LIFX, a company making a Wi-Fi enabled, multi-color LED light bulb, has raised $12 million in Series A funding led by Sequoia. Along with the funding LIFX said its light bulbs, which sell for $99, are now on sale to everyone. So far LIFX has raised $16.6 million in funding, and it plans to use the latest round for sales and support of the product.
The company, which raised $1.3 million via Kickstarter in 2012, shipped its first batch of bulbs during the first quarter of this year — about a year later than it originally anticipated. It offers two types of light bulbs at the moment — the Edison screw and a Bayonet mount common in Australia where the company was founded. Later it plans to offer a downlight.
The biggest question for any consumer considering the LIFX bulbs will be how it compares with the many other connected bulbs on the market — most notably the Philips Hue bulbs. Like the Hue bulbs, the LIFX bulb offers the full array of LED colors (TCP lights, which are the other popular choice, only offer whites), but because the LIFX bulbs use Wi-Fi, they don’t need a hub like the Hue does. However, the Hue bulbs are cheaper with a starter kit containing 3 bulbs and hub going for $200. Additional bulbs are $60.
However, the Hue app leaves a lot to be desired, so it’s possible that LIFX, which like the Hue is open to other apps and systems integrating with its lights, can gain market share by offering a better app experience. I will have to check out the bulbs and app to see how they compare. In the meantime, the world of connected lights is only getting hotter, with an array of features built into the light bulb — from speakers to presence detection.
It’s unclear to me what the end game is for Sequoia with this investment given that a light bulb — even a $99 light bulb — still doesn’t seem like a venture-worthy investment with the kind of margins and hockey-stick-like growth that could lead to an IPO. However, as we are seeing with Google acquiring Nest for $3.2 billion and then Dropcam for $555 million, the end game may just be getting Apple, Google or another larger player to shell out a ton of cash for the next hot trend.