If there’s one thing that truly signals the arrival of the holidays, it’s the lights. They coil up Christmas trees, wrap around skyscrapers, and dangle off porches. They brighten up what would otherwise be a dark and gloomy month, bringing moments of joy to even the weariest of shoppers.
Now imagine how much more magnificent these light displays could become if they were controlled by a smartphone app, offering the ability to change colors and patterns with a few simple taps on your phone. Lumenplay, an app brought to us by the Salem-based consulting startup Rigado, promises to do just that—and much more.
OEN recently sat down with co-founder Chris Corrado to talk about the origins of Lumenplay and his own entrepreneurial journey:
What was the spark that inspired you to start Lumenplay?
I came out to Salem in 2012 to help build out a consulting firm that my brother was getting off the ground. Rigado is now a profitable consulting firm here in Salem, which specializes in low-power wireless hardware devices. Our projects range from military research to home automation to kiosks to sports/health fitness to medical devices to consumer electronics.
The model we’ve adopted is similar to Google—20 percent of the time employees are in the office is spent tinkering and developing fun, innovative ways to solve daily problems. On Rigado Fridays, we bring in pizza and have whiteboard sessions to come up with new product ideas. My brother was remodeling his kitchen and wanted to build a Bluetooth Smart strip of lights. After market research and analysis, we transitioned to string lights as our first product, as well as an adaptable smartphone-controlled lighting platform.
I’ve always gone by my two mantras: to live my life to make people smile, and to be passionate about what I’m doing every day. (Tweet this.)
How did you start your entrepreneurial journey?
The first business I had was a figurine design business—I was making Santas and snowmen as a freshman in high school. No one was hiring me for after-school work, and that’s how I decided to make money so I could go to the movies and be more independent. I didn’t expect my figurine business to go anywhere, but it ended up funding about a third of my college education.
In college, I traveled around the U.S. doing a national trade show circuit, and I was successful in licensing my line. After college, I decided this was the way I was going to make money, but unfortunately, I didn’t pay enough attention to the company that was licensing my line. After many mishaps and miscommunications, I ended up losing my rights to my line because of the contract that I wrote. This was a line I’d worked on for nine years, and it was just ripped out from under me. I was sunk in the water. I lost that product line for three years.
People tend to learn just as much, if not more, from their failures as from their successes? What did you take away from this experience?
I learned how valuable it is to have business partners you can trust. The experience gave me an opportunity to bow out of a challenging marketplace and also find a better team. In retrospect, it was a great fifth year of college.
How did you pick yourself back up and move on?
I was still committed to making people smile. I also had a background in the circus and did street entertainment in Phoenix, San Francisco, and back in my hometown of Cincinnati. It was another valuable learning experience—I learned how to market and sell myself, how to understand and adapt to each customer, and how to provide a superior product. Street entertainers get instant feedback, praise, or criticism. This job requires you to be on the spot every day, adapting your art/self to survive and prosper. In 2010, I became the #1 street entertainer in Cincinnati and made 80,000 balloons.
You and your brother seem to share an entrepreneurial spirit. Was there anything particular about your childhood that you think led you both down this path?
It’s funny because my dad was an accountant, and my mom was an art teacher. We weren’t groomed to be entrepreneurs. But both of us challenged each other while we were growing up to find things we were passionate about. I’ve always gone by my two mantras: to live my life to make people smile, and to be passionate about what I’m doing every day.
As a street entertainer, I learned how to market and sell myself, how to understand and adapt to each customer, and how to provide a superior product. (Tweet this.)
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Well, a clown. I loved entertaining and making people smile.
What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?
Waking up to a new challenge every day. That’s also the hardest part of it.
What has been the biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date?
There are so many people out there who want to help you be successful.
As an entrepreneur, what keeps you up at night?
Protecting my employees and their families.
What is the best entrepreneurial advice you have received (and from whom)?
“Be passionate about everything you do in your life.” – Scout Master, Troop 710 (where I earned my Eagle Scout award).
What song best describes your work ethic?
“Life is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane.
Imagine your company becomes wildly successful. What does that look like?
Lumenplay will have become a household name, preinstalled on all smartphone and tablet devices, serving as the “light-switch” that controls most lights in people’s homes and offices.
Can you describe your typical day?
7 a.m., wake up, spend 15 minutes in the think-tank. Go to office. By 8 a.m., my whole day has changed from what is on my calendar. I look forward to the unknown and the opportunity to have small successes throughout the day. I never forget that I live my life to make one smile at a time.
By 8 a.m., my whole day has changed from what is on my calendar. I look forward to the unknown. (Tweet this.)
As you think about the growth of your company to date, what are you most thankful for?
Passionate partners and employees, who go above and beyond what is reasonable to make us all successful.
What’s on the horizon for you and Lumenplay?
The promise of creating an “Oh!” moment, accompanied by smiles and laughter, has fueled my passion for Lumenplay. ColorSplash, a joint venture between Lumenplay and S4 Lights, will launch in Spring of 2014 to set the stage and the standard. We are currently raising funds to finalize designs, patents, UI/UX design, and continue building on the momentum and traction we have been gaining.
I used to count in balloon animals, not dollars. All of my current companies have been funded one balloon animal at a time. Lumenplay would require a lot of balloons, so I’m looking for mentors and advisers to guide me through the challenges of VC Funding. Next year looks very bright for Lumenplay—yes, pun intended.