An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Leif Elgethun, the founder and CEO of Retrolux, which was honored in our:
- 2020 Best Tech Startups in Boise
- 2019 Best Tech Startups in Idaho
- 2019 Best Tech Startups in Boise
- 2018 Best Tech Startups in Idaho
- 2018 Best Tech Startups in Boise
Tell us the origin story of Retrolux – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
I was a partner in a company that helped commercial building owners reduce their costs by implementing energy efficiency solutions like LED lighting and renewable energy solutions like solar panels. I used pencil and paper to take notes in the field and built really big spreadsheets to help me design solutions, build our cost estimates, and calculate the energy and costs savings so we could show the customer what his return on investment would look like. Plus, we had to interface with our suppliers, contractors, lenders, and utilities, which created a ton of paperwork and headaches. I decided it would be a lot easier to build a cloud system that linked to my iPhone so I could collect data in the field on my phone, sync it to the cloud, and then streamline the rest of the process using software. Ultimately, I was trying to solve my own problem and found out my problems were common and there were lots of other folks just like me that needed a better system.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
There are so many challenges with starting a company that it’s hard to pick the biggest. One of the more challenging problems we faced was getting our initial funding for the project. It took 4 years and almost 60 pitches before we got our lead investor. We even pitched them 3 times before we got to a yes.
What does the future hold for Retrolux?
We have a three step plan to win our initial target market in lighting, then expand into all smart energy building solutions, and finally achieve our ultimate goal to be the Amazon of the construction industry. LED lights are our books!
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Boise?
The local tech startup scene in Boise has been growing by leaps and bounds. We have so many successful companies, a few significant exits, and a rapidly expanding support ecosystem to help entrepreneurs and startups succeed. Boise’s been in the top 5 for fastest growing cities and we’re starting to attract folks from other major tech hubs that are looking for a better quality of life. We still have room to improve but I’m confident Boise is going to keep improving and will be a top tier mid-market tech city very soon.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Be crazy enough to start the journey and too dumb to give up.