BU Startup, Bytelight, Receives Funding from U-Launch

Bytelight, a company founded by Aaron Ganick (ECE ’10), Dan Ryan (ECE ’10) and Travis Rich (ECE ’10), recently received $10,000 in funding from U-Launch, a U.S. Department of Energy-funded grant program that awards promising clean energy startups.

Spun off from the NSF Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center at Boston University and supported by the BU Photonics Center, Bytelight designs intelligent systems that are capable of supporting digital data communications and indoor navigation through general purpose lighting. With the additional funding from U-Launch, Ganick and Ryan will continue to develop Bytelight as they explore business opportunities for visible light communication. (Rich left Bytelight to pursue a PhD at the MIT Media Lab.)

As undergraduates, both Ganick and Ryan knew they wanted to be engineers but didn’t necessarily know what direction they wanted to take in their careers. Then they discovered an opportunity to engage in Smart Lighting research at BU.

“We thought the idea of sending information through lighting was fascinating, and we’ve been working on that research ever since,” said Ganick.

When Ganick began his master’s degree program in Electrical Engineering at BU last year, he wanted to take his engineering education one step further by creating his own company.

In the past, many of BU’s engineering alumni possessed the skillset to come up with a new technology but didn’t necessarily have the entrepreneurial background to turn it into a profitable business. Then a new School of Management (SMG) course, The Business of Technology Innovation, was introduced into the curriculum, and Ganick and Ryan were among the first students to take it.

“There’s been a recent push at BU to encourage engineers to learn more about the business opportunities available to them,” said Ganick. “Gaining a background in business has been an asset to us, and it’s great to see engineers at SMG.”

Led by SMG Lecturer Paul Levine, the class was designed for engineers in order to create a deeper understanding of the business challenges associated with bringing technological innovations to the marketplace.

“My goal is to grow appreciation and change perspective,” said Levine. “I’m trying to give these engineers the insight to be active contributors to the decision-making process for both the technology and business decisions their companies will face—whether those companies are well-established large businesses or ‘in the garage’ startups.”

While Levine has served as a mentor to Ganick and Ryan on the business side, Professor Thomas Little (ECE) has provided expert guidance in engineering.

“He has been an excellent mentor throughout the entire process,” said Ryan. Ganick added, “He doesn’t reveal the whole picture but gives us enough information to learn by discovery.”

Little said that Bytelight is both representative of the “transformative impact” intended by the National Science Foundation ERC concept and a wonderful example of the entrepreneurial network at BU, which, in addition to the School of Management and the College of Engineering, includes diverse groups such as the NSF Smart Lighting ERC, the Photonics Center Incubator, the Office of Technology Development, the Kindle Mentoring Program and the Institute for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization.

“Aaron and Dan have done a great job of immersing themselves in the entrepreneurial network at BU,” said Little. “Through this networking, Bytelight has gained access to many, many avenues for jumpstarting a new business.”

Previously accepted into the Summer@Highland program, Bytelight is currently operating out of Dogpatch Labs in Cambridge.