University of Toronto startup Nanoleaf dreams up super-efficient, affordable products that reimagine how we light our homes.
How can we incorporate care for the environment into our everyday lives? In 2012, U of T startup Nanoleaf made this a little easier when it designed what it described as, “the world’s most energy efficient lightbulb.” The stylish product—made in Toronto—went on to win awards for design and efficiency.
“When we started Nanoleaf, we were really passionate about creating products that could help sustainability in this world,” says co-founder Gimmy Chu. “Our first product to market was this lightbulb.”
While studying at the University of Toronto, Gimmy and fellow students Tom Rodinger and Christian Yan got involved with the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering’s Blue Sky Solar Racing team. After this exposure to environmentally friendly technologies, the three graduated and went their separate ways but re-connected in 2009. Initially, they’d planned to create a solar product, but before long they’d designed the now-famous lightbulb and founded Nanoleaf. Three years later, their products were being sold in over 40 countries.
Nanoleaf has since attracted global investors and branched out into making smart lighting products, which take the form of panels rather than bulbs, which consumers can control with their smart devices. Their latest product, Nanoleaf Canvas, is made up of touch-reactive modular light squares. Consumers can connect up to 500 light squares through a single control square (extra power supplies are required for each additional set of 25 squares) and activate unique animations with touch. The light squares can also respond to music.
All of Nanoleaf’s products are based on energy-efficient and sustainable technology. Their smart lighting continues to drive the company’s beliefs on sustainability. For example, the Nanoleaf Canvas light squares use only one watt of energy at maximum brightness (50 lumens). They emphasize that with the smart light panels, they are trying to merge art and design with technology that works toward a more sustainable future.
“We strive to create technology that doesn’t exist today,” Chu says. “I feel like we’re moving the world towards a new age of light.”
He says that he owes a lot of his personal success to the education he received at U of T and the experiences he had there, which influenced all three Nanoleaf founders. “During our time at U of T, we learned how to work together, and how to take the knowledge we learned in school and apply it to building something real. I think that passion and that drive really stemmed from U of T. U of T helped build our confidence, so that we believed in ourselves, pushed the boundaries and really innovate.”
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