Canadian startup Neverfrost gets green light from trucking industry

The concept was imagined by four University of Waterloo students who were stunned by Canada’s harsh winters after they immigrated from warmer climates.“All of the sudden you’re stuck in this refrigerator,” said Mr. Desai, who moved from India. “Your parents are busy trying to put food on your table, so they’re like, ‘Go scrape.’”After too many icy mornings, Mr. Desai and three classmates put their heads together for a fourth-year design project and came up with a spray that prevented frost when you applied it to a windshield.The idea quickly resonated with their peers, winning the People’s Choice and Most Innovative Product awards at a Waterloo technology competition in mid-2013. Within months, the creators were pushing forward with tests that helped them realize that a spray which needed to be buffed on to windows was too labour intensive in the cold of winter.So they returned to the drawing board to craft a more practical version of Neverfrost. It was about the same time that Mr. Desai and co-founder Chong Shen got serious about the startup, with Mr. Desai turning down a full-time job at Facebook and Mr. Shen putting off his plans for grad school.When two other co-founders from the original school project stepped away, Mr. Desai and Mr. Shen were left to lead the company during a pivotal stage in its growth in early 2014.Neverfrost had been chosen for the prestigious Y-Combinator investment program, a funding launchpad based in Silicon Valley that helped Dropbox and Airbnb get off the ground. The program invests US$120,000 into promising tech companies in exchange for a 7% equity stake, and tosses the founders into a rigorous industry bootcamp.Once in California, it didn’t take long for the pair to start calling U.S. trucking companies to make a case for why their fleets would be the perfect guinea pigs for an idea that was still in its infancy.The most effective sales tactic came when the co-founders met with a trucking executive and demonstrated the film’s resistance to the impact of stone chips. They pulled out a sling shot and fired a steel pellet at a truck windshield. The impact was negligible.“He could not believe it, and signed a pay pallet on the spot,” Mr. Desai said.This year, the founders will be focused on the final development of the film before it’s released to the trucking industry next fall. A small roll out will begin at some car dealerships, with a plan for a bigger expansion into the consumer market. Neverfrost will add eight people to its five-person staff this year.Mr. Desai said he wants to maintain Neverfrost as a Canadian operation, rather than shopping it around to large foreign buyers. “We started out with this big vision,” he said.“It would be a shame if we gave up halfway through if a cheque came around.” WATERLOO, Ont. — Fed up with the dismal winter ritual of chiselling ice off their car windows, a group of engineering students from Waterloo, Ont. came up with a way to ensure they never have to scrape another windshield again.What began as university project 2½ years ago to solve a pet peeve has evolved into Neverfrost, a startup that’s developed a transparent film for vehicle windows to prevent frost and deflect harsh elements such as snow and freezing rain.The concept has grabbed the attention of the trucking industry and its founders are so confident in Neverfrost’s future that one of them brushed off a job at Facebook and another sidelined plans for grad school, to chase their dreams of making the ice scraper obsolete.“Cars have been around for a century, but this problem hasn’t been fixed,” said Khanjan Desai, one of the creators of Neverfrost.“It was something so practical and we felt every winter morning we never had a solution.”Neverfrost isn’t the first company to want to eliminate frost. Anti-freeze developer Prestone sells chemical sprays that create a “resilient barrier” between glass and the outside world, but critics say it also puts a greasy film on the windshield.Drivers have even struggled with their own household remedies. Online resources suggest creative approaches that range from spraying a mixture of vinegar and water on your windshield to rubbing a raw onion on it.Neverfrost hopes to vault all of the alternatives with a patented, transparent film permanently applied to the outside of a vehicle’s windows. The film incorporates nano technology, or the manipulation of objects on a molecular level, to prevent the windshield surface from reaching the conditions necessary for condensation and temperatures low enough to freeze.Neverfrost also claims to be resistant to the impact of stones and insulates the vehicle cabin from outside elements, including lessening the scorching heat of the summer sun, its founders said.“There’s no comparison in the world today because these are new materials we’re building,” Mr. Desai said. “These things haven’t existed before.”Hannah Yoon/The Canadian Press

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