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Lights out at LumenZ, Boston company that sought to design new LED chips

Posted by Scott Kirsner  April 22, 2011 03:29 PM

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When I visited with LumenZ in April of 2010, the LED lighting start-up seemed to be in pretty solid financial shape, having raised $8 million in funding from General Catalyst of Cambridge and Silicon Valley's Khosla Ventures.

But a year later, LumenZ is defunct, and its founder, Bunmi Adekore, has just created a new consulting firm, Enalende Consulting. LumenZ has moved out of its offices at Boston University's Photonics Center Incubator, according to a neighbor there. Both of LumenZ's investors have removed the company from the online lists of their investments. A former LumenZ employee, now working at another local lighting tech company, tells me that LumenZ employees were informed last December that they'd need to find new jobs.

LumenZ had been developing zinc oxide-based LEDs that it hoped would be less expensive to produce but emit a warmer light than today's blue-ish white LEDs. As a result, the company hoped that lamps using its LEDs would make their way into consumers' homes.

"This is not a two-year kind of thing," Adekore told me last spring. "It requires investment over time, and it requires vision." LumenZ apparently wasn't successful in continuing to raise more money, based on its technical progress. Proving that a new material (zinc oxide) can work in an industry where big players like Philips and Cree are already scaling up production based on a different material (gallium nitride, mainly) is a tall order.

Neither Adekore nor General Catalyst partner Hemant Taneja, who oversaw the LumenZ investment, have responded to phone calls or e-mails this week seeking comment.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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