Jeff Bowman is tan and fit with a face framed by gray hair and sharp features. Still, he looks young and has a grounded yet intense presence. He resembles a character out of a Robert Ludlum novel.
It’s hard to imagine this guy was ever retired until it’s revealed he had been spending his time fly-fishing, rock climbing and being outdoors. Then it makes sense. In fact, he was rock climbing in Spain when he got a call about a potential chief executive officer gig at Cocona Inc. (now renamed 37.5).
Bowman, 62, was initially reluctant, but his gut told him to give Cocona a chance. “I wasn’t interested at first, but I got a great sales pitch,” he said. “So I tried the technology, and the technology worked great.”
That technology was invented by Gregory Haggquist, Ph.D., founder of Cocona and its chief technology officer. Cocona was established in 2000 and was backed by a mix of angel and private equity money as well as funds from institutional investors. Cocona’s process involves embedding activated carbon into fibers to eliminate odor while removing moisture.
Haggquist is a geek’s geek who realized he had a tiger by the tail since the material can be used in a variety of applications, and works best on anything that touches human skin. The technology is designed to capture and release moisture vapor while reaching optimum relative humidity, which helps a body more efficiently maintain an ideal core temperature of 37.5 degrees Celsius — hence the rebranded corporate name.
Bowman cut his teeth as a manager and marketer at Gore-Tex and Polartec (formerly owned by Malden Mills). He said 37.5 is different from the materials technology of those brands because it can be applied to a more diverse catalogue of products. “It can be used in all the levels of apparel and bedding,” he explained. “It makes next-to-skin products like underwear better as well as insulation products better. And it improves outerwear products because it moves moisture vapor from the skin to the outside more efficiently. And it does it faster than anything else available.”
The 37.5 technology stands out from other moisture-wicking textiles because it moves moisture vapor with zero percent humidity. And it dries five times faster than other materials. So it’s not surprising that the current client lineup of brands using 37.5 includes Under Armour, Carhartt, The North Face, Pearl Izumi and Adidas.
“It was the technology of 37.5 that was compelling enough to get me out of retirement,” Bowman added.
The fact that 37.5 is based in Colorado — a premier place for an outdoorsman and rock climber — also tipped the decision-making scales. And Bowman is a bit of a tech geek himself, so he fits into the entrepreneurial culture of the company, he said. According to his LinkedIn profile, Bowman is the author of five patents in material science. Aside from Gore-Tex and Malden Mills, Bowman was at outdoor camping equipment maker Cascade Designs, working on new product development and brand repositioning.
Oh, and here’s the Robert Ludlum part: Bowman also worked at Massif, where he steered the growth of the company’s industrial and military apparel business. He led efforts on the new product development front as well as cultivating supply chain relationships, which included the Army.
Well, maybe he’s not a Jason Bourne, but Bowman learned a lot in his one-year hiatus from the textile industry. “I learned that I could retire and enjoy life, which not a lot of people can say,” he said. “Then again, I love what I’m doing now and I love the people I’m working with and the companies, too.”