Portrait

Ideas are in the air

Pure Swiss Air in tins – how a startup bottles up fresh air from the Jungfraujoch and sells it for 15.–.

Pure Swiss Air in tins – how a startup bottles up fresh air from the Jungfraujoch and sells it for 15.–.

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The startuppers behind Pure Swiss Air (from left to right): Joris Verweij, Valeria Bianchi and Konstantin Leidenberger.

Are you serious?
Valeria Bianchi, Co-Founder Pure Swiss Air: «At first, we just wanted to sell the tins as a souvenir. It was a gag. But we soon realised that the need of bottled up fresh air exists – unfortunately. There are actually people that can’t just walk out the door and breathe clean air like we can in Switzerland.»

I’m sitting in front of Valeria Bianchi, Joris Verweij and Konstantin Leidenberger – the three founders of Pure Swiss Air. They all are in their early twenties. They all are students. And: They are busy. We meet them in between several appointments. Their second production stage is in full swing. And this time, they will be producing a lot more than when the trio started working on their project less than a year ago. Seems like business is going well. But who buys their invention (and I am curious how they will sell the air to me):

Joris Verweij: «Like Valeria said, first, we thought the bottles would be an ironic souvenir for tourists. We got the idea, contacted the Jungfraubahnen and asked for their permission to sell the air up there under their name. And right after we founded our online-shop in May 2016, people started to order from Peking and Shanghai, before we even had the time to market the product.»

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On top of the Jungfraujoch the particulate matter (g/m^3) scores almost 0%.

When did you get the idea?
Valeria Bianchi: «We got the idea during our assessment phase at the university. We actually should have been studying … but we didn’t. I stumbled onto an online-article about a guy who wanted to make a statement against the extreme air pollution in China with clean chinese mountain air in cola cans. Within two weeks, he’d already sold over eight million cans. And we thought: Since the air over here is even fresher, this would definitely work with Swiss air as well.»

And the freshest air blows over the Jungfraujoch?
Joris Verweij: «Yes. With scales that measure the air index, we compared different locations all over the country, to determine where the amount of particulate matter is the lowest. On the Jungfraujoch it scores almost 0%. In Peking, the scores are around 80% on average, which is the definition of harmful atmospheric pollution.»

So, your target audience is in Asia?
Valeria Bianchi: «Yes, especially in India and China. New Delhi is the town most affected by air pollution on the planet. And in China, this problem also is omnipresent. In Winter 2016, people in Hong Kong weren’t even allowed to leave their houses because of the pollution. The government had to declare a state of emergency.»

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In Peking it’s called wumai: A cloud of Smog out of sulfur dioxide and dust particles is formed during still air and high humidity (Getty Images).

It is quite paradox to transport fresh air on a plane which pollutes the air to Asia.
Valeria Bianchi: «Of course, this is a critical point, but we are aiming to keep our company’s carbon footprint as low as possible. We use the public mountain railway to get to the Jungfraujoch. The cans are recyclable. And we prefer to use maritime cargo transport.»

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23 CHF for approximately 50 breaths of air.

Konstantin Leidenberger: «A more environmentally-friendly packaging method than the cans we currently use is not available yet. We have to make sure that the air isn’t changed while being preserved. Although research is working on it, new methods are not conclusive enough for a different solution yet. But we are very concerned about these issues.»

How do you «fill» the air into the bottles?
Valeria Bianchi: «The three of us drove up the Jungfraujoch. A guy who helped us with this task used a compressor to fill some oxygen bottles. Then a company in Germany transferred the air from the oxygen bottles into the cans.»

Joris Verweij: «We’re currently looking for a factory in Switzerland to do this going forward. We want our product to be 100% Swiss made.»

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This is how the magic happens (Konstantin and Joris on the Jungfraujoch).

What’s next?
Joris Verweij: «We submitted our idea to the Swiss Startup Factory. They helped us to establish a business plan and to develop a network. In May of this year, we will travel to China. We were able to register our company at the SwissWeek Shanghai 2017 conference. This gives us the opportunity to officially launch Pure Swiss Air in Asia. And therefore, we have to be ready: we are planning to produce a much larger number of bottles than we did at the beginning. Our target is 60’000 bottles.
We also developed a mask, which ensures that no air is lost while breathing, and it enables the user to constantly take deep breaths for approximately 50 minutes with a bottle that contains eight liters of pure swiss air.»

What leaves you breathless?
Valeria Bianchi: «Stress.»
Joris Verweij: «To create something of our own – parallel to our studies.»
Konstantin Leidenberger: «I think we have enough power for the long haul. Maybe once we have sold enough bottles of air, that achievement will take our breath away … .»

One comment

  1. Nice article and great concept! All the best to the three of you and please make sure there’ll remain enough fresh air for us in Europe 😉

    Like

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