mountains and regularly practiced skateboarding. At the age of 12, I discovered surfing during a camp in France in the Southwest and it instantly became my new passion. But to become a good surfer, you must be very regular. During a surf trip with friends in 2015, we thought it would be great to surf in Switzerland. And seeing the development of technologies like Wavegarden, I felt that it was necessary to create such an infrastructure in Switzerland, both for surfing but also for the other sports that stem from the surfing culture (especially skateboarding and snowboarding).
Your business revolved around experiences. How important are finances when it comes to experiencing life to the fullest?
I don’t think you need a lot of money to experience life. Surfing is a good example: you just need to find a nice spot near the ocean with waves and you can have endless fun without spending money. After that, there is a question of comfort and personal desire that comes into play. Some people like to sleep in nice hotels and others love to sleep in a van by the sea. I also like to go on surf trips in a van with friends because it allows me to meet local people and discover secret spots.
Investing several million CHF in a project at the age of 20 is a big decision. Where did the courage come from to take this step?
It’s always a challenge to launch a project in Switzerland. But for Alaïa we decided to do a crowdfunding campaign to see if there was an interest in developing action sports facilities. Our goal was to raise CHF 100,000 – which would enable us to kickstart the project and convince the investor of the potential. In less than 60 days, we reached the total amount.
When we were talking about installing a wave pool in Valais, it was difficult to convince the authorities of the city of Sion of the potential of such an attraction. Today, after more than 200,000 visits in 1 year to Alaïa Bay, they are definitely excited about the project.
You started the project through crowdsourcing. Do you think there was an alternative way of doing the same thing?
There were probably other ways to find funding. In the case of Alaïa, the idea was to show the potential of such an activity, or attraction, in Switzerland. We already had interested investors, but as with all projects, you have to prove its potential. Crowdfunding was the perfect fit at the time.
Is there a parallel between action and wealth?
It is obvious that there can be a link between wealth and action. But today, and especially with the new technologies, one can launch oneself without having basic capital. The important thing is to have an innovative vision, an idea that is a bit far-fetched, and to believe in it. When we were talking about installing a wave pool in Valais, it was difficult to convince the authorities of the city of Sion of the potential of such an attraction. Today, after more than 200,000 visits in 1 year to Alaïa Bay, they are definitely excited about the project.
What do you wish you had known about finances and investing 10 years ago?
Nothing I think [laughs]. Being young and naive, I had the courage to launch my projects without having too many barriers related to specific knowledge in finance. This is perhaps an advantage in this case because you must be very daring to develop action sports-related universes in Switzerland. Today, I am happy to see that this audacity has paid off. I see it in the smiles of people using our space and facilities.
You seem to like high-risk sports. Do you have a similar affinity when it comes to investing?
I like action sports, but I am not an adrenaline junkie. I know my limits. It is a passion that guides my choices and not the love of risk. I like to work on projects in a universe that I am very familiar with, in which I am totally comfortable and that connects me to the community I am close to. I love being able to converse with other entrepreneurs in the surf culture and with others who share the same values.
What’s next for you?
At the moment, after 4 intense years of launching our different business units, we are in a stabilization phase. We are trying to create events to bring people together again. In the future, we will probably continue our development, but we will do it step by step.
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Alpian will launch its products and services shortly after its banking license enters into full force and will be available to the public in the third quarter of 2022.