Startup’s product dispels fog, on eyeglasses, diving masks, more

  • FogKicker products include dive mask scrub and cleaner, from left, anti-fog applications for sports and safety goggles, and dive and swim goggles. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Marc Gammell, who is the co-founder of FogKicker, displays some of his products at his lab in Springfield, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Marc Gammell, who is the co-founder of FogKicker, talks about his products at his lab in Springfield, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • FogKicker products include anti-fog applications for diving masks, sports and safety goggles, mirrors and eyewear. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Marc Gammell, who is the co-founder of FogKicker, displays some of his products at his lab in Springfield. STAFF PHOTOS/JERREY ROBERTS

  • —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Marc Gammell, who is the co-founder of FogKicker, displays some of his products at his lab in Springfield, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Bottles of unfinished product rest beside an empty product container, a pipettor and rubber gloves at FogKicker in Springfield. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A display of FogKicker anti-fog solution at the company's lab. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/16/2018 10:16:25 PM

SPRINGFIELD — FogKicker, a nontoxic, long-lasting anti-fogging solution, is sold in more than 500 dive shops around the world, and has been featured on CNBC’s “Adventure Capitalists.” However, it is all formulated in a small rented lab space in Springfield, where most of its products are packaged.

“We’re still kind of a scrappy startup,” said Marc Gammell, the 25-year-old CEO of Treaty Biotech, which makes FogKicker. Gammell and the company’s two cofounders do all the work.

Gammell is a University of Massachusetts Amherst graduate and former Amherst resident who recently moved closer to the company’s Springfield headquarters. The company’s two other co-founders still call Hampshire County home, and the product very much owes its existence to UMass.

At the core of the FogKicker solution are cellulose crystals. Derived from the cellulose that makes up the walls of plants, the scale of the crystals is much smaller than the width of a human hair. And they have a key property: They absorb water.

While he was working with the crystals at UMass while earning his doctorate, Yinyong Li had the “eureka” moment of applying a solution with them to eyeglasses. The result? The glasses stopped fogging up.

“Right in a lab in UMass,” said Gammell.

Li was part of a team that entered into and won the 2015 UMass Innovation Challenge. This was also a challenge that Gammel participated in, where he pitched a closed-loop waste management system that utilized both aquaculture and hydroponics. He made it to the semifinals of that competition.

Gammell, however, was more excited about Li’s product. “I was just geeking out about what he was doing,” he said.

After Li won, Gammell said that he chose to stick around as a “fan boy,” and offered to help him out.

Li and Gammell teamed with UMass professor Ken Carter to found Treaty Biotech, of which FogKicker is the first product. Carter and Li developed the formula together, and Li is in Carter’s research unit, where they work as polymer scientists.

What’s a FogKicker?

FogKicker is biodegradable and reef safe, as it’s mostly water with the crystals and biopolymers.

“I’ve actually drank a few of these vials as part of my sales pitch for a select few customers,” Gammell said.

Currently, there are five FogKicker products on the market.

Gammell said that he and Li started development efforts by going down to the Campus Center at UMass and asking people what they would use a defogging solution for. He then hit the road, and talked with everyone from firefighters to hotel executives about the product.

Gammell said that the company started with the FogKicker Dive Mask De-fog after identifying scuba divers as an excited market. He noted that a mask fogging up will ruin a scuba dive.

“It can be pretty dangerous if you’re 30, 50, 100 feet down,” Gammell said.

Gammell touted the effectiveness of FogKicker, saying that the product’s competitors are “glorified soap” that rinses off after a dive.

“Our de-fog will last five to 10 dives,” he said.

Currently the product retails for $8.45 on Amazon.com.

Gammell said that the team went through three business accelerators, which provided funding and guidance.

While the team has pitched FogKicker in many different venues, including the Smithsonian, its most high profile pitch session is likely an episode of “Adventure Capitalists” that aired in October. There, Gammell and Carter pitched the product to 2008 Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson East, Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis, former NFL linebacker Dhani Jones and former freestyle skiing Olympian and NFL wide receiver Jeremy Bloom. Gammell described the program as “Shark Tank for sporting goods products.”

“They reached out to us,” he said.

All four of the investors were impressed by the product, but it was Bloom who made the power move, offering them $300,000 for 10 percent of the company, which is what Gammell and Carter were asking for. The catch? They had to take Bloom’s offer before hearing from any of the other investors or he would walk away from the deal.

Gammell and Carter chose to take Bloom’s offer, and Gammell said that no one on the show was expecting Bloom to pull out the maneuver.

“No one had ever done that move,” he said

Gammell also said that the plan was to work with Bloom from the beginning.

“I think I decided in five (seconds),” he said.

However, the deal between Treaty Biotech and Bloom ended up falling through,

“Ultimately we walked away and he walked away,” said Gammell.

He said that Bloom gave them an ultimatum he wasn’t willing to take.

“You’ve always got to be prepared to walk away,” Gammell said.

Gammell, who is the company’s only full-timer at the moment, said the company is looking to get into large retailers like Target, and is looking for a major infusion of capital.

“We’re ready for a major scale up,” he said.

He also said that they will need to start hiring people part-time to help fill the bottles, although the lab in Springfield will be kept.

Gammell grew up near New Bedford, and he said that he wants to keep the company in the Commonwelath.

“That’s the dream,” said Gammell, on the idea of having a factory in Massachusetts producing FogKicker

He also said that he’s going to be doing some back and forth between Cambridge and the Valley, and he described Cambridge as the “Silicon Valley of biotech.”

“I love Massachusetts,” Gammell said. “I’ve been to a lot of states and it’s my favorite state, by a country mile.”

Bera Duna u can be reached at bdunau@ga zettenet.com.




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