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A bright path for the Boise State-born company Lumineye

Participants talk at Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge
Corbin Hennen at the 2018 Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge, College of Innovation and Design. Photo by Madison Park.

Since winning the top prize in technology at the 2018 Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge, the Boise State-born company Lumineye has continued to rack up successes, including national press, more competition wins and new contracts.

The company was founded in 2017 by Megan Lacy and Corbin Hennen, who met each other as graduate students at Boise State, along with Rob Kleffner, Hennen’s undergraduate roommate at the University of Idaho. Lumineye’s product is the Lux, a lightweight sensor (weighing only a pound and a half) that can detect the presence of people through walls. It’s a valuable tool for firefighters, law enforcement, and search and rescue teams.

The Lux uses “pulse radar technology that works like echolocation, how bats and dolphins communicate,” said Hennen.

Lumineye’s recent highlights include a write-up in TechCrunch, the tech news website, and receiving a $120,000 grant at the U.S. Army’s xTechSearch Pitch Competition in Huntsville, Alabama, in March. The company beat out hundreds of other small businesses and finished as one of 12 finalists. Technical experts chose finalists based on their “potential for impact/revolutionizing the Army” and their “scientific and engineering viability.”

While Lacy explained that winning the Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge, hosted by Boise State’s College of Innovation and Design, was a thrill, winning the U.S. Army competition was more so because Lumineye had the chance to compete against several well-established companies. In October, Lumineye will return to Alabama for the final round of competition and the chance to win $250,000.

This summer, Lumineye participated in Y Combinator, one of the most exclusive business accelerators in the world, associated with companies like AirBnB, Reddit and Twitch.

“The Y Combinator acceptance rate is less than many of the Ivy League schools, which leads to the ‘harder to get into than Harvard’ phrase that gets thrown around a lot,” said Nic Miller, executive director of Boise State’s Venture College.

Lacy and Hennen have been traveling across the country to raise capital for their growing company. They’re on their way to Alaska to test their device with the U.S. Air Force, and have plans to test the Lux with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the future, said Lacy.

Lumineye began in the Stanford University Hacking4Defense program, which aims to find technological solutions for needs in the defense and intelligence communities. Boise State became a partner in the program at Hennen’s urging when he was a computer science graduate student.

In addition to their business acumen, the company founders with Boise State ties each have compelling stories. Lacy received her undergraduate degree from Stanford in product design engineering and her credential from Boise State’s HBX/Harvard Business School program. She was team captain of Boise State’s 2017 Women’s Cross Country team and has won Boise’s iconic Race to Robie Creek for the past two years. She’s training for the 2020 Olympic trials in the marathon.

Hennen, a Boise native, comes from a business family. He used skills honed through studies in computer science, math and physics to help build his parent’s Idaho-based company, The Rag Company, which produces microfiber towels and other products. The company grew from a venture in the Hennen family garage into a multi-million dollar business.

Lumineye founders at the Alabama competition
Hennen and Lacy (front row, left) at the U.S. Army’s xTechSearch Pitch Competition in Huntsville, Alabama, in March. Photo courtesy of Megan Lacy.

For Miller, Lumineye’s growth thus far “demonstrates what’s possible when students have an idea and will pursue it as far as they can.”

Note: Megan Lacy will be part of Techstars Startup Week Boise 2019. There she will participate on the panel, Early Stage Startups Boise, moderated by Nic Miller at 2 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 8, at JUMP. Read more: Tech Startup Weeklyo

– Story by Anna Webb