AusAir - 5 Years On and Delivering Impact at Scale
Some of you may recall the success story of one of SSE’s alumni team who started the company called AusAir (see here for full story). Since their first engagement with SSE back in 2018, the Team at AusAir have been busy innovating, creating, and delivering impact at global scales. They have partnered up with international organisations to expand their footprint and continue to work towards providing Clean Air to communities locally and abroad.
In line with our fifth birthday, we checked in with our Alumni from 5 years ago, and were privileged to reconnect with Isaac Honor, Co-Founder and Director of AusAir, to hear about their incredible success over the past five years. Read the full interview below:
When did you first engage with SSE? And in what capacity?
In 2018 AusAir first engaged with SSE in a NSW wide competition amongst any of SSE's member Universities. Our team was awarded 3 of 4 scholarships available for the program 'China Start' run by Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, the leading independent business school in China.
What were your key learning takeaways from your time with SSE?
During the China Start we were exposed to veteran entrepreneurs who had serial success in creating high growth businesses. We were able to travel around with them for a week and learn about how to pitch, raise capital, develop products and everything else required to start a business. We also pitched to the largest companies in China including Tencent, JD.com and Fosun Group.
What inspired you to start AusAir?
AusAir began in 2017 with a simple mission, to provide people access to clean air. This was inspired by our travels overseas to places where airborne particulate matter was high. When bushfires devastated our home country, we experienced first-hand what it was like to live without access to clean air. This prompted us to research the global issue of air pollution, its prevalence, effects and how people protect themselves. We were struck by how devastating the impacts are on health, the lack of awareness around these dangers and that many people exposed to this problem weren’t taking actions to protect themselves. Why weren't there any good solutions?
With this mission in mind, AusAir partnered with the University of Sydney and industry leading specialists to recreate the mask from the ground up. We started by looking at what the most important technical features were in high performing masks, and how to adapt these functional components into a product which is made for everyday wear. The result was a design, which won The University of Sydney's Annual Innovation Award alongside a host of others. After 3 years of research and development our flagship product was launched, the AirFlex Mask range.
Today AusAir is the world’s leading high-tech filtration mask company, creating advanced performance technology to protect the world’s urban explorers. AusAir’s technology roadmap and story is permanently housed in the iconic Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), in which innovative and contemporary Australian designs are displayed. Our philosophy has always been to listen to our customers to understand how we can design products that suit their needs.
What have been some of the key highlights in setting up and developing AusAir?
It has been incredible to see our business grow from just an idea to where it is today. From launching our crowdfunding campaign, to partnering with large multi-nationals and the government, it's been an exciting but difficult journey punctuated with moments of success which make it all worthwhile. Releasing new products is always exciting, as it takes many months to conceptualise, R&D and finally manufacture. Once it's finally released it's great to see customers enjoy and notice all the details we have taken so long to get right. Seeing our brand evolve and steering it into new waters is one of the most difficult but rewarding parts of running a company.
What do you think are the key reasons behind its success?
Being honest with ourselves about how we can improve the business, listening to our customers and being truly innovative which takes time. Taking risks is part of success, there are no free lunches. It is about assessing what risks are worth taking and how to evaluate them.
You’ve come so far already … what’s next for AusAir?
Recently our company has been working with the Office of the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer to make the world’s first line of compostable surgical respirators and surgical masks as well as implement commercial composting across hospitals in NSW. This is in concert with HealthShare NSW who procures for over 250 public Hospitals across NSW. We have successfully passed the initial testing phase and developed Alpha Prototypes. These product lines will be launched in the second half of 2022.
Additionally, our company is partnering on a sustainable mask range with Canada Goose, the world’s leading Luxury Performance company which has >$4 billion USD market cap on the NYSE. This will launch later this month in August.
We also started a company FILTRUM, a company which is dedicated to replacing virgin plastic filter media with sustainable alternatives.
Expanding our range, currently in development of new products which will be announced soon!
If you could give your 20-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don't worry about where you are today, start working on getting to where you want to be in the future. Significant progress is made in tiny steps which compound over time. Create the right habits so that you can slowly work towards your goals and in time you will get there.