Football helmet cooling startup secures $1.5M in funding, lands deals with LSU, Alabama, Clemson | Company

A local tech startup that makes cooler, more comfortable football helmets has raised more than $1.5 million from investors and secured deals with major university programs like LSU, Alabama and Clemson.

Based in Baton Rouge tiger was founded in August 2020. LSU football players were required to wear a plastic face shield to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but the shield often fogged up and made it difficult to breathe.

Jack Karavich, a Virginia native and Tulane University MBA graduate, noticed that masks combined with heat were a problem for LSU football players. He initially donated supplies for the devices with no intention of building a business around it.

Tigeraire’s cooling device uses battery-powered fans with a flexible plastic tube to draw air in through vents on the back of the helmet.

“This new helmet technology creates a similarly cool feel,” LSU director of athletic training Jack Marucci said in a statement. “The benefit is even greater for players who wear eye protection, as it eliminates the possibility of fogging developing inside and obstructing the player’s vision.”

After a year of development, Karavich said he would mass manufacture and increase sales. LSU has patented the technology and Tigeraire holds the exclusive commercial license for manufacturing. The startup has signed deals with LSU and other football programs such as Alabama, Clemson, Texas A&M, Maryland and Virginia. The startup also sells directly to young footballers.

The goal is to expand manufacturing to produce 25,000 units each month. Tigeraire is under contract with a temporary manufacturer as it seeks to expand its own factory in Louisiana.

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It has grown to 25 employees, most of whom work in offices at LSU Innovation Park. The startup raised $1.5 million from investors for its seed round in December, led by General Catalyst, a Massachusetts venture capital firm that has invested in Venmo, Airbnb and TikTok. Karavich said Tigeraire is the first Louisiana company to secure seed investment from a top 50 venture capital firm.

Other investors included Atlanta investor David Lightburn, Tulane mentor John Elstrott and Patrick Coogan, a former pitcher for two LSU baseball teams that won the College World Series. Coogan is the revenue director.

Beyond football helmets, the company extends its devices to safety helmets for the industrial and construction sectors. These markets are a global opportunity for Tigeraire, according to Karavich.

“It kind of caught us off guard, the managers were contacting us to see if we could put the product of football in their helmets,” he said.

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