Lemnis Lighting has raised $37.5 million in a fourth round of funding from unnamed African investors to bring LEDs home and expand its product line.
The company currently produces a screw-in LED bulb that replaces an incandescent household bulb. Lemnis' Pharox bulb puts out about the same amount of light as a 60 or 40 watt incandescent, but only consumes 6 watts. It costs $40 but saves about $12 a year in power. Thus, it pays itself off but remains more expensive than most bulbs. Lemnis is thinking of doing a lease-to-own program to ease the sticker shock.
We have one in our home. It is a little dimmer than a 60 watt bulb--you can see the difference right away--but it works. And we won't have to change it until 2029.
Next month in Las Vegas at Lightfair, the big industry confab, Lemnis will begin to talk about an expanded product line, according to a spokeswoman. That likely means complete light fixtures or different types of bulbs for different buildings or applications, i.e. grow lights for agriculture. LED makers have realized that, because of the long life of their products, they have to earn more revenue from each sale. There is no replacement market. Thus, those that now make bulbs have to start designing lamps and those that make lamps have to start thinking about networked lighting systems (See video here about Redwood's new system for giving each light an IP address). Philips is already moving in that direction. Side note: Lemnis founder Warner Philips is the grandson of the founder of Philips Lighting.
Who are these unnamed African investors? Lemnis won't say. Nonetheless, you can bet that the investment will pave the way for Lemnis to move into that geography. That's also a page out of the Philips strategy book. Warner told me once how his great-grandfather trekked across Russia to sell the continent-sized country then just getting wise to modern industrialization on the value of light bulbs.
Declining prices and energy efficiency regulations in Australia, the EU, the U.S., Canada and elsewhere are creating demand for LED bulbs. Research firm iSuppli, in fact, expects a shortage to soon develop if manufacturing capacity is not placed online. In 2008, manufacturers shipped 57 billion units. In 2009, it came to 63 billion units. The world only has manufacturing capacity for 75 billion units and demand is expected to grow in the double digit range. Bridgelux, a Silicon Valley LED company, is currently raising $50 million to build a factory, but you can also imagine General Electric, Cree, Philips and Osram mapping out expansion plans as well.
Most LEDs don't get sold for household or office use. They get sold into the automotive and consumer electronics market.