Client Update: SwimSmart Technology Receives BAF Grant

What is SwimSmart?

Jacob Soter was a student at Michigan Technological University (MTU) when he had an idea. Moving to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for college, Jacob was surrounded by the diverse environmental landscape of the U.P. and all it has to offer.  Outdoor recreation in Michigan goes hand-in-hand with beaches. Whether swimming, paddleboarding, surfing, or just relaxing on the shore- living in Michigan is a surefire way to include a beach in your go-to outdoor agenda. However, enjoying the Great Lakes come with an underlying danger to beach-goers in and outside of Michigan. With 108 drownings in the Great Lakes just in 2020, water safety is a critical component to tourism and outdoor recreation.

What if technology and meteorology could integrate to probe a safety feature aimed to prevent drownings and warn beach-goers of water dangers in real-time? Jacob’s purpose was to find out- and he did. After taking the SmartStart incubator course with MTEC SmartZone (MTEC), in Houghton, Mich., SwimSmart was born.

SwimSmart Warning Systems are a broad-band connected beach warning system with both hardwire and solar options, which aim to modernize and consolidate current shoreline safety solutions in one high-tech, sustainable platform to prevent drownings. The technology uses a multi-colored warning system to connect with the National Weather Service to create a safe and reliable environment in both community and remote beaches.

SwimSmart Technology Systems

SwimSmart's Start in Houghton

SwimSmart’s road to entrepreneurship began with MTEC while Jacob was a MTU student. Upon graduation, Jacob was able to focus on SwimSmart full-time.

“Before the SmartStart program, our "business" was merely advanced technology with no path to market. Partnering with the MTEC SmartZone allowed us to gain a better grasp on how we could actually commercialize our technology. Once I graduated, the MTEC SmartZone offered me a home with office space to continue working on SwimSmart full time. Along the way MTEC provided guidance, networking, and assistance with tasks such as applying for grants.”

With help of the MTEC team, SwimSmart has recently been approved for a Business Accelerator Fund (BAF) of $20,000 for continued development of the innovative swim-safety technology. BAF funding is attainable through the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) to qualifying business accelerators in the network.

Moving to Marquette: Innovate Marquette SmartZone

Jacob met Innovate Marquette SmartZone CEO Joe Thiel pitching SwimSmart at the TC Tech Virtual Event in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Needing a change of scenery and becoming fast-friends with Joe, Jacob decided Marquette was just the change of scenery he needed to fine-tune SwimSmart.

“Since then, I've been involved with the Marquette SmartZone, which has also provided me with a wealth of support - guidance, marketing, networking, grants, etc. The individuals in the Marquette SmartZone have been key to our success."

SwimSmart in Action

SwimSmart’s technology resembles a traffic light for beach-goers and provides peace-of-mind and guidance for indication on if it’s safe to swim and when you should stay out of the water. This summer, SwimSmart has been integrated to several Northern Michigan beaches including Manistee, Muskegon, and Frankfort as part of an initial pilot program introducing SwimSmart to the public. Additionally, the warning systems are set to be installed in the city of Ludington and Moran Township of Michigan and Racine County, Wisconsin.

SwimSmart Technology Systems

Making the U.P. Home

“I moved up to the UP for college and have lived up here my entire adult life. I love the people and the environment that the UP offers. The business community here in Marquette is working extremely hard to grow prosperity across the UP and I knew right away I wanted to play a role in it. The results definitely speak for itself.”

Creating a technology-rooted business from the ground up has been no easy feat for Jacob and his team. However, creating a business in the U.P. with a plethora of mentors, willing to put all-hands-on-deck, has made all the difference. With Michigan business resources and support in the water safety community, SwimSmart has some of Michigan’s best innovative minds in its corner.

Although Jacob just dreamt of creating a way to prevent drownings using technology as a college student in Northern Michigan, he has a community of leaders that believed in him to make his idea come to life, including, but not limited to:

To learn more about SwimSmart, check out their most recent feature in Crain’s Detroit News. 

Michigan SmartZones

What's to Come

Partnering with a manufacturer has been in the works for SwimSmart. Growing the team in the manufacturing realm will accelerate technology and allow SwimSmart to mass-produce advance, custom and attractive products and competitive prices. The team is also working with meteorologists and scientists around the United States to develop cutting-edge beach hazard forecasting and threat-detection technology.

Now that Jacob and SwimSmart have broken ground into Michigan beaches, he’s been in discussion with some of the largest and most dangerous beaches in AND outside of the U.S. in hopes of expanding his advanced water safety technique to greater depths.

“We are now leading the pack and steering the discussion on water safety. If we can maintain this momentum, I expect SwimSmart to experience explosive growth over the next few years.”

Check out Crain’s Detroit News’ article on the upper peninsula becoming a technology hub