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Business

Innovation Economy

Lighting the way for better bulbs

Excerpts from the Innovation Economy blog.

John Goscha’s first start-up out of Babson College, Ideapaint, made it possible to put a whiteboard on any surface. His new venture, Lucidity Lights, wants to persuade consumers to put energy-efficient, inexpensive light bulbs into any socket.

The ultra-quiet company, with offices in Cambridge and a lab in Woburn, has raised more than a million dollars so far from angel investors, Goscha says, and has brought on board R&D veterans from General Electric and Osram Sylvania.

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Goscha says that after leaving Ideapaint in mid-2010, he started thinking about the lighting market, and federal regulations that will start phasing out incandescent bulbs in October.

“When else in my lifetime will there be a multi-billion-dollar market open up due to federal regulations?” Goscha asked.

And, he says, the alternatives available to consumers aren’t very appealing — those spiral-shaped compact fluorescent bulbs, or more expensive LED-based bulbs.

“We talked to 20,000 consumers by standing in the lighting aisle of Home Depot and doing phone and Internet surveys,” Goscha says. “The number one thing they don’t like about compact fluorescents is the color of the light — it’s harsh — and the number two is the delay in start time. People are used to having a light bulb that just works.”

Goscha says that Lucidity is developing a bulb that will be shaped like the incandescents you know and love but use about 80 percent less energy. “It gives off the light color that people like, and it’s dimmable,” he says. “It will be inexpensive and have a longer life than a compact fluorescent.”

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Goscha doesn’t want to talk about the company’s approach. “We’re filing patents now,” he says. But several people familiar with the company say it is working on a kind of magnetic induction lamp, a technology that has been around for decades but which has not seen commercial success. These kinds of lamps produce a magnetic field that excites mercury inside the bulb. The mercury produces ultraviolet light, which is converted to visible light by a phosphor coating inside the bulb.

One challenge, says Rob Day of Black Coral Capital, is getting the power electronics that supply electricity to be small enough to fit inside a standard bulb shape. “There’s just not a lot of real estate there in which to hide all of the electronics,” he said.

Another challenge, Day says, is “the consumer lighting market is so crowded, and it’s really hard to break into.”

Of course, you could say the same about the paint business, where Ashland-based Ideapaint has made a pretty significant splash. As with Ideapaint, Lucidity is working on a product that “will be on the shelves of the Lowe’s and Home Depots of the world,” Goscha says.

The company consists of Goscha and seven PhDs, he says, including Jakob Maya, a Sylvania veteran who is VP of development and manufacturing, and Victor Roberts, a former GE exec who is VP of technology.

Venture capital name change

The state’s venture capital arm, the Massachusetts Technology Development Corporation, is adopting a new name: MassVentures.

“There were too many similar acronyms out there, like the MTTC and the MTC,” said president Jerry Bird, referring to the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. “And we just think MassVentures better describes what we do, and who we’re serving.”

Over its 36-year lifetime, the MTDC invested about $83 million in 133 companies.

“What we want to do is complement what the private sector is doing,” Bird says. “I think our role is to go in with the angel groups, help capitalize the deal appropriately, and then help the company transition from that backing to a being venture-backed company.”

Visit www.boston.com/innovation for the full blog, updated daily.

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