How a Silicon Valley veteran raised $17M to fund LumaStream, a breakthrough in LED lighting

Friday, July 17, 2015
Eric Snyder
Late on a Friday afternoon at LumaStream headquarters in St. Petersburg, a bell chimes, causing CEO Eric Higgs to snap his head toward the next room. The sound signifies another sale for the burgeoning St. Petersburg company that has built a stronghold in the fast-moving business of LED lighting.
Higgs quizzes regional sales director Kyle Nelson about the deal. This time, it’s a new office building in Tampa whose owners will spend just under six figures to install one of LumaStream’s advanced, minutely programmable systems.
Closing LumaStream jobs has gotten easier, Nelson says — and that would not have been possible unless Higgs laid the groundwork with his own sales mission: raising $17 million in venture capital over the company’s five-year history.
The deal that Friday added to a client roster that includes such growing restaurant brands as PDQ, Carmel Cafe, Glory Days and Yogurtology, as well as prestigious new concepts like Ulele, Stillwaters Tavern and Souzou. C1 Bank is a customer. So is Florida Cancer Specialists. Caspers Co., the largest McDonald’s franchisee in Florida, with 53 units, recently agreed to a LumaStream pilot program.
These companies share common traits: they are locally based or have a strong local presence, and are led by business influencers like restaurateurs Richard Gonzmart, Blake Casper, Bob Bashamand Chris Sullivan, and banker Trevor Burgess; they have progressive cultures that value new technology; they have come to embrace the idea that lighting, as multiple studies have shown, is a crucial element in improving workforce productivity and increasing sales.
LumaStream’s long game is to sell its LED breakthroughs to manufacturers of lighting fixtures in what investor and board member Minesh Patel calls “mass deployment.” For now, the company will forge ahead with 50 to 60 percent annual growth, a realistic forecast of profitability in 2016, and more rings of that bell.
In a larger scope, LumaStream has the opportunity to advance Tampa Bay’s rather pallid reputation in the tech world. “We need some big successes to shift the landscape,” Higgs says, “to attract venture capital firms and private investment into our market.”
Establishing a beachhead in technology will expand Tampa Bay’s business narrative beyond its strengths in real estate, shared services and tourism, allowing it to be more competitive with the likes of Austin, Nashville and Charlotte.
So in a domino-effect sort of way, there’s a lot riding on LumaStream making it big.
Tampa Bay Business Journal