SwimIng: How students from Munich are planning to revolutionize swimming goggles

The SwimIng team: Jonathan Roth, Johanna Wittekind, Heiko Knörzer, Alexander Schutig ©SwimIng
The SwimIng team: Jonathan Roth, Johanna Wittekind, Heiko Knörzer, Alexander Schutig ©SwimIng

Part 1 of our SwimIng series

„Swimmers go crazy when they see numbers appear in the display of their goggles“

Often, great ideas are born out of pure necessity. It was the same when Jonathan, engineering student at Technische Universität München, came back from his summer internship in California. The passionate swimmer was looking forward to do his laps again at the olympic swimming pool in Munich, which students can use for a small fee. During an event for Manage&More, a scholarship program of his university which supports students in the fields of entrepreneurship, he made acquaintance with Heiko, who is now his team leader in the project – and a passionate thrialete. Small talk soon became a productive discussion about swim training, challenging fellow swimmers and tracking the laps. The idea of SwimIng was born: swim googles displaying the current number of laps in the field of view of the swimmer.

MaketechX is supporting SwimIng during all stages of the project. In our blog, we are going to accompany the six passionate students who met during the Manage&More program and who now build the team of SwimIng on their journey from the very first idea until the creation of the prototype. We are going to document all the little steps that are necessary in order to make a vision a reality – the idea, the technical development, the teamwork, the funding, public relations, obstacles that might occur, and, of course, success. We are impressed how dedicated the students are already in those early days of the project and their conviction of the need for a tracking device that is able to display relevant data to the swimmer.

The team consists of six dedicated students: the engineers Heiko, Jonathan and Michael who are responsible for  the technical development of the prototype, industrial designer Sabrina, sports scientist  Francisca who knows a lot about the needs of athletes and Immanuel with his knowledge about Startups and finance. The project is backed by Red Bull and MaketechX.

In the first part of our blog series about SwimIng, we talked to Jonathan about the beginnings: the idea, the team, difficulties and first accomplishments in the early stages and why he barely eats at home anymore.

Jonathan, in which phase of the project are you right now?

Up to now, we mainly proved that there is a need for our technology, we got our first prototypes running as a proof of concept and we started our cooperation with Red Bull and MaketechX. We just enlarged our team quite a bit to boost our project. Currently, we’re working on improving the prototype, finishing the final product design, getting more insights about our customers and their needs and work out our business model. An additional goal for this semester is to know how much money we need to start production and where we can get it from.

What are the biggest difficulties that you are facing at the moment?

As just mentioned, four more people just joined the team. It’s really hard to make sure everybody has the same idea of what we’re doing here. In addition, we have to build a strong team spirit right now. On the other hand, we’re working really hard on improving our prototype. Even with smart technicians in our team, it’s hard to make Augmented Reality technology tiny, which is crucial to bring it into swim goggles.

…and your greatest success so far?

In February there was an internal Manage&More competition for the best startup project. We were really lucky to win this event with a convincing pitch. For me personally, I’m always excited to see people when they put on our swim goggles and go crazy when they see numbers appear in the display.  This makes me feel like it’s worth spending time on making this idea real and turning the prototype into a finished product.

What kind of feedback for SwimIng are you receiving?

The feedback is overwhelming! Everybody is encouraging is to keep up the project and some people offer great support. Getting feedback from others is very important to us as it helps to rethink our decisions and widen our horizon. Being strongly focused on just one thing sometimes results in ignoring the rest of the world. I love attending events, too! There’s always so much food there, I barely cook at home.

What is the next step?

In the near future, we’re going to build more versions of our prototypes in an iterative process. Cooperating with Red Bull Maketech makes it possible to use the MakeTechXLab. Pretty soon, we’re ready to test a waterproof prototype with a couple of swimmers and gain much more feedback.

How good a swimmer are you?

I’m far to slow at the moment. My goal is to be as fast as a friend of mine who once was a professional swimmer back in high school. I also enjoy swimming as it is a great opportunity to escape the tech world I’m surrounded by in university and focus on myself.

Swimmer with goggles

Swimmers are often lone wolves, SwimIng is a team project. What does teamwork mean for you?

As there’s so much going on around our project, we heavily rely on good teamwork. Teamwork for me is a lot about trust, power and fun. Let me quickly explain what I mean by these three things. Everybody in our team has his or her own field of responsibility. Due to lack of time and understanding, I can’t keep track of all the things the others are doing, whereas my work depends on the work that others do. This is why trusting my team members is so important.In my team, I feel stronger, safer and more powerful. This enables me to take high risks or make important decisions which is something I would never be brave enough to do without my team. Fun is a big part. Without our teambuilding events, working for SwimIng wouldn’t be as exciting as it is right now. It’s crucial to establish a good team spirit and to address difficulties openly and in a positive way. Having fun together brings us closer together and makes teamwork possible.

You will present at NEXT Berlin. Why should people come meet you there?

We’d be happy to let people try our goggles! In addition, we’re looking forward to meeting anybody who can support us with anything!

Jonathan, thank you for the interview.

Jonathan Roth is studying engineering sciences in the 6th semester at the Technische Universität München (TUM). He also is a scholarship holder of  Manage&More, an 18-month coaching program for startup-founders. Besides his studies and his SwimIng project, Jonathan is part of the university’s Baseball-team, plays the violin in the student orchestra – and is a passionate swimmer, of course.