Donovan Morrison, the CEO and Founder of Luna Lights, is a graduate of Northwestern University, earning a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Psychology. Originally hailing from Minnesota, Donovan has always striven to improve the lives of others through both service and design. From working with several charitable organizations such as Cheerful Givers to assisting students as a private tutor, he is always attempting to make a positive impact on the community at large.
While at Northwestern, Donovan worked on several design projects including improving a play field at a local school, constructing a meal-time apparatus for a girl with arthrogryposis, outlining an app for the Northwestern service SafeRide, and creating a muscle stimulator for infants in Nigeria.
Through innovation and social change, Donovan hopes to one day promote a more accessible environment for all people.
In this interview with Startup Savant, Donovan shares why he started Luna Lights, its mission and innovation. He also shares how he got Luna Lights off the ground, the biggest milestone he's hit so far and how he balances life as an entrepreneur.
His advice to entrepreneurs starting a business:
Persistence is vital for success, you don’t know what you don’t know, and establish a solid group of mentors and advisors.
To learn more about Luna Lights and how Donovan fights for his goals, be sure to follow him on Twitter!
Why did you start Luna Lights? Can you tell me a little bit about Luna Lights and what you do?
We first started Luna Lights because each member of the Luna Lights team has had an experience with a grandparent who has fallen. We’ve seen first-hand how devastating falls can be, and what a large physical and emotional toll they take.
After doing a deeper dive and spending a number of weeks within senior living communities, we identified night-time falls as a major pain point. We set out to create solutions that would help keep individuals like our grandparents safe at night, and would be something they actually wanted to implement.
At Luna Lights, we focus on developing products that provide older adults with tangible benefits. Our products seamlessly integrate into the lives of older adults, so they don’t need to make lifestyle compromises to remain happy, healthy, and independent. We’re currently rolling out an automated lighting system that utilizes cloud based data analytics to reduce the risk of falling for older adults.
Luna Lights consists of an ultra-thin pressure sensor that detects when a user gets out of bed and immediately turns on small, wireless lights around the home. When the user returns to his or her bed, the sensor turns the lights off automatically. Additionally, a software component collects data regarding the frequency and duration that an adult is out of bed at night.
Our system sends a text notification to a caregiver if an older adult is out of bed for an unreasonable amount of time. It also allows caregivers to identify trends in night-time trips and see which individuals are most at risk for falling.
Is there a competitive advantage that you have over the rest? How did you find it and ‘niche down’?
By combining tracking and illumination, Luna Lights provides a predictive and preventive experience that is currently unavailable on the market. Luna Lights simplifies the data collected in order to target the elderly population and uses the data in a very specific way: to warn family members and caretakers of potential health problems or falls.
How did you find the time and money to get Luna Lights off the ground? Any advice for entrepreneurs with minimal time or resources?
After graduating from Northwestern University in 2014, we were accepted into an accelerator program called Healthbox. They provided us with an initial investment as well as the connections and mentorship to help us get started.
From there, we applied for and received various grants, as well as entered and won various business plan competitions. We’ve found that you need to devote a lot of time towards raising funds, so it may be difficult to truly be successful if you’re not fully dedicated to the business.
What do you consider the biggest milestone that you have hit with your business? What was the number one thing you did to get there?
Our largest milestones have been our two pilot programs with senior living communities around the Chicagoland area. They’ve been tremendous learning experiences, and our persistence in scheduling and executing on them was key for their success.
Who has been your greatest influence as an entrepreneur? How did they shape your business?
My dad – he started his own business, and his passion and drive were inspiring for me as a kid.
What is the toughest decision you’ve ever made when starting a business? How did it make you better at the end of the day?
Early on, it took us awhile to decide whether we wanted to start as a B2B or B2C business. We eventually chose to go the B2B route as it allowed us to make a larger initial impact on older adults.
What’s the biggest thing you struggle with as a business owner? Do you have any advice for how future entrepreneurs can overcome it?
Time management can be difficult at times, but establishing a good work-life balance is key in maintaining a healthy business.
How does being an entrepreneur affect your relationships with your friends and family?
I wouldn’t say that it has changed anything too significantly – I’ve always emphasized maintaining strong relationships with friends and family, and pursuing this business hasn’t changed that in any way.
I strongly believe in reading. Do you have a book that you highly recommended Startup Savant readers and I grab a copy of?
'Being Mortal' by Atul Gawande.
What are the top 3 pieces of advice that you would give someone starting a business in Illinois? What do they need to know from the beginning?
- Persistence is vital for success.
- You don’t know what you don’t know – don’t be afraid to ask for help in situations where you’re unsure.
- Establish a solid group of mentors and advisors – they can be crucial as a support system if times get tough.