Kwon says that in 2010, during his junior year of college, he was walking around the streets of Hongdae with his friends and saw trashcans overflowing with trash. It usually would have been a familiar sight but on that day, it really bothered him. He thought to himself, "It wouldn't overflow like that if there was a machine to compress the trash." So he and the four friends who were with him on that day decided to give it a try.
Here is Chosun's interview with Kwon.
Q: You solved a problem others ignored.
A: I was eating ice cream in front of those trashcans and thought, this is too much. The other friends with me happen to be interested in social problems, so we decided to give it a try.
Q; How did you start it?
A. At first, I didn't know where to start. We had our desires but because we were all students, it was difficult to make specific plans. After thinking about it, we created a designed and visited tool and machine shops. They were all baffled because the design was not specific and our budget was too small.
Q: So you needed to specify some things.
A. We decided to experience the problem first hand. We volunteered to help the sanitation workers to learn the intensity of the work and what the issues were. We discovered a lot of things to be improved after realizing that the sanitation method has been the same for so such a long time.
Kwon and his friends used the experience gained and the initial idea to invent "Clean Cube," a trashcan that periodically compresses materials using solar power.
They were determined to invest their everything into the project, and they needed funds. The friends participated in 15 different competitions in 6 months. One of the judges at a competition was a venture capitalist and he put seed funding into 'Clean Cube.'
In 2011, with the money that they had made from the competition, Kwon and his friends founded 'E-Cube Lab.' The model product was released the following year and 60 of the trash cans were installed in universities across Seoul.
Their future goals are to expand the trash cans globally as they believe this has the potential to be a 55 trillion KRW ($48.3 Billion USD) market.