Daniel Webb, Founder of Folux Labs, is perhaps the youngest founder to go through RIoT’s Accelerator Program at age 19. Dan, a sophomore at NC State and Wake Tech, enjoys mountain biking, gardening, design and tinkering. Dan has been dabbling in entrepreneurship since he was fourteen or fifteen years old, when he began doing logo design. During high school he was an international DECA finalist. We shared an insightful conversation about Dan’s fascinating startup story, how he manages his mental health and more.
Q: What does Folux Labs do in a nutshell?
A: We are doing something very unique. We’re developing a new IoT lighting system that can interpret sensor and camera data using hardware and software to deliver the next evolution of crop lighting.
Cannabis growing in particular requires impressive artistry. Many believe small-crop Cannabis farmers are just growing their product in attics and closets, but that’s not the case. They know their crop better than anyone and generally are able to compete with large growers by having better quality. To do so, these cannabis farmers utilize many lighting systems, swapping different systems for different outcomes. For example, they may start with blue light, but when it’s time for their product to bud, they switch to different lights to change the plant’s physiology, producing more cannabinoids. This requires a full hardware swap.
We automate this process by analyzing plant image data to help growers understand where their plants are in terms of growth in order to achieve maximum performance.
Q: What inspired you to start this company?
A: When I was 16, I started doing a lot of gardening and really enjoying it. But I got a letter from my HOA saying I needed to take my garden down. The fine was $1,000. I talked with my landlord who also told me to take it down. Naturally, I didn’t. Instead, I began looking for alternatives like tent gardening. (My landlord didn’t need to know about it.) But as I started looking at lighting options for a tent, I realized I was going to need to spend up to $800 on a lighting system if I didn’t want to significantly drive up the cost of my electricity.
I called a client of mine, an IT professional, told him my situation and asked for his advice. As fellow tinkerers and electronics hobbyists, we started looking at what these expensive lights are made of and realized they were mostly just LED boards with drivers connected to AC outlets. Component-wise, you can make them for under $50. So we built our own and realized this could be a great business opportunity.
We came up with a design, invested $10,000 into making light kits and made all the money back.
Q: What’s your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
A: Something I’m quite vocal about is my battle with ongoing depression. Entrepreneurship is something that has helped me manage my depression.
To keep myself up and running and engaged, I try to keep myself preoccupied with things I love to do. Entrepreneurial projects are good for me. I like to see success. Constantly chasing that success keeps me engaged. Integrating with other entrepreneurs and feeding off of their positive energy and attitudes also helps.
Q: Do you have any mentors or role models who have inspired you while you have been building your business?
A: My main mentor is Sam Dirani at Hangar6. He took me under his wing as a design mentor and life mentor as well. We’ve worked on projects together and he helps keep me engaged with projects I’m interested in. He’s been instrumental in helping me try not to fall back into depressed states. He helped me get through what could have been a crushing time. Without him, I wouldn’t have been able to get back up to the pitcher’s plate
Others I’d like to mention are Emil Runge from First Flight Venture Center, Marshall Brain (Founder of howstuffworks.com) and David Reeser, Founder of OpiAID (and fellow RAP cohort member). David and I have been talking for over a year now. He was the first person I pitched my idea to and believed in me. He didn’t even find out we were in the cohort together until the press release went out and it was just pure joy finding out we would be working together.
Q: Any advice for entrepreneurs?
A: Don’t be too afraid of failure. Failure is very disheartening, but the achievable joy you can get from succeeding is far worth many failures. Get to work – put down your phone, cut out social media and try your best to make your idea into a business.