Q&A: LumaStream’s bright future starts as sculptor’s solution
Just five years ago, Eric Higgs shined new light on trouble with LED bulbs.
He began to understand that they failed unexpectedly. They shocked people. They caught fire. So he reinvented LEDs and, a year later, St. Petersburg company LumaStream was born.
In the company’s short life, it has gained statewide notice with a presentation during Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s recent Energy Summit. The company has attracted millions in new revenue from mostly commercial operations that are seeking to cut their energy usage and lower their electric bills, using his unique, patented low-voltage LED lighting system.
Restaurant chains and banks, where lighting can make up about 30 percent of electricity costs, are among LumaStream’s growing customer base, says Higgs, 47. While the company does not sell directly to consumers, it offers its products for residential and commercial use through contractors.
Instead of just a bulb, LumaStream provides lighting in fixtures with high-tech sensors that can adjust brightness levels depending on outside cloud cover and the time of day.
The company has grown so fast that it is about to open a new 22,000-square-foot building in partnership with St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg’s Midtown neighborhood. The facility will include classroom space to train students in high-tech manufacturing, technology and electronics.
“We’re helping people go get trained to get industry certification to get high-paying jobs,” the St. Petersburg resident said. “It’s very exciting. This is a program that is very novel.”
The Times recently sat down with Higgs to talk about his operation and how LumaStream is transforming the lighting and energy market.
Give us a little bit of the history about LumaStream. How did you begin?
I’ve had a dual career of high-tech Silicon Valley companies. I’m a serial entrepreneur. But I’ve also had a very serious sculpture career. In 2008, I had a project in Tampa, which constitutes an entire city block. I put 12 60-foot sculptural shapes. I looked at what it was going to require to light it, which was over 20,000 watts … running 10 plus hours a day.
I have a problem with that. I’m an environmentalist. So I started learning about LEDs.