Every week, the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute elects a Startup of the Week (SOTW). We then invite the founders of these startups to share a blog post with our community. These posts can be inspirational, educational, or entertaining. Founders can share founding stories, resources, lessons, or any other topic of their choice.
This blog post was written by Micah Steiger (Stern '18), Co-founder of Resprana.
It's been almost 3 years since my team and I stood onstage at Paulson Auditorium, as the confetti rained down upon us in celebration of our startup’s place as winner of the annual $300K Entrepreneurs Challenge - New Venture competition. While the award ceremony capped off almost a year of hard work, it was really only the beginning of what has been a hard-fought journey to bring a new product to market.
When my co-founder Sophie was inspired to think up the idea that would become our first prototype, personal air pollution protection was a nascent industry. As I write this, droves of essential workers, carefully distanced from each other, walk by my apartment window wearing masks, scarves and face shields.
In the years since Resprana was founded, the world has been turned upside down, and personal protection has never been more important. Each day I adorn my mask amongst the masses presents new questions and challenges:
- Does this cloth mask offer any protection at all?
- What if I get exposed to airborne particles that are surely making their way in around my beard?
- Am I interpreting this person’s emotions correctly as I can’t see their full face?
- When will this discomfort stop?
During our initial product pitches, we would stress to investors that air pollution and disease transmissions were global issues that were getting worse, not better. Some took this point seriously, but most dismissed it as something happening “over there”. Now, as I walk with my family through New York City, our new normal exposes just how valuable Resprana’s work has been since 2017 in building what we believe to be the world’s most comfortable personal air protection device.
Since we won the 300K competition, team Resprana has spent countless hours working with sourcing partners, prototyping new materials and designs, and testing our products. Resprana’s entrepreneurship journey has taken our team across both of America’s coasts, to Asia, India and the Middle East, where we have gathered product feedback in our mission to help the world breathe beautifully. Collecting global user stories provided valuable insight that people generally wanted the same core features in a protective device - a strong seal, reusable or replaceable filters and a proper fit - but also that we had the opportunity to differentiate ourselves in a growing market. Our first product – the Resprana Duo Pods – is engineered from the ground up to provide its wearer with unparalleled protection and comfort while allowing them to be and express who they are.
As our design became more cutting-edge (leveraging medical grade silicone for safe, unparalleled seal against airborne pollutants, filters that can be replaced with a simple click of the pod) our go-to-market strategy became bolder. The world is tired of uncomfortable, flimsy products that barely protect their wearers while disrupting their appearance and daily habits. People want and need to protect themselves, but they also want to be comfortable, they want to talk to their friends, sip their coffee and avoid continually readjusting their mask by touching their face. Bringing new hardware to market that addressed these concerns took time and constant reiteration, but our launch product now is all the better for it. On July 14th, our first commercial product went live on Indiegogo.
By building a product that is compact and comfortable without changing your appearance, Resprana brings a breath of fresh air (pun intended) to our masked status quo. Check out our Indiegogo campaign!