Saphlux Set to Revolutionize LED Lighting

Yale startup Saphlux has found a way to significantly advance LED technology and recently received $100,000 in funding from the YEI Innovation Fund, backed by Yale, Connecticut Innovations and First Niagara Bank, as well as an additional $100,000 from Elm Street Ventures. Saphlux is building the next generation of LED chip designed by Jung Han, Professor and Chair of Electrical Engineering at Yale. Chen Chen (SOM ’16) was paired with Han by the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI) and is currently developing the venture as part of a 10-week YEI Fellowship.

“We’ve been enthusiastic about Saphlux’s potential in this exciting industry since bringing the team together a year ago,” says Erika Smith, YEI Deputy Director.

The startup is developing a semi-polar LED chip invented by Han, which could greatly improve LED lightbulb efficiency and lower prices for the bulbs from $10 to $1. Han was the first to discover a way to make a high-powered LED chip that can be mass produced at low cost, and his invention is being patented by Yale’s Office of Cooperative Research (OCR). Saphlux is also the first startup to enter into a simplified License Agreement specifically created by OCR for Yale startups, which expedites the licensing process and provides favorable terms for startup companies.

“We’re excited to roll out the Startup License with Saphlux as a first licensee,” says OCR Licensing Director John Puziss. “The Startup License will be offered to an increasing number of YEI companies in coming months and is designed to be so attractive that no negotiating is necessary, sparing startups time and expense.”

While Saphlux will initially focus on improving LED light bulbs, they plan to expand into LED backlighting for devices like smartphones, laptops and tablets. Chen says their technology could extend the battery life of an iPhone 6 by 200%.

“Our goal is to get a working LED chip prototype within the year that can deliver what we promise,” Chen says. The LED industry is expanding rapidly but the technology has hit a bottleneck, Chen says, adding that “Semi-polar is the best solution to break the bottleneck.”  He says several major industry players are lined up to bring Saphlux’s new LED chip into production once it is ready.

Last March, Saphlux raised more than $1 million in a seed round led by ZhenFund, a Beijing-backed angel investment firm. They will be one of 11 startups participating in the YEI Fellowship to pitch as part of Demo Day on July 23, 4 p.m. at Yale’s Kroon Hall.

News from Yale University: Student-Faculty Startup Saphlux Receives Over $1 Million in Funding

Just three months after launching, Saphlux, Inc., a startup co-founded by Chen Chen ’16, has received a funding infusion of more than $1 million that will enable the company to build a prototype of the lighting product that Chen wants to bring to market.

ZhenFund, a Beijing-based angel investor firm, led this seed round of funding with a $1 million investment in Saphlux. The fund was co-founded by Sequoia Capital China, Victor Wang Qiang, and Bob Xu Xiaoping, who serves on the advisory committee of the Yale Center Beijing. The firm works in collaboration with Sequoia Capital China to promote innovation among China’s youth. Chen is a native of China. Other investors also include New Margin Ventures and PreAngel.

Chen and Jung Han, Professor and Chair of Yale’s Electrical Engineering Department, started Saphlux in November 2014 after meeting through the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute’s Technology Commercialization Program. “I was looking for technology to commercialize, and Professor Han had developed this new LED chip,” says Chen, who is also an engineer. “We had good chemistry, and things have really moved pretty fast.” Chen is the new company’s CEO, and Han is the chief of its scientific advisory board.

Saphlux seeks to produce a high-efficiency, high-power, low-cost LED chip for use with most LED applications, starting with general lighting. The new chip should be ten times cheaper and much more energy efficient than current products. It could also enable new LED applications such as a portable LED laser projector.  

Chen spent three weeks in China in December, pitching the product to more than 20 investors. “The LED industry is booming,” he says. “It is a huge market and is still growing dramatically. It’s especially attractive to countries like China where energy is limited.”

Saphlux is headquartered in New Haven. “We are a Yale-founded company and we want to build on our ties with Yale,” Chen says. “There are a lot of things to be done now, both on the tech side and on the business side, and we’ll be working right here.”