EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist: Ian McKenna, eLight

Company’s ‘Light as a Service’ model promises huge savings on lighting solutions

Ian McKenna of eLight: “We are very proud of the fact that we generated over 75 GW in energy savings from projects in 2016.”

Ian McKenna of eLight: “We are very proud of the fact that we generated over 75 GW in energy savings from projects in 2016.”

 

Having grown up to be an active participant in his family’s wholesale business it isn’t surprising that Ian McKenna, the managing director of eLight, ended up showing an entrepreneurial bent early on.

The Malahide-headquartered company, which was founded by McKenna in 2008, funds, installs and manages energy efficient LED lighting solutions in partnership with companies such as Philips and Actavo.

The firm, which has sales offices in Cork and Dundalk, as well as a warehouse and operations centre in Glasnevin, has grown from just three people to over 21 over the last five years.

What vision/lightbulb moment prompted you to start up in business?

It wasn’t really a lightbulb moment although that would have been great considering the business we are involved in. It was really more a process where I believed there had to be a way to develop a model that could deliver highly efficient LED fittings which would generate enormous energy savings and reliability in an environment where capital spend was scarce.

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

We take a finance-led, value-for-money approach to energy efficient lighting projects and upgrades. We install the latest high-quality, fully guaranteed, fit-for-purpose LED lighting to clients via our “Light as a Service” model with no capital requirement.

eLight invests directly in all projects designed to deliver energy savings at the lowest level of cost and to achieve the highest level of performance.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

We are only at the start of our journey. However, we are very proud of the fact that we generated over 75GW in energy savings from projects in 2016.

What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?

This was probably in 2012 when we had proved our concept and model with various completed projects which were privately funded and yet still found it difficult to get funding to enable eLight to scale and invest in energy saving projects to grow the business in line with our expectations. Unfortunately there was no magic moment that changed this but we persisted through various channels and have been able to manage our growth with Irish private investment.

What moment/deal would you cite as the “game changer” or turning point for the company?

Deals completed through 2016 would probably qualify as we completed over 250 individual projects and installed over 150,000 individual fully guaranteed LED products. However, forming our strategic partnerships with Philips, Actavo and other leading energy supply companies would qualify as a very important turning point for the company.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

Sales and confirmed projects would have high priority on a daily basis to manage product pipeline and scheduled installations but keep on top of figures regarding proposals presented and forecasts for future projects.

Have you started to feel the effects of the economic upturn within your sector?

Yes, we have been very fortunate to conduct business with some of Ireland’s leading companies and brands while building our business over the last difficult years. However, we are experiencing real engagement and aptitude to energy savings projects from new sectors throughout Irish commercial business.

How will your market look in three years?

Hopefully very vibrant as the eLight model further develops into the next phase of intelligent lighting and even more energy efficient management of lighting projects.

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