Nanoleaf co-founder shines light on entrepreneurial spirit

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Nanoleaf’s Gimmy Chu speaks at an Engineering alumni event in Hong Kong. The Nanoleaf LED light bulb (pictured) uses just 12 watts of electricity to produce light equivalent to that of an incandescent 100-watt bulb, and lasts approximately 20 years (Photo: Andrew Lee).

There’s an old saying: luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Perhaps nobody believes this more than Gimmy Chu (ElecE 0T6), co-founder and product development manager of Nanoleaf.

The U of T green technology start-up has made international headlines with its revolutionary product — the world’s most energy-efficient light bulb. But according to Chu, it was an encounter late last year that really set the wheels in motion.

“A lot of people have asked how we attracted investors to actually invest in us and I think it was largely to do with being at the right place at the right time,” Chu said at the Engineering Alumni Association (EAA) Hong Kong Chapter’s first lecture event on April 7.

“Our opportunity came last November, here in Hong Kong. It was actually at a University of Toronto alumni event.”

The event was the official launch of the EAA Hong Kong Chapter, where Chu and his team were connected, through a series of introductions, to Hong Kong business mogul and philanthropist Li Ka Shing and his investment company, Horizon Ventures.

The funding helped to propel Nanoleaf into the spotlight as an entrepreneurial success story — one that people were excited to hear.

“U of T Engineering alumni in Hong Kong are not just interested in the technology field,” said Emmy Choi (ElecE 9T5), president of the EAA Hong Kong Chapter. “They are also interested in learning about entrepreneurship and other parts of life.”

Over 150 people showed up to hear Chu tell the story of Nanoleaf at the event, which was co-organized with the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers, Electronics Division.

“People really appreciate that we have the EAA Hong Kong Chapter established to foster the [U of T Engineering] network and host seminars and events with more knowledge and intelligent substance than just a happy hour in a social setting,” Choi said.

She said that the Hong Kong Chapter is currently planning a variety of site visits to technology factories with the intention of hosting more lectures with other successful U of T Engineering alumni down the line.

Download photos from the event.

Read more: “Asia’s richest philanthropist,” major Silicon Valley firm invest in engineering alumni’s Nanoleaf light bulb

— Jamie Hunter