When Michigan State chemistry graduate Austin Piwinski and his friend Jason Lees went to Florida as students on spring break, they ran into a common problem for videographers and people who wear glasses alike — foggy lenses.
“Austin has always been really big into videography and photography," Lees said. "We noticed a lot of our shots were being ruined by water droplets, and so we looked online for a solution for that and there wasn’t anything available. So, the product was really born out of a personal need for us, for the problems we were having.”
From there, the two co-founders started Clarifii through the Spartan Innovation program. Originally, the company sold a water repellent formula that helped photographers keep their lens clear in the rain or near bodies of water.
Clarifii created the Optic Defogger, a formula that coats glasses and prevents them from fogging, in December. The product has seen a rapid increase in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The way that you repel water, or how fog repellents work, is they essentially collect water together and uniformly dissipate it across a surface," Piwinski said. "So, when you breathe, you’re releasing water vapor from your mouth, nose, etc. and that water vapor ends up sticking to the lens of your glasses. What we do is take that water vapor and evenly apply it across the lens. What that does is it essentially makes it invisible to the human eye.”
Initially, the company struggled with finding a formula that was effective and safe to use on all surfaces without damaging them.
“We originally started advertising towards action cameras because that was the industry we were in,” Lees said. “A lot of people used to use Rain-X, but the alcohols in Rain-X are actually pretty damaging to your cameras.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in early March, Clarifii had their on-site workers who package and send out orders work from home, Piwinski said. Most of the team, including Piwinski and Lees, already worked remotely.
The co-founders said that one of their goals is to help the community get through the COVID-19 pandemic by providing essential workers with products they need.
“We’ve seen the need for the product increase a lot,” Lees said. “When people are wearing masks and also eyewear, when they breathe if they don’t have a professional grade mask that is fitted to their face, their air is going to fog up their glasses. ... We’ve been sending some out to healthcare workers and we’ve also been sending out some sanitizer to front-line workers as well.”
In addition to selling the Optic Defogger, after the shift to remote work, Clarifii began donating the product to essential workers and businesses around the country through their HERO program.
“Things were just happening so fast,” Piwinski said. “For a small business like ours, it’s chaos."
The HERO program is just another way for Clarifii to give back to those who need it so that the community can get through this pandemic, Lees said.
“We want to give back to those people who are on the front lines,” Lees said. “It’s important that people’s work get recognized, and I think, especially now, people will go about their day and they’re not thinking about how they’re putting themselves at risk. They’re just thinking about how they can help other people. We just want to make sure that people have the necessary tools to be able to safely treat other people, be able to see and make sure their glasses aren’t fogging up, and just make sure they are able to do their job efficiently to help us get through this crisis.”