I recently caught up with Donovan Morrison, a 2014 graduate of Northwestern already boasting an impressive list of professional accomplishments – namely CEO and Co-Founder of health-based start-up Luna Lights.
Luna Lights is an automated lighting system which prevents and detects falls in the elderly population using cloud based data analytics. The idea for the company came out of Northwestern University’s Design for America Summer Studio program, a six week design intensive boot camp of sorts during which teams design solutions to major social issues.
Each member of Luna Lights team, Donovan, Wesley Youman (Co-founder & COO), and Matt Wilcox (Co-founder & CTO), has had an experience with a grandparent who had fallen. Through these first hand experiences of the number one cause of injury for older adults, they have seen how devastating falls can be. After brainstorming many ideas and testing them out with elderly persons and staff at senior living communities, the team decided to pursue the idea of Luna Lights.
I was impressed with the product and company when I first heard about it, and even more so after talking with Donovan. With several important and exciting milestones already reached, Luna Lights is a company to keep an eye on!
Tell me a little bit about your organization, Luna Lights.
Luna Lights uses an ultra-thin pressure sensor that detects when a user sits up in bed and instantly turns on small, wireless lights around the home. This helps guide users to their nighttime destinations safely. Light has also been proven to increase balance and alertness, further decreasing fall risk. When the user returns to his or her bed, the sensor turns the lights off automatically. Our lights are portable and battery powered, which gives the flexibility of placing them wherever a particular individual tends to travel at night. Additionally, our web application collects data about the frequency and duration that an adult is out of bed at night. If an older adult is out of bed for an unreasonable amount of time, the system sends an alert to a caregiver that a fall may have occurred. Luna Lights simplifies the data collected and sends it to a central dashboard. Caregivers can log into the dashboard to customize settings for each older adult and view trends in nighttime trips. The trends can signal increases in fall risk and possible diseases that would have previously gone undetected. By combining tracking and illumination, Luna Lights provides a predictive and preventive experience that is currently unavailable on the market.
When designing Luna Lights, our intention was to create a product that older adults would want to use and would be beneficial to all stakeholders involved. For older adults, we provide an invisible solution to the very real problem of falls. Since our system is completely automated, we seamlessly integrate into the lives of older adults as they never have to interact with our product. For caregivers, we provide greater connectivity between themselves and older adults. Caregivers have the peace of mind that older adults are actually using Luna Lights and that they will be safe at night.
What has been the hardest part of Luna Light’s journey so far? The best part?
There are many facets of the business that need constant attention. We currently have three full-time co-founders, so it can be challenging at times to address all portions of the business. It can be long hours, but I would say the hardest part is also the best part. Since starting the business we’ve learned so much about the startup world and what it takes to manage a successful business. From setting up pilot programs to fundraising, the last few months have been a whirlwind but it’s been an amazing ride.
Are there any specific challenges to being such a young healthcare entrepreneur?
One of the biggest challenges is simply not having the years of experience that more senior individuals have. We can research and learn as much as possible about healthcare and the senior living market, but there is something to be said about decades of experience in the field that we do not yet have due to our ages.
What have been your biggest accomplishments in terms of Luna Lights?
We’ve had five major accomplishments so far:
- We were accepted into the Healthbox Chicago accelerator program, which has provided us with work space, mentorship, and funding. With this we have been able to refine our prototype and develop relationships with five additional Chicagoland senior living communities.
- Five Chicagoland senior living communities agreed to pilot Luna Lights over the coming months.
- We were winners of the national Aging 2.0 Pitch Event in Washington D.C., where we pitched alongside 8 other senior care products.
- We refined the prototype and currently have a fully functional product.
- We began fundraising for our seed round of $500,000, which we will raise in convertible debt and will close in April 2015.
What do you envision as the future of Luna Lights? Are there other products you hope to develop?
We will initially sell to the 31,000 registered assisted living communities (ALCs) in the United States, which are home to over 750,000 residents. This market is expected to grow quickly as the baby boomer population continues to age. In fact, the 65 and over population has increased from 35 million in 2000 to 41.4 million in 2011 (an 18% increase) and is projected to increase to 79.7 million by 2040. Once we have a foothold in the ALC market, we will expand to other senior living communities (skilled nursing, memory care, independent living) in 2016. We will also begin selling to individual consumers starting in 2017. We will begin developing other products after our successful launch of Luna Lights, but we already have some ideas that we are playing around with.
Anything else you want to add?
We’re always on the lookout for great mentors. If you know anyone that has experience in senior care, marketing and branding, product design, or entrepreneurship and think you could help, please let us know and we’d love to talk with them. We’re also currently beginning our seed round of funding with a goal of raising $500k. If you are interested in learning more about Luna Lights, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.