Karen Owyeung, an executive with years of experience in optics and manufacturing, is the new CEO of Lunera.
To date, Lunera hasn't generated the same sort of headlines as LED companies like Bridgelux or Luminus Devices, but that will likely change in the future. The company has managed to land a number of its luminaires (industry talk for light fixtures and/or lamps) in government offices and commercial buildings. I saw one yesterday at lighting controls company Lumenergi, in fact. The company's fixtures now illuminate over 2 million square feet of commercial real estate.
The company's fixture essentially tries to eliminate two of the whopper shortcomings -- glare and hot spots -- associated with LED light fixtures. The light-emitting diodes in Lunera's fixtures are not placed at the center of the light fixture and aimed straight into a room. Instead, the LEDs are located at the edge of the fixtures. The light effectively runs parallel to the ceiling, and is then channeled through wave guides and into a room. Samsung, Sony and others employ edge lighting techniques on their top-end LED/LCD TVs.
Although the use of wave guides might make you think the company emerged from the telecommunications field, it was actually started by lighting designers who worked for fashion photographers. A designer will likely know more about how to light you to look glamorous than a transistor designer, after all. Investors include the Westly Group. (That's a picture of a Lunera luminaire in the photo.)
Owyeung does not come from the fashion world. Instead, she has worked in the optoelectronics division of Hewlett Packard. There, she worked with Roland Haitz, who coined Haitz's Law, which has (like Moore's Law) helped predict growth opportunities in the industry. She also served as CEO of Lumileds, the HP/Agilent-Philips joint venture for LEDs that Philips absorbed in 2005 after HP passed its interest to its Agilent spin-off. In solid state lighting, she is indeed well connected and knowledgeable.
Why isn't HP a giant in LEDs? That's a good question. They had all the elements -- the technology, the people, the manufacturing know-how, and a large stake in a company (Lumileds) -- that have allowed Philips to become the leader among large companies in solid state lighting. HP could have been the Intel of lighting.
But in 2005, LED lighting still seemed years away. It's a missed opportunity, but one that wasn't so apparent at the time. General Electric was moving out of lighting a few years ago, before it reversed course.
And being conservative has helped HP in the past. An HP scientist drafted a detailed paper suggesting that HP could become a world leader in amorphous silicon solar panels with panels that cost 52 cents a watt. Carly Fiorina, before she got fired for other reasons, passed on the opportunity. That paper became the basis of Optisolar, which raised over $350 million, was featured on 60 Minutes and landed contracts with Pacific Gas & Electric before swirling down the S-bend. A lot of the factory equipment never even got uncrated.
Still, an interesting twist. Look for the upcoming "Top Ten Miscues in Greentech" for more on this topic.