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Shining Light On A New Bulb

LIFX Kickstarts new product right to retail

October 2, 2013 By Danielle Beurteaux
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Light bulbs haven’t changed much in the 175 years since their invention, but that hasn’t been for lack of trying. From LEDs to CFLs, innovators have tried to create environmentally sustainable and cost-effective bulbs that are also a hit with consumers. A recent entrant in the field is LIFX, an LED bulb with built-in Wi-Fi that users can control via a smart phone app. The light bulb’s brightness, color and schedule are customizable.
 
The story of Melbourne, Australia-based LIFX begins with a meeting of two minds: One, co-founder and director Andrew Birt, ran a small-cap investment fund that gave seed money to startups. The other, co-founder and CEO Phil Bosua, was an electrician and musician with experience in theatrical lighting. “The more we got to talking about it, the more I realized Phil knew his stuff on this idea,”  Birt said. “It’s taking something we’ve all taken for granted for so long and applied modern thinking to it.”
 
They launched the project on Kickstarter. No marketing campaign or outreach, just a solid and engaging Kickstarter script because, from Bosua’s experience, that was key to getting project backers. The team took the Kickstarter route because it gives quick access to a lot of people and their feedback. “We wanted some market validation and Kickstarter is sort of the perfect place for that,” Birt said.
 
Within minutes of launching, backers started signing up. LIFX was one of the quickest and best-funded campaigns in Kickstarter history. The goal was $100,000; it raised over $1.3 million. “People like new fresh brands,” Birt said. “It’s exciting to be part of the new wave of indie hardware.”
 
They stopped the campaign after 60 days—an obligation of 25,000 units—as they were concerned about over-committing, especially with the initial product run, which they knew would likely encounter hurdles and schedule changes along the way.
 
The first bulbs ($79 each) shipped in September, and the second rollout is scheduled for October. LIFX also signed on with an international network of 30 distribution partners, all who carry big name CE brands.
 
 “One of the things they say about CE startups is the hardest thing is to build a distribution network,” Birt said. “For us, it’s been the opposite, it’s been working out who is the ideal partner in each market.”
 

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