Proven by Frasier, a successful spinoff happens when the right product is introduced at the right time. Moving from the working-class shenanigans of Cheers to the upper crust hijinks of a radiotherapist may seem like an unlikely leap, but history has borne stranger fictions than the sitcom’s popularity. Lighting retrofit expert Aelux made a much more natural move: spinning off its backroom in the form of Lumigent. Poised for success, Lumigent is positioning itself as the answer to a company’s lighting problems that it didn’t know it had. A portmanteau of “luminance” and “intelligent,” the startup splintered off in April 2013 in order to bring smart lighting solutions to the entire industry. And Lumigent wants to raise the bar for everyone—even former competitors.
To bring its standards-lifting product to the entire marketplace, Lumigent had to break free from Aelux. More than just a move to avoid the possibility of a conflict of interest, Lumigent appeared to have a market-transforming product that could stand on its own. According to Lumigent, the software already in the marketplace was severely underpowered; many companies simply relied on spreadsheets and their own knowledge to create lighting proposals. What Lumigent offers is software that makes lighting specifications and report-generation quick and easy so that building owners can more easily understand the benefits of implementing an energy-efficient lighting and controls project.
An ‘Aha’ Moment
Before Lumigent officially became its own company, Skip Pasternak, the founder of both Aelux and Lumigent, spent six years developing this software for Aelux. Slowly he realized it could be its own entity. The software began as a simple, Web-based audit collection platform that morphed into a comprehensive “audit-to-proposal” program with analysis that includes a description of product specs, proposed retrofits for each area, and the corresponding impact on energy reduction, cost savings, subsidies, and tax benefits.
“At the risk of sounding boastful,” Pasternak says, “we were frequently told by customers that our proposals were the best they’d seen, with an ability to translate extensive data points into an easy-to-understand format. That was our ‘aha’ moment.” With the market potential for energy-efficient retrofits being as vast as it was, Pasternak and his team spent much of 2010 and 2011 making the software scalable for commercial deployment so that other stakeholders in the renovation or retrofit market could benefit from their experience.
Lumigent is product agnostic, offering only the best, vetted lighting solutions and technologies available. Because lighting is at times the “low-hanging fruit” in green buildings, many of the technological advancements have happened at breakneck speed. Staying an expert in the field can prove to be time-consuming and costly, but Lumigent strives to turn its clients into instant experts.
An All-Powerful Program
Aelux needed something that could take audit information and give back a sophisticated output quickly as salespeople were spending most of their time crafting proposals. After investing more than a million dollars into the project that would become Lumigent’s raison d’être, the team created an interface that allowed salespeople or companies to input audit data, take a handful of pictures, and then let the program do the heavy lifting. The program translates that basic information and generates a proposal that includes rebates from local utilities, product pricing, and labor costs. In lighting projects, especially retrofits, the cost of waiting can be immense, so by streamlining this process and saving time for client companies, Lumigent can produce a significant and instant payback.
Lumigent is looking beyond its software. By breaking off the whole Aelux backroom, it brought its staff, expertise, and processes so that now even Aelux is a client of Lumigent. In addition to the software, Lumigent is offering services in packages or à la carte in order to serve a variety of markets. That could mean Lumigent takes care of rebate paperwork or goes so far as taking on the rebate risk itself and reducing the project cost off the top. Or Lumigent may help coordinate installation or even perform the initial audit.
By offering such diverse services, Lumigent is hoping to attract a wide range of clients, from electrical distributors who want to keep a local contractor base without needing to have a specialized department to big energy-service companies that have their own internal lighting departments but struggle with keeping up on industry changes and trends. Lumigent also sees the possibility of helping companies with large portfolios where facilities managers can be trained on how to enter audits using the system in a sort of Lighting 101 training.
An Unknown Solution
“We had built the software for ourselves,” says Emily Schapira, Aelux’s vice president of marketing and business development, “and we realized this was simply good software that lots of people could use, so we put it into the marketplace.” That software is constantly being refined and updated. In the coming months, a tablet version of the application will take the cloud-based software offline in the event that sites aren’t equipped with reliable networks. Although Lumigent continues to grow and expand on its core concept, it is still looking to carve out its niche. It had a presence at 2013’s Lightfair, but hopes to create a bigger splash this year.
“Frankly, we have a solution not everyone knows they need,” Schapira says. “They know they have this problem, but they don’t know how to solve it, so they just look for the traditional, cumbersome solutions. We’re putting something into the marketplace that people don’t even know to search for.” When companies finally look for the answer to their lighting problem, Lumigent will be there to light the way.