An Australian startup has created an award-winning mask which ‘allows people to breathe Australian air’.
Brothers Elias Honor and Isaac Honor, alongside childhood friend Jack Graham, co-founded AusAir in 2017, creating a fashionable pollution mask embedded with Australian botanicals aimed at easing health issues caused by pollution.
AusAir offers reusable, washable mask skins which can be separated from their filters which last up to four weeks.
‘The market is dominated by products which focus on pure utility, but we want to allow people to express themselves as well as have a mask that is comfortable and extremely breathable,” said Elias Honor.
“Your face is who you are and where most interaction takes place, and so our goal was to create a mask that we actually wanted to wear,” he said.
The idea came when they went on a trip together to China and experienced the air pollution first hand, which prompted them to look at the problem more closely.
‘We were quite shocked, particularly when we discovered data revealing the health impacts that air pollution can have.’ said Jack.
New research has revealed the cigarette equivalence of air pollution in terms of its health impacts. On a bad day in Beijing, breathing in the air can be the equivalent to smoking 25 cigarettes a day, according to scientists at Berkeley Earth.
More surprisingly however, are the statistics coming out of places such as Los Angeles and London, with many cities failing to meet WHO air quality standards.
‘When we first discovered the research surrounding air pollution and cigarette equivalence we were shocked. When you think about it though, is it really that surprising? Think about all the stuff that goes into the air every day, car fumes, emissions from large scale manufacturing, breathing in these things surely can’t be good for you.’ Jack Graham
The 2018 California wildfires from as well as the ongoing Australian bushfires have highlighted the devastation of air pollution, with the equivalent of over a pack of cigarettes being smoked in some regions.
Cyclists and other subgroups can be even more at risk if they are sitting in traffic and inhaling car fumes on their commute, breathing large volumes of air during exercise.
The masks also surpass P2 and KN95 preliminary testing, which protect users from fine particulate matter, with their filters blocking over 97% of PM2.5. An added carbon layer also adds additional protection against certain organic vapours and odours.
P2 masks are also effective at preventing contagious airborne viruses and diseases, however as Health NSW points out, masks must be fitted to the wearer’s face in order to be effective.
Their offering of multiple sizes, ergonomic design, memory foam and magic fit ear-loops creates a plush seal around facial contours, critical to effective virus and disease protection.
AusAir have piggybacked off research revealing how natural Australian botanicals combat problems caused by air pollution. Their lavender filter for example naturally reduces stress hormones which have been shown to increase from air pollution.
‘There is a unique scent and feeling when you are in the lavender fields of Tasmania or the eucalyptus forests of New South Wales, and that’s what we’ve aimed to capture. We want to allow people around the world to breathe Australian air.’ Isaac
Since then the team has gone from strength to strength, taking out the ‘Most Scalable Business in South East Asia’ award at Sydney University’s flagship Genesis startup competition winning 5k in seed funding. They also took out the top prize as part of Sydney University’s Innovation week, nabbing 10k in seed capital.
Following this, AusAir took part in the Genesis NEXT programme in which they collaborated with Sydney University postgraduate students to work on their business model.
Their big break came however after receiving three out of four available scholarships by the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship competing against students and alumni from 11 of Sydney’s top universities.
This gave the team the golden ticket to attend ‘China Start’, where they pitched in the boardrooms of heavy hitters Tencen the largest company in China, and Fosun Group, the ‘Berkshire Hathaway’ of China. Their success however came when pitching to JD.com, the second biggest e-commerce platform in China, where they negotiated a deal to launch AusAir on the site’s crowdfunding platform early in 2020.
“On this program you’re constantly innovating and surrounded by people who are seasoned entrepreneurs, staying up long nights and many hours – it sharpens your mind very quickly. That’s something that you couldn’t achieve in several years, and you’ve done it in a week,” said Isaac Honor.
Most recently the team returned from the ‘Asian Entrepreneurship Awards’ as 1 of 20 startups selected globally where they represented Australia in Tokyo, Japan.
The desire and demand for Australian products couldn’t be more pronounced with sales of baby formula, supplements and even bottled Australian air being sold throughout China.
AusAir will be launching their product for presales on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter on February 5th 2020.