Written by Jerred Ziegler.
Hikers, skiers and explorers know it’s imperative to have the right gear to protect yourself from the harsh winter elements. Oros revolutionized the outdoor apparel industry with their jackets made from NASA-inspired material, first developed to keep astronauts warm. Now, the company is expanding its product line to include hats, gloves and pants after raising $1.2 million that enabled Oros to bring on key team members to design, develop and market the new products.
“Winter warriors used to have to wear layer upon layer of bulky clothing that they could barely move in to stay warm,” said Michael Markesbery, Oros co-founder. “Our material, SolarCore, incorporates a thin layer of aerogel, which was developed by NASA to be the best insulator in the world, while also being extremely lightweight.”
Oros was able to advance their SolarCore material even further after a funding round led by NCT Ventures, a central Ohio partner of Ohio Third Frontier. Their apparel is only a few millimeters thick, and keeps wearers warm in temperatures as low as -50℉. Markesbery and his team engineered SolarCore by incorporating aerogel in a way that permits breathability and prevents overheating. And unlike traditional jackets or gloves stuffed with down feathers or filling, the thin material makes moving freely possible.
Markesbery is an adventurer at heart. While backpacking across Europe during college, he hiked the tallest mountain in the northeast Swiss Alps, Sȁntis. This led to the realization that staying warm can be a challenge. When he returned to school, Markesbery continued his research related to cancer treatments and won NASA’s Astronaut Scholarship, a competitive award given to promising engineering, science and mathematics students. That’s where he learned about, and became fascinated with, aerogel. Following a year and a half of research, Markesbery founded Oros with plans to introduce the material into the apparel industry.
Markesbery and Oros co-founder Rithvik Venna were accepted into The Brandery, an Ohio Third Frontier partner in southwest Ohio, where business mentors connected them with people and companies that helped them move forward. Markesbery said the connection made with the brand consulting firm Interbrand was particularly important because it helped them develop the company’s identity and create marketing materials.
Oros continues to push the limits of aerogel technology. The company’s newest insulated leggings, pullovers and rain jackets are their thinnest products yet, while still maintaining the level of insulation its products are known for. Markesbery says as the company continues to grow, support from the overall Cincinnati entrepreneurial community has given them a competitive edge.
“Everyone’s willing to offer advice or feedback whether you’re new to startups or you’re a well-seasoned entrepreneur, and that’s important as we continue to develop new products,” said Markesbery. “At Oros, we want to change the way people wear apparel. Our latest innovations bring us one step closer to our mission.”