Nokia made its name in mobile phones, breaking new ground and holding the title of world’s biggest handset maker for a number of years before the onslaught of competition from OEMs like Samsung and Apple reversed its fortunes. Now that Nokia has sold that business on to Microsoft, the pared-down, enterprise-heavy remaining Nokia is looking for the next big thing in communications. To that end, Nokia Growth Partners — a investment firm that has made investments in 50 startups, operating independently of Nokia but also backed exclusively by them — is leading a $23 million investment into Digital Lumens, a specialist in LED lighting, to help the company scale out its business globally.
Other investors in this round include Goldman Sachs, Aster Capital, and current investors, Flybridge Capital Partners, Black Coral Capital, and Stat Ventures, and brings the total raised by Digital Lumens to just under $50 million.
The investment in Digital Lumens comes at an interesting time in the LED industry. The Nobel Prize in physics this year was awarded to a trio of scientists who were instrumental in the invention and development of blue light-emitting diode technology, and a host new laws in countries to promote greater energy efficiency, and new consumer products to meet the demands, are raising the game for lighting solutions based on LED technology.
LED is typically 30% more energy efficient than analog lighting systems and 90% cheaper to run.
Digital Lumens is among those companies that are taking this another step further, looking to supercharge the basic concept of lighting, making it smarter by way of mobile connectivity and software-based controls as part of the wider “internet of things” movement.
This puts it in line with advances made in other categories like home systems, with companies like Google’s Nest focussing on getting mundane things like your home heating system and fire alarms work in a “smarter” way by virtue of sensors and software-based controls.
Digital Lumens, founded in Boston in 2008, stands out in the LED world because it claims to be the first company to introduce smart lighting systems that could scale — specifically to use in industrial spaces like warehouses. It says that today its solutions cover more than 100 million square feet of space across 35 countries.
Its CEO Tom Pincince is a repeat entrepreneur who has founded and sold two other enterprise companies. The company’s founder CTO Brian Chemel, along with other senior members of the staff, all hailed from Color Kinetics, acquired by Philips for $791 million and now part of its Solid State Lighting Solutions division.
“From consumer to industrial markets, the connected world presents new opportunities for efficiency, insight, comfort, safety, and operational intelligence – all delivered via next- generation lighting systems,” Pincince said in a statement. “Our platform gives customers the most direct access to enterprise-scale building and energy intelligence – through the lens of their lighting network. With deep roots in traditional industrial infrastructure and strong commitments to the IoT, our investors see Digital Lumens as the embodiment of the connected enterprise, and are excellent partners for our continued technology and market expansion.”
From what we understand, Nokia Growth Partners had been eyeing up other potential startups in the LED and digital lighting space before backing Digital Lumens, but it will be interesting to see whether it invests in similar startups here, too.