In the eight months since Jack Karavich, in partnership with LSU, created a helmet-cooling technology for use in sports helmets and other protective headwear, Karavich’s startup company, Tigeraire, has taken off.
In December, after practicing with the cooling devices throughout the fall season, LSU signed a deal with the company to purchase enough devices for the entire LSU Tigers’ football team. Since then, Tigeraire has inked deals with Auburn, Clemson, Texas A&M, Tulane, and the Universities of Alabama, Maryland and Virginia, and more are expected soon.
The company is also working with Catholic High School locally and is developing a version of the product for youth batting helmets for softball and baseball.
“It’s really been phenomenal,” says Karavich, who shares the patent for the technology with three others at LSU, which has exclusivity on the product for the life of the patent. “I wasn’t looking to start a company but it’s just taken off.”
The cooling device, which is currently modular for football helmets and can be used in combination with any off-the-shelf helmet, is designed to keep the user’s head cooler for increased comfort and enhanced performance.
It leverages the passive air vents near the back of a helmet by making them active, sucking air into the helmet with small battery-driven fans attached to a set of flexible tubing. The tubes can be customized and mounted to the inside of the helmet to direct air wherever it’s needed, usually forward and downward over the face, toward a visor or plastic face shield.
While the modular devices have proved popular with football players, Tigeraire is currently designing custom helmets for other sports with the technology built in. So far, the company has prototypes for a batting helmet and construction hard hat and is working on a design for military helmets.
Karavich also plans on the drawing board for helmets for lacrosse and, after that, ice hockey.
To keep up with the growing demand, the company is planning to relocate to a larger space within LSU’s Innovation Park, where it has been since its founding last August.
The company is also opening an office and manufacturing facility in Karavich’s native Richmond, Virginia, which will technically serve as Tigeraire’s corporate headquarters.
Karavich says he’s not moving the company out of Baton Rouge but is opening his main office in Virginia because he lives there and his wife’s company is based there.
He says he plans to manufacture products at the facilities in both cities and plans to use the Innovation Park office as the R&D center.
“”We are very committed to staying in Baton Rouge,” he says. “LSU and Tigeraire is like the relationship between Nike and Oregon.”
Currently, Tigeraire is producing around 200 of its modular cooling devices per month, but that number is expected to grow quickly.
Says Karavich, “We need to scale up fast.”