These Three BIG IdeaBounce Finalists Are Headed For WashU Olin’s ‘Shark Tank’

Team Name: Unsmudgeable

University: Babson College

BIG IndeaBounce 2023 finalist

Concept: A green permanent anti-smudge eyewear lens coating for a lifetime of clear vision.

Challenge: After interviewing sixty target customers who have worn glasses for two years or more and have a prescription of negative two to negative six with an average daily usage time of five hours, four pain points of smudged glasses have been discovered:

Solution: The main end user benefits that Unsmudgeable has is that it prevents smudging, does not require re-application, hands do not need to be free to have this product, continually keeps the lenses clean, and no repurchase is necessary (unless you’re buying another pair of eyewear).

The Market: Unsmudgeable operates with a B2B2C model where Unsmudgeable’s patent pending formula will be licensed out to lens manufacturers. The manufacturers will add the formula to every eyewear order that requests an anti-smudge coating and Unsmudgeable will receive a royalty amount per pair. This is the revenue model that many major eyewear companies already use for frame designs, lenses, and add on products like coatings. Furthermore, this model is the easiest to integrate since most consumers request coatings to be added to their glasses when purchasing a new pair; making the optical coating market a $5 billion industry (Grand View Research). Unsmudgeable targets all eyewear users (in the U.S. there are 178 million prescription glass wearers). To begin addressing the larger market, Unsmudgeable’s beachhead end-user market segments are military personnel, surgeons, and on-site construction workers (with a total of 1,972,333 potential customers according to IBIS World). Unsmudgeable identified from our sixty market research interviews that these segments would benefit most from the product. They engage in occupations that require a consistent clear line of vision and cannot afford to disengage their hands to wipe their lenses multiple times. Sean Harbison, Chief of General Surgery at UPenn Presbyterian Medical Center, mentioned that this product would be “extremely helpful considering that it is OSHA policy that all healthcare workers wear eye protection. 98% of the time people do so.” With a serviceable, obtainable market percentage of 5%, the market potential with these three segments averages $6.2 million, assuming an industry-standard optical coating price of $75.

Competition: Unsmudgeable is producing the first permanent oleophilic PFAS free lens coating for safety and prescriptive eyewear. Unsmudgeable’s function is to prevent the buildup of oil from the end user’s fingers and face on the lens surface. The opportunity for oleophilic coatings has not been optimized until now and Unsmudgeable aims to change that for all eyewear users so that they can lead more safe, productive, and smudge free lives with clear vision. Currently, all eyewear has an oleophobic (oil-fearing) surface. Thus, when an end user touches their lens accidentally, the oil from their fingers or face clusters on the lens’s surface causing the light to refract in such a way that the end user is not able to see through the smudge. Unsmudgeable’s coating uses oleophilic technology, allowing the oil to spread rather than cluster, creating a smudge free viewing experience for the end user. Additionally, our coating has a non-toxic formula meaning that it does not include chemicals that can be harmful to the environment and end user’s skin. More importantly, it does not include the fluorinated PFAS chemicals that many optical eyewear coatings (such as anti-reflective and anti-scratch) use. This non-toxic formula is vital since the coating will be produced in large quantities to be applied to eyewear in mass production.

Value Creation: The current roadblock in the eyewear industry is that there is not an oleophilic coating being manufactured for prescriptive and safety eyewear. The current oleophobic surfaces of eyewear only repel oil to ensure easy cleanability for the end user to remove the smudging rather than preventing the smudging in the first place. Our work with developing Unsmudgeable is that it not only resolves this issue but gives lens manufacturers a point of differentiation in an increasingly stagnant market. Furthermore, the current patented technology from eyewear companies such as EssilorLuxottica have relied on fluorosilane to provide permanent repellency because of its low surface tension fluorinated tail. These coatings are added to at least ten million pairs of eyewear in the U.S. each year (according to IBIS World) and cause thousands gallons of these toxic chemicals to go into the environment as a result. Furthermore, by eliminating the need for end users to wipe their lenses clean, Unsmudgeable also aims to eliminate the plastic and chemical waste associated with the production of eyewear cleaning supplies such as alcohol based cleaning sprays and microfiber cloths. These products form a $900 million market in the U.S. (according to Globe News Wire) and are produced with wasteful manufacturing practices. Currently we are examining how our coating could also eliminate the need for hydrophobic coatings to be applied as our coating has water repellent properties. This could allow lens manufacturers to cut down their production time byrelying on one coating to complete two functions.

The Team: Swarna Shiv: Founder, Current Student at Babson College pursuing Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurship expecting to graduate in May 2023

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.