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.”