Los Altos Hills, California: He reinvented the light bulb, plans to soon unveil a reinvented light switch, and now Australian entrepreneur Phil Bosua has caught the attention of one of Silicon Valley’s biggest venture capital firms.

Entrepreneur and chief executive officer of LIFX, Phil Bosua, sits outs his company's pool image www.sciencearticlesonline.com

On Monday, his start-up LIFX raised $US12 million ($12.7 million) from funds led by Sequoia Capital to turn his Wi-Fi connected smart switch idea into reality.

Speaking to Fairfax Media, Bosua, 40, said his company would use the money to grow, expand globally, and work on the new light switch for homes that could also be used for other things, such as changing the volume of music, and opening and closing blinds.

The latest investment — which also counts with money from Bevan Clark and Guy King, Australian angel investors and co-founders of coupon website RetaiMeNot — brings LIFX’s total funding to $US16.6 million ($17.6m). It also sees Sequoia partner Omar Hamoui join the start-up’s board.

Asked whether it meant he was now a millionaire, the software developer who has previously built over 600 apps, laughed, replying “on paper, maybe”.

LIFX light-bulb looks like image www.sciencearticlesonline.com

Bosua’s company is known for selling the LIFX, a Wi-Fi enabled, multi-colour, energy efficient LED light-bulb that can be controlled with an iPhone or Android smartphone. The device costs $129 in Australia, and so far the company has shipped over 100,000 of them around the world.

Although he wouldn’t detail the smart switch being worked on in detail, Bosua described what it would look like.

“It will be circular and mount on the wall with three m-strips or via a magnetic mounting plate,” Bosua said at his company’s rented out mansion on 24,300-square metres of land in Los Altos Hills in Silicon Valley. It has its own playground, tennis court and pool and counts billionaires, wild coyotes and deers as neighbours.

“It will give you full functional control over your LIFX bulbs and also have an open [application programming interface] so [that developers can make apps that] turn the light switch into a volume control for a Sonos speaker. It could also open and close blinds and alert you if someone’s at your door,” Bosua added.

He says the end product will have rechargeable batteries that last between six and 12 months, and use Wi-Fi to connect to light-bulbs and other devices in  the home, reducing the cost of traditional copper wiring.

“If you were building a new house you would save almost 50 per cent on copper costs just because you’re not running wires down to switches,” Bosua said.

The entrepreneur, who regularly commutes between Silicon Valley and Melbourne, where his wife and kids are based, said a chunk of the money raised would go towards hiring engineers, marketing, and sales people to help “create the best Internet of Things company in the world”.

Internet of Things is a term used to describe the growing number of devices connected to the internet – from ATMs and toothbrushes to light-bulbs.

Despite his facination with the category, Bosua said he had no plan to make other gadgets.

“We want to the be the best smart light company in the world – and lighting is a huge market.

“I think it would be irresponsible to not focus on a market this size… There’s 5.8 billion light sockets in the US alone. So why would we focus anywhere else?”

LIFX light-bulb and app image www.sciencearticles.com

Skeptics

Bosua has come a long way since launching the smart light-bulb via a crowd-funding campaign in September, 2012 .

It raised just over $US1.3 million, was delayed for several months, and attracted disapproval from financial journalist Felix Salmon,

who called it vapourware

“If the LIFX bulb ever ships, it’s going to be a gimmicky disappointment at best,” Salmon wrote. “The ‘white’ light won’t be warm and rich, the illumination will come out in clumps rather than being even, the bulb will hum when it’s dimmed, the electronics will fail in the heat.”

LIFX eventually shipped and the complaints weren’t as bad. Most centred around the light-bulb not doing what Bosua said it would do in the original video, like flash for a tweet or Facebook notification.

Bosua said a new app and cloud product would enable more features in the next two months.

There “was probably some legitimacy” to critics’ concerns because LIFX was “attempting to make the world’s best lightbulb” despite never having made a light-bulb before and having no engineering experience, he said.

“But as is the nature of innovation, resourcefulness, grit and determination, we got there … and made something a lot better than we had originally anticipated.”

He wouldn’t disclose how much equity Sequoia Capital and other received as part of the funding round, and refused to say is he remained majority shareholder. “It’s a complex question,” he said.

The US-based company can now hire some 40 people to help it grow, he said. At the moment, seven of the 25 staff reside in the US, with the rest in Melbourne, Australia.

Henry Sapiecha

THE LAND DOWN UNDER PRODUCES SOME GREAT NEW INVENTIONS BY GREAT IMAGINATIVE MINDS

An Australian entrepreneur has developed a reimagined light bulb that can last for 25 years and be controlled by smartphone – and in two days he’s raised more than $600,000 on crowd-funding website Kickstarter to make it come to life.

Phil Bosua of Ferny Creek in Melbourne, 38, a father of two, is the creator of LIFX, a Wi-Fi enabled, multi-colour, energy efficient LED light-bulb that you can control with your iPhone or Android smartphone.

LIFX can not only be turned on and off using a smartphone, but can also have its colour and brightness changed. It can also be programmed to be turned on at certain times and can even be set to match the beat of a song, as well as react to notifications on a smartphone like those from Twitter and Facebook and flash a certain colour.

Phil Bosua.
Phil Bosua, inventor and co-founder of LIFX.

Speaking with Fairfax Media from New York, where Bosua is “learning how entrepreneurship works in America”, he said the idea to re-invent the light-bulb came to him about six months ago when a friend relayed a frustration to him concerning renovating.

“Basically a friend of mine was sort of saying that they wished that they could have a wireless [light-bulb] switch in their home because they were renovating and didn’t want to cut up their brick wall to run a wire down it,” Bosua said. “And he basically asked me [what I could do about it], because he sort of knew that I was the inventive type.

“I said, ‘Well, actually, I think there’s something in that. I think it would be possible to connect your smartphone to your lights. [And] it really just grew from that.”’

LIFX allows you match your lighting with your mood.
LIFX allows you to match your lighting with your mood.

He said LIFX light-bulbs can last up to 25 years and used up to 50 to 80 per cent less energy than light-bulbs currently used by many households and said this was one of the reasons why he wanted to get his project off the ground, as he thought that current light-bulbs “didn’t represent the smart culture of our day and our eco-aware sensibilities”.

But he never expected the project, which began as a weekend hobby, to reach more than $500,000 on its second day of crowd-funding, surpassing the $100,000 goal he set on it (just over $500,000 was pledged this morning and by this afternoon it had reached $600,000). The minimum pledge, which more than 900 backers have chosen, costs $US69 and gets the backers one LIFX light-bulb, which includes shipping to Australia, Canada or the US.

“Wow. That was my first reaction,” Bosua said when seeing how much had been pledged by the more than 3900 backers on the Kickstarter website as of this morning.

You can also visualise your music using LIFX.
You can also visualise your music using LIFX.

“I’m glad that this project resonated with people as much as it resonated with me,” he said.

As well as working on his project to re-invent the light-bulb, which now has six co-founders, Bosua runs a successful iPhone and iPad app-making business called LimeMouse and is also working on a project called RefreshHQ to make brand’s Facebook feeds more engaging. He’s also been involved in two other Kickstarter projects, one of which raised $184,499 earlier this year to build a portable scanning box that uses a smartphone’s camera to take high-quality scans.

He said one of the most successful apps he had developed through LimeMouse was a Gray’s Anatomy e-book designed for people like medical students or others interested in the human body.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha