Versatility Sealz the deal

30/03/2015 - 05:50

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Western Australian startup Sealz has patented an innovation that converts sunglasses into sealed goggles at the click of a button.

SET AND FORGET: Rafael Kimberley-Bowen says Sealz goggles have attracted interest from water and snow sports enthusiasts. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Western Australian startup Sealz has patented an innovation that converts sunglasses into sealed goggles at the click of a button.

The idea, which emerged from tragic circumstances nine years ago, is building momentum with water and sports enthusiasts.

Co-founder Lee Batey, a career soldier and engineer, lost two defence colleagues in 2006 off the coast of Fiji in a Black Hawk helicopter crash.

Mr Batey could not stop thinking about the incident, and whether they may have survived if they had both had something that could have given them some extra crucial seconds to make their escape.

“I was sitting around my pool one day. I had been diagnosed with sunburnt eyes and was playing around with an idea of sunglasses I could use underwater,“ Mr Batey told Business News.

“The helicopter evacuation incident happened, and being a bit of a home handy man I taught myself CAD (computer-aided design), bought an industrial grade 3D printer and developed the first prototype.”

Last year, Mr Batey put himself through Curtin University’s Ignition program, where his idea attracted the attention of one of the facilitators, Rafael Kimberley-Bowen.

Mr Kimberley-Bowen has a corporate background and soon recognised the concept’s commercial potential, which prompted him to join the company as co-founder.

“I was struck by the simplicity and power of the idea and how this had applications to many industries, beyond the military. So we became business partners,” he said.

While wearing tight sealed goggles is often uncomfortable, the product the pair has developed (branded Sealz) looks and acts just like a regular pair of sunglasses out of water.

As soon as you want to make the switch, you press a button on the side, and a self-tightening strap brings them tighter to the face, seals up the area around the eyes, making them act like a regular pair of goggles.

While the military is interested in developing the product, the idea is gaining traction with athletes and sporting communities, particularly water, snow and extreme sports.

WA athlete Anthea Stacey represents Australia in triathlons, and is the current Busselton champion (18-24 age group).

“I tried the Sealz prototype and I absolutely love the idea. One of the main problems in my sport is the transition from swim to bike, where you lose valuable time, maybe a few seconds, which in sprint distance can make or break your race,” Ms Stacey said.

In acknowledgement of its military origins, Sealz is donating 1 per cent of its profits, and 1 per cent of all proceeds of the crowdfunding campaign, to the Soldier On charity. The charity supports returning wounded Australian soldiers.

Almost a decade after the tragedy that spawned the idea, the first run of Sealz glasses is set to roll off the production line, subject to the conclusion of a successful crowdfunding campaign this month. The glasses are expected to retail from $150 to $175.

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