Monday, May 23, 2011

Impressions from LightFair 2011

Attended LightFair last week and had the opportunity to spend some time with portfolio company Bridgelux as well as walk the floor.

Some takeaways below:
  • LightFair might as well have been called LEDFair. About 90% of the floor space at the Philly convention center was dedicated to LEDs ("solid state lighting") - despite the fact that LEDs still account for a minuscule percentage of lighting sales. This was certainly not the case 5 years ago. Conventions can tend to be leading indicators, but the question is whether adoption of solid state lighting is 2 years or 10 years out.
  • Did not see a lot of differentiation among the various lighting controls companies. I would love to see a compelling business model in lighting controls, but as it stands today, the paybacks are still too long (3-5 years), sales cycle is difficult, and there are a lot of companies doing a lot of the same things. Some exceptions here are Digital Lumens, which focuses on the industrial/warehouse market and Encellium, which has some really cool 3-D visualization tools. I suspect this space will become commoditized as fixture companies begin to embedd zigbee chips onto individual lights themselves - which we're already seeing with the Lighting Science / Google announcement.
  • Nichia showed off a 6" inch GaN on silicon wafer. Today, LEDs are typically built on 2" wafers, but there are great cost advantages in moving up to larger wafer sizes (increasing your batch size and therefore, throughput). We expect the industry to move to 6", which is standard in solar in semiconductor industries, which should help to further bring lighting costs down.
  • There sure are a lot of fixture companies. The fragmentation in the downstream part of the industry is incredible. It will be interesting to see how companies here differentiate themselves, and how non-China companies are able to compete. One company that stood out was Switch - a Vantage Point portfolio company with a $20 liquid cooled incandescent replacement.
All in, a good trip (although my retina is still recovering from staring at lights all day). Until next year....

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