TerraLUX lights up market with long-lasting, powerful LED lightbulbs
BOULDER — When Anthony Catalano put up Chinese lantern lights on his patio for summer nights, he soon learned they only ran for two hours before he had to replace the bulbs.
So Catalano, a semiconductor and renewable energy researcher with a Ph.D. and therefore not your typical lightbulb consumer, began his quest to make portable lighting last longer. That journey led him to create his own company, TerraLUX. The name, a combination of the Latin words terra and lux, means “light for earth.”
Within a few months Catalano was revolutionizing battery-powered lighting with LED (light emitting diode) technology that gives high-powered light for portable lights such as flashlights, lanterns, headlights and emergency lights.
And the product is simple to use. Users just remove the standard bulb and insert a TerraLUX product, which lasts for about 10 years of operation time and withstands the common drops and bumps of flashlight life.
In addition to longer life, the TerraLUX bulbs yield more light with less heat. They use silicon (sand), which yields 95 percent light and only 5 percent heat. Carl Kalin, the company’s vice president of marketing and sales, says that’s the exact opposite of current incandescent bulbs.
One of the company’s more inspired moments came when it developed the MiniSTAR2, a retrofit for the massively popular Mini Maglite flashlights. The MiniSTAR2 runs about $30, roughly twice what you’d pay for a flashlight, but they’re selling nonetheless.
“Practically everyone has heard of the Maglite flashlights, and just about everyone has one,” Kalin says.
Analysts say the MiniSTAR2 has plenty of competition. There are more than 10 Mini Maglite bulb replacements now available. But Kalin says TerraLUX’s light is the first one that is installed just like a regular Mini Maglite bulb.
TerraLUX products have found a home in the outdoor and professional markets where people use their flashlights for long periods and want to avoid the high cost and inconvenience of frequent battery changes, bulb changes and loss of brightness. TerraLUX sells to resellers that sell to the public.
Dan Legg, owner of Tactical Warehouse in Conifer, which supplies products to emergency and military personnel, is the first reseller of TerraLUX products in the United States. He’s particularly taken by the MiniSTAR2, and says he’s never seen a new product do as well in his six years in the business.
“It’s really a revolutionary product and a key addition to the marketplace,” Legg says. “There’s nothing else like it.”
Legg says his customers, mostly police officers and firefighters, are impressed. “They like the reliability and the quality of the light beam.”
Alex Sproul, founder and owner Inner Mountain Outfitters, an equipment and clothing retailer for caving, climbing and confined space rescue based in Virginia, says LED lighting is in its infancy.
“The technology is improving in quantum leaps. Within a decade, incandescent bulbs will be a thing of the past, and all lighting will be solid state,” Sproul says.
He adds that in a highly competitive environment, TerraLUX has positioned itself to be a leader in LED lighting.
“Everyone and his brother is rushing LED products to market. TerraLUX, while not the first out of the gate, quietly launched a product line that is taking the market by storm through its straightforward design, robust quality and reliability,” Sproul says.
Sproul says TerraLUX’s products are selling very well, so well that he has dropped the competing products he used to sell.
TerraLUX only has two full-time employees, Catalano and Kalin. Kalin calls the company a “virtual manufacturer” with work contracted to Wolf Electronix in Loveland. The company also has contracted sales reps in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and online resellers in Canada, Germany, France and New Zealand.
The company is looking in the Boulder area for a facility that’s about 2,000 square feet to accommodate sales, shipping, research and development and testing.
Kalin says that by the end of this year the company should reach well over the $1 million mark in revenues if all goes according to plan.
So far, the year-old company has sold about 3,000 units. Kalin says TerraLUX expects to expand by applying LED technology to homes, mobile and commercial indoor lighting with intelligence, wireless control for intensity and special effects such as color and blinking.
“Smarter products are on the drawing board that will allow users to control intensity, color and blinking,” Kalin says. “In the next few months and years consumers will learn that our products are becoming a whole lot smarter. We plan to continue to offer a steady stream of new technology-based lighting that will place us on the cutting edge of this technology that will certainly grow a lot in the coming years.”