Start-up spotlight: KYMIRA, performance infrared apparel
KYMIRA, a range of sportswear that embeds infrared technology into its fabrics to enhance sport performance, won an overwhelming first in the audience vote at Sports TechPitch 4.5 on 19 April 2016. We caught up with founder and CEO Tim Brownstone to hear about KYMIRA’s origins and plans for the future, which include a crowdfunding campaign to finance production of its cutting-edge jackets and trousers.
-Tim, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your professional background?
I specialised in photobiology at the University of Reading, which is the study of how certain wavelengths of light affect biological systems. During my final year I founded KYMIRA and have been running it as founder and CEO ever since. Prior to that I didn’t really have any business experience, but I have always been an independent thinker and leader in sports and academia.
-What inspired the idea for KYMIRA? Was there a particular market gap you spotted?
I was first inspired by a NASA research paper where they were using infrared light to make plants grow quicker in space. I was 16 or 17 at the time. Having competed in a couple of sports at a low international/high national level I knew that the benefits of infrared could be useful to sportsmen and women. However, not knowing anything about fabrics or clothing design, I wrote myself off as the person to create it.
During my final year of research, I worked with a Californian company and with a few nudges in the right direction that relationship developed from a research partnership to a business one. I then founded KYMIRA, which is the world’s first range of performance infrared apparel.
-Once you had the idea, where did you start?
I went out and spoke to a few shop owners to ask if the products were something they would be interested in. When they said it was I used the final instalment of my student loan to make up some prototypes. I managed to get them branded and finished about 30 minutes before the first meeting I had with a prospective buyer. I deliberately didn’t seek any funding until I felt that I had added enough value to the company.
-Can you talk us through how the infrared technology on your fabrics works?
-What is the status of KYMIRA now?
We have been incorporated for just over three years and trading for two and a half. We have six employees made up of three full-time and three part-time. We also have three interns that have done a two month term-time placement and will be returning over the summer.
For my sins I also run the student incubator at the University of Reading, where KYMIRA are currently based. We held a small F&F round last October and will be officially opening for a seed round in late May/June.
-What led you to apply for TechPitch 4.5? Have you done any pitching previously?
One of the start-ups at Music TechPitch 4.5 last year (Global Music Community founder Adam King) suggested that I enter. I have pitched at events before and also judged at others.
-How did your pitch go?
Pretty well, the audience certainly liked us! It was refreshing to hear the judges say that we should focus more efforts on our R&D, as we usually get told that we should focus on the sportswear company.
-How was the experience useful?
It was great to meet those that I met and get the word out to all of the audience who didn’t know about KYMIRA previously.
-Was the feedback constructive? Did you make any good connections?
The feedback was helpful. Sadly, I couldn’t network for as long as I would have liked because I had to catch the train back, but yes – I was able to make some connections and have been helping some other contestants with introductions to my network internationally.
-What are your future plans/goals/hopes? (In particular, the technology you’re developing?)
Hopefully we will be successful in getting funding for our energy-harvesting tech. We will then be able to progress with the development of our self-powered smart suit for use in the domestic healthcare space, as well as the sportswear and fitness markets.