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Start-up Funding WaterFit receives EXSIST Start-Up Grant

With the idea of developing a virtual home swimming trainer, an interdisciplinary team of young entrepreneurs successfully applied for an EXSIST Start-Up Grant with the support of the transfer agency hei_INNOVATION. The 12-month funding period began on 1March 2022, in which the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) supports the WaterFit team  in implementing  their start-up project with funding of €123,000.

The aim of the start-up project is to provide pool owners with a virtual swimming trainer that increases the user’s motivation and integrates swimming into everyday life - as a sport that is easy on the joints, while at the same time improving health and fitness. The WaterFit system uses artificial intelligence to analyse and measure the swimming technique and can thus provide recommendations to improve it. In addition to the use of AI, the WaterFit system also has advantages over the classic counter-current system, such as precise performance analysis, noise reduction and electricity cost savings.

The idea for WaterFit was first developed by Jonathan Weinert, an electrical engineer. In his work for a swimming pool technology company, he repeatedly observed that a large number of private pool owners lose their motivation to swim after a short period of time. In many cases, the reason for this is to be found in the stagnation of the swimmer’s performance, which is caused by incorrect execution of the swimming movement. In order to enable effective, goal-oriented and individualised swim training for the private pool, Jonathan Weinert developed the WaterFit system together with Pascal Perle, a computer science engineer, and Nicola Kretzer, a master's student in sports and mathematics - both from the University of Heidelberg.

The aspiring entrepreneurs were supported in the development of their start-up project by hei_INNOVATION, the transfer agency of Heidelberg University. The team first developed their idea into a valid and scalable business model in the STARTUP LAB by hei_INNOVATION, Following the four-week programme, the transfer agency's start-up consultancy supported the team in applying for the EXSIST Start-Up Grant. “hei_INNOVATION prepared us in the best possible way for the EXIST application. Everyone involved was extremely helpful and supported us at all times. Our special thanks go to Bartosz Kajdas, who worked with us day and night on the application and believed in our idea,” Jonathan Weinert explains.

WaterFit's next steps - supported by the start-up grant - are to develop an app and train the AI of the swim trainer so that it can be made available to the first pilot customers. After a successful test phase, the WaterFit team aims to found a company. The administration of the project funding will be taken over by the Institute for Sport and Sport Science (ISSW) and Prof. Dr. Simon Steib will support the team as a mentor and expert advisor in the future

In the future, the website waterfit.app will show all steps of the project and explain the current status with pictures and videos.

The EXSIST Start-Up Grant supports university graduates, scientists and students throughout Germany in preparing their technology-oriented and knowledge-based start-ups. The EXIST funding programme is financed by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action.