JKU Expertise: AIRMATE – Protecting Children from Drowning

Is studying worth it? It’s a resounding “Yes!” by company creator Melissa Leibetseder.

Melissa Leibetseder; Photo credit: personal
Melissa Leibetseder; Photo credit: personal

In Austria, drowning is one of the top causes of death for children age 5 and under. A brand-new start-up company involving participation by a JKU graduate aims to help reduce the risk and hazards of drowning. We spoke with Melissa Leibetseder, a graduate of Chemistry and Chemical Technologies at the JKU, about the new start-up company and a new “kick-starter campaign” to fund the project starting at the end of June.

How did you come up with the idea to create your new business?
Melissa Leibetseder: A 4-year-old nearly drowned at a lake close by to us in Feldkirchen and that sparked ideas to find ways to make swimming in pools or lakes safer for children. We began working on developing a rescue T-shirt that children can wear comfortably while playing and once the shirt comes into contact with water, it will automatically inflate.

What are some of the biggest challenges when starting a new company?
Melissa Leibetseder: In addition to the great amount of responsibility, creating the company proved to be challenging for me personally as I needed to learn more about the business side of it all. In regard to the product development process, getting certification has been challenging as we cannot do this in Austria and we have to resort to doing it in other countries. We are also still currently applying for the patent and this is very important for us.

How has your degree in chemical technologies at the JKU helped you with your project?
Melissa Leibetseder: Everything I learned during my studies helped me greatly, particularly when it came to applying for a patent and developing the product. My background in physical and chemical chemistry was pivotal, not only in support of product development - especially in the field of materials sciences in an effort to develop the release mechanism and design flotation -  but also in terms of ideas and understanding the involved production process.

How else did the JKU provide support?
Melissa Leibetseder: The JKU provided strong entrepreneurial support. I not only made good contacts, I even held a presentation to share my personal experience about creating a company. In addition, and as part of our project, we are also collaborating with the JKU and getting the support we need to develop and execute the release mechanism.

Would you recommend the degree program to others?
Melissa Leibetseder: Despite some organizational challenges during my studies, I would definitely never want to miss the experience and I learned a great deal. I would do it again and I recommend the program to others. What I enjoyed most at the JKU was the personal relationships with fellow students and with professors, meaning here at the JKU you are not just a number, but everyone works well together and enjoys it, interacting often on a more personal level.

What kind of advice would you give students interested in starting their own business?
Melissa Leibetseder: I would definitely recommend taking the plunge and just going for it! I also recommend taking business subjects as part of the autonomous coursework requirements. This way you can address any uncertainties about the business aspect right from the start.

About Melissa Leibetseder

Melissa Leibetseder, 22, lives in Bad Mühllacken. In addition to working at AirMate, she volunteers at her local fire department.