Shark Tank's Mark Cuban ignites Dallas start-up Ilumi with cash infusion
To say that former UT Dallas MBA classmates Corey Egan and Swapnil Bora had a “light bulb moment” would be absolutely accurate. You may remember these entrepreneurs from our roundup of the 10 most exciting Dallas start-ups, who landed on the list for their easy-to-use LED lighting system that can be controlled from a smartphone app. They call it Ilumi.
The duo recently pled their case to investors on Shark Tank. Mark Cuban took a liking to the boys, and a deal was made. Cuban coughed up $350,000 for 25 percent of the company.
“It’s way more than a light bulb,” says co-founder Corey Egan. “It is a lighting system. It is an investment in your space like furniture or a sound system.”
The Ilumi guys were beyond thrilled that a hometown hero was ready to invest. But Egan admits the show, which was taped in September, was stressful.
“It’s happening, and it’s happening live, just as the viewers would see it,” Egan says. “You just kind of walk in, and it’s showtime. You know them, but they don’t know you or your business.”
Immediately after the show aired, Ilumi got a big boost in web traffic and sales. And this new funding has enabled Egan and Bora to hire employees who will help get the company where it needs to go. Plus they get to work with one of the most business-minded men in their city.
Back to the beginning
Noting the changes in consumer preferences and government mandates that were being rolled out for lighting, the two technology gurus came to the realization that Bluetooth combined with LED could change way people light their worlds. Their hunches were accurate: They entered and won a business ideas competition at UTD and were then sponsored at multiple national competitions.
The light bulbs are pretty simple to use; they screw in just like any bulb. After downloading the free app, users can adjust colors, brightness, temperature and overall lighting atmosphere.
Want lights to wake you up with the simulated sunrise effect? Done. How about lights that flash like a disco party? Done. Maybe you prefer lights that go on and off as you come and go from a room. They can do that too. And it’s all controlled from the app.
“Having Mark as a team member — who has such a great perspective in business and marketing — will allow us to make better decisions,” Egan says.
Ilumi sets itself apart from competitors — including Philips Hue, LIFX and Greenwave Reality — because it’s a simple yet versatile product paired with mature user experience. The best part: The lights are extremely energy efficient and will last up to 20 years. They cost $89-$99 per bulb — and if your eyes are bulging, just think about the benefits of their long-term use.
“The thing you have to realize is that it’s way more than a light bulb,” Egan says. “It is more like a lighting system. It is an investment that you will have in your space just like furniture or a sound system.”
Where the company goes from here
Right now you can order solely from the Ilumi website, but there are plans to expand distribution, due in large part to Cuban’s involvement.
“Having Mark as a team member — who has such a great perspective in business and marketing and can very easily make quick decisions and lend his expertise where he can — will allow us to make better decisions,” Egan says.
If you watch the show, you know that Cuban often thinks beyond the product being shown. Egan says having Cuban on board not only gives them the validation to broaden the product line but perhaps expand beyond lighting as well.
Speaking of new products, on the immediate horizon is a circadian rhythm lighting that can adjust light to synchronize to a person’s 24-hour clock.
“When people look into it, they will realize the importance that smart lightning has not only on creating a better atmosphere, but also how it can help the way they feel,” Egan says. “It’s a change in perspective, and people start to realize that, wow, this is something really interesting.”