When James Wassel, founder and Chief Science Officer of Appalachian Lighting, tells visitors not to look directly into their new 1,000 watt equivalent LED lighting system, he’s not kidding around. However, with one look at the technology behind this lighting system, visitors immediately know the future is bright for this Ellwood City-based company.
The company started with James, a garage tinkerer, who was sure he could build a better light. His prototype designs were high-powered, ultra energy-efficient lighting systems better than anything currently available on the market. Using his designs, James, along with partners Dave and Rob McAnally, sought funding for the initial R&D required for their 1,000 watt system. They turned to Innovation Works, which invested $300,000 in the company.
“A local bank wasn’t going to loan us money for R&D. The funding Innovation Works provided has been instrumental for us in terms of providing a bridge between developing our product and commercializing it,” says Dave. “IW has been, and is, a delight to work with.”
Innovation Works’ investment bought them the time they required to perfect their technology, which can offer users 70 to 90 percent energy savings over their current lights. “We didn’t want to go out with a product that wasn’t ready for primetime,” explains Dave. Beyond the investment capital, Innovation Works provided Appalachian Lighting with introductions that have helped the business grow. Appalachian Lighting has developed a relationship with IW portfolio company Crystalplex, which is providing an organic phosphorous substance that helps control the color of light emitted from Appalachian’s lights. Appalachian is also working with AllFacilities Energy Management, which plan to include Appalachian’s lighting technologies in the suite of products they present to customers.
Over the next 10 years the conversion to modern lighting technology in the United States will be a $250 billion industry. Appalachian Lighting intends to be a player in that market, and it has the technology to be a serious force in the industry. “We believe we can go toe to toe with anyone,” declares Dave. “And we can grow as fast as we want provided we’ve created a good foundation. Innovation Works has helped us create that foundation.”