Schmitt takes helm of SimplyLEDs as company plans next pivot

Feb. 15, 2022
Stephan Schmitt transitions to CEO position, succeeding founder Bob Deely, who will resume his role as CTO for the commercial & industrial LED lighting company.

BOISE, Idaho (Feb. 15, 2022) -- SimplyLEDs President Stephan Schmitt has transitioned to CEO, succeeding founder Bob Deely, who has resumed his role as chief technology officer for the company, which designs and builds high-performance LED lighting for commercial and industrial applications.

Schmitt, who was one of the company's initial investors and board members, said the move is a long-planned succession.

Deely, who earned a master's degree in electrical engineering at Stanford University, and fellow former Hewlett Packard engineers founded SimplyLEDs in 2010 in a garage. Early on the company pivoted from creating LED signs to designing and manufacturing LED luminaires and retrofit kits for large interior and exterior spaces, such as warehouses, factory floors, parking garages, parking areas, roadways, and walkways. It is based out of an ever-expanding and currently 25,000-square-ft. factory in Idaho's capital city, Boise.

Schmitt, a German expat, has worked in the technology industry for more than three decades, retiring from HP in 2020 after serving as vice president for its Office Printing Solutions division. He joined SimplyLEDs in June 2021 as a managing partner to take over the CEO role and allow Deely to lead the company's technology roadmap.

"We are a niche provider in the LED lighting market that has gained respect for the quality of lights and our direct manufacturer's service that ensures those operations and installations run smoothly," Schmitt said. "We design and manufacture all of our products in the U.S., so if our customers run into issues or need customization, they have the ability to immediately get support directly from our support engineers or the R&D team."

Schmitt is helming the company as it enters its next chapter: evolving from manufacturing lights and lighting control solutions to controlling the environment using lighting infrastructure.

"The fundamental purpose of this company is not to build lights, but to create a more welcoming and sustainable community," he said. "Light is welcoming. Whether you're in a retail office, a parking garage, or a house, light -- particularly when it gets dark -- is one of the first things that makes you feel comfortable and welcome in the environment.

"It's very important, and a great vehicle to reduce the environmental footprint that we leave behind, because LED lights are about 70 to 80 percent more efficient than the lights they replace."

Schmitt said SimplyLEDs focuses on industrial and commercial applications because lights used in those settings tend to draw a lot of energy.

"Some outdoor lights and warehouse lights like metal halide and high-pressure sodium lights consume 1,000 watts or more," he said. "If you drop that down to 30 percent or 20 percent of that, your energy savings are enormous. Sometimes you pay for the light within half a year just from the savings on your energy bill."

According to Deely, LEDs operate more efficiently than traditional lighting because they convert more electricity into actual light instead of heat. Plus, he said LED technology has advanced to the point where its light quality is actually better than traditional lighting.

Deely said the company's future now lies in enabling better controllability.

"You can actually make a light much more adaptive to the environment and the people that work in the environment with the control structures you put on top of it," he said. "They can automatically sense occupancy. They can sense daylight coming in. They can adjust the light temperature to the time of day. So your circadian rhythms are much more in tune with your day even though you are in an artificial environment.

"We can apply smart intelligence lights with sensors and lights that communicate with each other and regulate each other in the rhythm of how it's occupied and how the environment around you changes. Not only can you create another level of savings, but you can also go to the next level of creating an even more comfortable and productive environment.

"You already have an infrastructure in place that can do much more than just power and control lights. You can collect all kinds of data and create an environment that starts to regulate and manage proactively other aspects in a building besides lighting. Take security for example. Have all the doors locked as the last person leaves the building? Do we have flooding anywhere? Is the AC functioning? Do we have a fire emerging in some area?

"Because we can pick up temperature and other kinds of sensor data, we can also move into grow lights and horticulture. You can pick up the nutrients and the moisture in the soil, the humidity in the air and the plant lifecycle stage to optimize the yield in a greenhouse."

Schmitt said that's what he and Deely envision when they talk about SimplyLEDs transitioning from making lights and controlling lights in their environments to controlling the environment using the lighting infrastructure.

"There are so many opportunities," Schmitt said, "which is one of the reasons I'm so excited to lead this company."

He said SimplyLEDs achieved remarkable success during Deely's time as CEO.

"SimplyLEDs received its first LED mesh networking patent in 2010," Schmitt said, "And now we have more than a dozen patents around LED lights and controls."

He said the company's lights were selected over major household brands to illuminate the top of the Chrysler Building in New York City, as well as hundreds of mall parking lots and garages nationwide.

Recent noteworthy projects include the parking lot lights for a chain of Toyota dealerships in the Southwest and the 430,000 square-foot Round Rock Premium Outlets shopping mall on 200 acres in Round Rock, Texas. Both projects achieved an 82 percent energy savings.

Its lighting for Mariner's Point Golf Center Driving Range and Course in Foster City, Calif., yielded an energy reduction of 79 percent while meeting the Bay Area's stringent dark sky requirements.

SimplyLEDs first grabbed attention in 2011 when it worked with Bridgelux from San Jose, Calif., to retrofit 66 1,000-watt metal-halide light fixtures in the Treasure Valley YMCA's aquatic center in Boise. LEDs Magazine reported on the project, which achieved an energy savings of more than 80 percent while increasing lumen levels at the pool by 54 percent, and the story led to SimplyLEDs retrofitting many natatoriums throughout the country.

The company has sold more than 160,000 LED luminaires since 2010 with more than 152,000 -- 95 percent -- still active. As a result, it estimates customers have saved more than $76 million in energy costs and nearly 540,000 metric tons of greenhouse gasses just by making the switch to SimplyLEDs.

Schmitt said SimplyLEDs products are also renowned for their longevity, and in 2015 the company became the first major light manufacturer to offer a 10-year warranty. He said they're engineered to stand up to tough conditions, such as salty air in seaside settings and punishing temperatures posed by desert heat.

Like its products, SimplyLEDs has weathered many storms -- from the typical ups and downs in the market to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Schmitt credited the company's resilience largely to its culture, which he said values diversity in background and opinion and considers leadership not a functional title but a challenge for everyone in the organization to openly engage and participate in building community.

"We lost 50 percent of our business during the COVID-19 pandemic," he said. "To the credit of Bob (Deely), who was CEO during that time, we didn't lose a single customer and we only lost one employee, who chose to leave the company. We kept everyone on the health plan and on the payroll. If we had to furlough anyone, we furloughed them for a focused time period, but we kept them on the health insurance during the furlough with the objective of keeping our team together. Fortunately we lost no one to COVID, and now that the market has come back, we've brought everyone back on and we're all excited to begin the company's next chapter."




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