Torontonians who are making a killing in the tech sector

Torontonians who are making a killing in the tech sector

Gimmy Chu is the co-founder and CEO of Nanoleaf, a company that makes intelligent, ultra-energy-efficient lighting

Company HQ: Queen and John
Founded: 2013
Employees: 35
Offices: Toronto, Hong Kong and China

How it works: “Nanoleaf started by making the world’s most energy-efficient light bulb, with ­custom-designed LED chips. We’ve since made dimmable bulbs that don’t need dimmers, voice-controlled bulbs and coloured lights inspired by the Northern Lights.”

Eureka moment: “My two co-founders and I were on U of T’s solar car team. We went our separate ways after graduating but got together again to use some of our knowledge to create sustainable products. We’re just a bunch of engineers who want to create cool stuff, so we decided to build a really energy-efficient light bulb.”

How much you spent initially: “We put in $10,000 between the three of us. We set up a Kickstarter to raise another $20,000 and ended up with $273,000.”

Your turning point: “We wanted to partner with Apple but didn’t know who to contact. So I sent an email directly to CEO Tim Cook. I wasn’t expecting a response, but a week later, he connected me to the right people. Now we’re in Apple Stores across the globe.”

Your big-time backers: “U of T gave one of our lights to their donor Li Ka-shing, the richest man in Hong Kong, whose firm, Horizons Ventures, became our biggest backer. Kleiner Perkins, a Silicon Valley VC that backed Google and Amazon, also invested, as did Chris Burch of Burch Creative Capital. And the federal ­government gave us a $2.9-million grant.”

Your tech role model: “Elon Musk. A lot of people have big ideas about sustainability, but he executes.”

If you weren’t running a start-up: “I used to live in Hawaii, and I dreamed about quitting my job, opening a surf shop and surfing all the time.”

Coolest thing in your office: “Our prototype of the Aurora Rhythm, which are lights that change colour like a music visualizer. It’s an excuse to play music all day long.”

App you can’t live without: “YouTube. I watch videos at double speed to consume the information faster. Your brain just adapts.”

Your go-to office outfit: “Rainbow-coloured Nikes, jeans and a Hakuna Matata T-shirt I got from Target for $6. This is terrible—I should probably stop talking now.”


The best advice you’ve received: “My dad told me to take all advice seriously, then assess whether it’s good or bad yourself. But the key thing is to listen.”

The worst advice you’ve received: “Raise a lot of money and blow through it. Don’t worry—you’ll be able to raise more.”