Meet the Startups in Area 31: L8 Smartlight

Escrito el 16 octubre 2013 por entrepreneurship en emprender

Author: Angélica Medina

L8 Smartlight: the soundless speaker

In today’s world of smarthings and IOT (Internet of Things), any company has used just light as a primary communication/notification channel so far.

L8 Smartlight founders consider the L8’s disruptive offer as a revolution in this field. The device uses and applications are limitless!

The L8 SmartLight is a non-intrusive notification device that transforms information into light in the form of images and/or animations allowing the user to control the message, color, intensity and shape.

It’s conveniently controlled from a smartphone or computer through its own App based on a simple system of rules.

Raul Somaza, Co-founder of the company, tell us more about this innovative device.

Where did you get the idea?

The idea comes from three friends while they were performing a move.

Carlos has always been interested in topics related to utility of light: intensity, control of Turn Off and Turn On, notification and so on. The three share a passion for the internet of things. Consequently, they decide to join forces and undertake in this field.

The initial idea considers a device that had only two leds and proximity sensor. The idea of a matrix comes then when they realized huge potential of the device and the range of its uses: communicates, informs, reminds, alerts, surprises and illuminates, among others; so they began to raise it.

Afterward, they contacted other two engineers with expertise in electronic design and robotics, and as a team, L8 have evolved, adding more sensors; as well as an expert in marketing and online communication, who also is in charge of commercial expansion in USA.

How long have you been working on the idea?

We have been working on the idea since two years ago, but we started to develop the prototype about a year ago.

The project was launched on Kickstarter, a platform to raise funds, in June 2012 and the project successfully raised its funding goal on Aug 3, 2012.

We started the production in June 2012 and the mass production phase in July 2013. However, we have had some manufacturing issues which delayed the overall production process. The issues are related to hardware development: lack of pieces (stock) and exhaustive electronics assembly process.

How does it work?

You can control it with smartphone using a mobile application (Android and iOS) which allows you to set up rules to receive information from its sensors or inherit others from your smartphone, in order to make it light and assign a particular luminous signal on the device according to the preferences and rules parameterized. It also interacts with internet as social networks.

L8 has a full color Led matrix to display colors on one side and an ultra bright led on the other, a lithium battery, Bluetooth connection, USB port, and sensors (proximity, luminosity, temperature, sound and accelerometer).

Who are your current or potential competitors?

It has two kinds of competitors: As a lighting device level and devices with sensors (Internet of Things) and as SAS (Software as a Service) platform for gadget control, rules engine, Smartobject, API and SDK.

What features would provide further differentiation?

L8 provides features that differentiate it as a whole. It has different functions in a single device: social component, sensors and luminosity.

None of the competitors have an integrated device as L8.

It is not only a luminous device, but also it communicates. It is the way by which you express using luminous signal as a personal element.

What is your business model?

The company is responsible of production, sale and distribution processes.

L8’s team also invites others to co-work in the development of new applications, features or accessories in order to add new applications and functions to the L8’s experience. It is possible due to its open code (API and SDK).

Team believes on the evolution of internet of things, so they probably will work to build different formats, sounds features, etc.

What kinds of investors does the company have?

As I mentioned before, we raised funds in Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform.

It was sufficient to start mass production, but we are considering seeking for new funding to continue production process.

Do you have a prototype? How many iterations took it from the initial idea to the current product?

We have been working on three pre design devices to be sure about the viability of the project. Then, we have developed a prototype that has been evolving to achieve a perfect electronics assembly and final enclosure design as well as add new functionalities. In fact, some hardware changes are still in progress to create accessories.

We are working in an open design to allow L8’s community and followers create new apps, accessories and new ideas to use the lights of L8.

When will apps be available?

The first version is available and we are working on final version that expects to launch in November. We already produced 3.200 L8s and have 2.500 users.

What sales channels do you contemplate?

At the moment, we contemplate L8 Smartlight website as a main channel.

We have received requests from distributors to sale the product, but we believe that it is important to define and have a clear supply chain procedure as well as financials estimation of sales & distribution process before outsource the service.

What are the most difficult of the experience as entrepreneur?

Try to combine everything: hardware and software.

As I mentioned before, we have some issues with components of the hardware. It has delayed the production and we try to manage it with customers, especially backers who help us to raise the funds needed to production.

In your opinion, what are the most important personality traits to be a successful entrepreneur?

Determination and hard working.

Is there anything you would go back and do differently if you had the chance?

Yes, the product launch was in summer and we would choose a different moment to do that.

There were many issues or risk that we did not consider previously: problems with stock availability, delay distribution, among others.  However, it is part of the experience: learn and move forward.

No member of the team has quit their jobs, so it is complicated to find time to dedicate to the project. We had to use our free time and use ways to communicate and work: long emails, Skype, Area 31 meetings…

On the other hand, we did many good things:

  • We contacted social and traditional media (300 to 400) and made a good campaign targeting specific segments.
  • Crowdfunding was the best way to raise funds. We raised USD200.000 with an investment of USD 1.800. It was almost zero cost. We also use it as a communication tool to get feedback from potential customers. It was an input to develop prototypes and functionalities.

What advice would you like to give to potential entrepreneurs?

If you have a good idea and you are convinced about it, that nothing stop you.

Jump into the pool, overcome the fears.

If you work hard and are committed to the project, you can reach it!


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