Luna Lights is a bright new company founded by Donovan Morrison and Matt Wilcox whilst they both studied engineering degrees at Northwestern University. They are currently rolling out an automated lighting system that utilises cloud based analytics to reduce the risk of falling for the elderly. Luna Lights initially started off as a project in the Design for America programme at Northwestern but they soon saw that it had the potential to be something great that could impact many lives in the process. They are focused on promoting health, happiness, and independence for older adults.
1) What were you up to before Luna Lights?
Honestly outside of school Luna Lights has been what we’ve mainly focused on for the past 3.5 years. The idea was born out of Design For America’s Summer Studio program in 2012, the summer before our Junior year at Northwestern University. We worked on it for the next couple of summers before starting to work on it full-time after graduating in 2014. We’re still relatively young as Matt and I are both 24, so other than Luna Lights I’ve done a bit of private tutoring and Matt has done some user experience and product design but that’s about it.
2) What inspired you to start Luna Lights?
The effects of falling. I began to see the impact that it had on lives of our grandparents and what a toll they took both physically and emotionally on not only them but on our extended family and our own parents. As well as speaking with others I began to get a better feeling for exactly how big of an issue falls are. They are the number one cause of injury on older adults. Pretty much everyone has had an experience with a loved one who has suffered from a fall at one point or another. It was one where through talking with our grandparents we found that it was something that we all recognised as being a big issue, but there was nothing currently being offered that had been implemented to address it. We wanted to see if we could create something that would help keep individuals like our grandparents safe at night but would also be something that they actually wanted to use. That is why we created Luna Lights.
3) What have you found to be the biggest setback in your entrepreneurial journey?
I wouldn’t say that there has been anything that has been a huge setback. I think there are always daily challenges that pop up that have to be dealt with, because of that you have to be willing to work outside of your comfort zone at times. That is just something we’ve had to learn to deal with as we’ve moved along this journey. Although there hasn’t been anything major up to this point, our fundraise has taken a little bit longer than expected. This has delayed a couple of timelines but overall the communities we’ve been working with have been really understanding of where we are as a business and that we’re a startup and that there are certain things that have to be done before we can start creating products. It’s been great having very solid partners throughout this journey so far.
4) With that said, what keeps you motivated?
I would say it is really just creating a solution, kind of like I mentioned earlier, that will help keep individuals like our grandparents happy, healthy and independent. We literally want to allow them to maintain the lifestyles that they’ve had for their entire lives. What motivates us is that we can create a business that will both have some sort of measurable impact on the lives of older adults whilst simultaneously being a successful business at the same time.
5) What personality traits and characteristics were you looking for when you were building your team?
Actually, It’s kind of funny, our team was kind of put together through this Design for America programme. We actually went through the programme three and a half years ago. We worked on the initial concept for a couple of years whilst finishing up school and then really went in full time about a year and a half ago, so that’s really just how my original cofounder and I got up to this point and we have been working on it full time ever since. We have one other contractor helping us out on the software side. Simply put, you have to look for someone whose vision aligns with your own, who is a hard worker and who you can trust. That is a big thing within starting a business. You have to have a lot of trust and trust that the person will keep on schedule with what they are supposed to be doing and will always be there for you and the business when need be. I think it has been great that we developed such a solid relationship over the last few years and can’t wait to keep moving forward with it.
6) What do you wish you knew when you started your journey that you now know today?
I would say probably just a little bit more on the business side of things would have been helpful from the get go. Both my cofounder and I have engineering backgrounds. I have a biomedical engineering degree and he has a mechanical engineering degree. As a result of that we didn’t know as much about the business side of starting a business until after we graduated and went through an accelerator programme. I think having some of that knowledge about looking at your market and defining who your customer is so that you can figure out how you can reach them in regards to pricing and how to sell your product to them. All of that knowledge would have been very helpful on the upfront.
7) Any advice for young aspiring entrepreneurs?
I think the best thing is that you have to be persistent. You can not let any setbacks get you down. Entrepreneurship is definitely a wild ride of a journey, you’ll have a lot of highs and lows. You can’t allow yourself to get too high when the highs occur and too low when the lows occur. Just be sure to be persistent with clients, mentors and investors. If you hit any roadblocks during product development keep working hard to make sure that you overcome them.