- John George Senior Reporter- Philadelphia Business Journal
Clear Gear Inc., a Montgomery County company that has developed and markets a ready-to-use disinfectant and deodorizing spray for athletic equipment and gear, raised $1 million in a private stock sale.
Gary Ackerman, president of the 4-year-old Norristown, Pa., firm, said the money is being used to add territory managers for southern California, New England and the Carolinas.
Clear Gear — whose more than 500 customers include professional sports teams, colleges, high schools along with police and fire departments — previously focused its sales efforts along the East Coast from New York to Maryland.
Cities targeted for future expansion, Ackerman said, include Houston, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco.
Ackerman sold his first company, a mobile technology marketing firm called M3 Mobile, to GSI Commerce in 2011. Terwilliger was M3 Mobile’s general manager and counsel. Tracanna was previoulsy an entrepreneur in the mortgage banking and real estate management industries.
Tracanna’s bout with an infection led to the formation of Clear Gear and the Clear Gear disinfectant spray.
“A strep infection had entered his body through his ice hockey equipment,” Ackerman said. “He had played in four hockey tournaments the weekends before. He would play in one tournament, pack up his gear and put it back on at the next tournament. In that cold and wet environment in his equipment bag, bacteria had built up on his equipment.”
The two talked about how there was no easy-to-use disinfectant for sports equipment, so, with Terwilliger’s help, they set out to fill that void.
“None of us had scientific backgrounds, but we threw ourselves into it,” Ackerman said.
Nine months of intensive research and development led to the creation of the Clear Gear germ-killing spray.
Ackerman said Clear Gear has other attributes that differentiate from other commercial disinfectants. He noted Clear Gear is water-based and dries within 10 minutes, and it is not corrosive to pads, helmets, mats and training equipment on which it is sprayed.
Ackerman said the company markets the product three ways. Its sales staff calls on potential customers such as sports teams, colleges and fire and police departments. People can buy the spray directly through the company’s web site (cleargearspray.com). Clear Gear also has deals with sporting goods retailers, such as Schuylkill Valley Sports, that carry the spray.
The company’s customers include the New York Giants, the Brooklyn Nets, the Houston Astros, the University of Delaware, Widener University, Cabrini College and the Spring-Ford Area and Souderton school districts.
The New York Giants ended up as a customer thanks to former offensive lineman David
Diehl, who is an investor in Clear Gear. Diehl said he heard about the company through a friend and fellow investor who met Ackerman during a trip to the Bahamas.
“I’ve been part of the Clear Gear team since day one,” Diehl said. “As a professional athlete, I’ve seen firsthand what happens when people get staph infections. We had one player, [center] Shaun O’Hara, develop a staph infection and he missed several games and lost 40 pounds.
“There’s a lot of dangerous stuff floating around locker rooms that you don’t think about,” he said “I don’t get involved [in investing] in anything I don’t use and support myself. For me this was a home run.”
Diehl has not been merely a silent partner in the venture.
“He helped come up with the scent for the product,” Ackerman said.