Amazing Grace: our co-founder reflects on career, college football and chances taken to change the world

The author (far left) with 5 of his 6 children–including Anna the skeptic (far right) and wife Maureen. Not pictured, former Lumin intern and current University of Notre Dame sophomore, young Kevin O’Shea. #goirish

The author (far left) with 5 of his 6 children–including Anna the skeptic (far right) and wife Maureen. Not pictured, former Lumin intern and current University of Notre Dame sophomore, young Kevin O’Shea. #goirish

By Kevin O’Shea

Since I received the call up to join one of the industry’s great Computer-Aided Engineering team’s in 1992, Rasna Corp., I have spent the last 27 years of my life on these quixotic missions of bringing wildly useful, but obscure technology solutions onto the market.  I have been given the responsibility and privilege of contributing to the success and market adoption of products that no one has ever heard of! 

Here I am again, having joined Alex Bazhinov, this crazy, full of belief, Russian dude who approached me in the fall of 2016 with this idea for an addition to the circuit breaker panel that made the ordinary circuits in your breaker panel smart and responsive.  Alex had built a prototype of the idea after watching some YouTube videos and ordering some raspberry Pi’s and Arduinos and mounting it on some plywood!  At our first Lumin Christmas party in December, 2016 where I brought my wife, Maureen and a few of the kids still at home to meet the “team”, my supper-sassy then 16-year old daughter Anna says in epic fashion; “I can’t believe you risked ‘my’ future on this 5th-grade science project.”  One of the funnier lines I have ever heard.  Lots of truth and irreverence.  It has been one of the great motivators for the mission, and galvanizers of the team, to prove that wise-ass wrong. 

Why do it? (Maureen often asks me, just kidding actually, and that is Rule #1 of helping build startups, make sure you have a supportive spouse).  Some of the best advice I ever poached along the way about starting a company went something like this; “find a gap in the market that is not being served well, surround yourself with like-minded people who also see and believe in the opportunity or gap, and start building and selling the solution.”  I guess that’s Rule #2.  Should be easy.

So here we are, approaching 20 people strong at Lumin.  Like-minded.  Believing.  Raising money, selling and installing product.  With a real product (patented, UL-compliant, take that Anna).  Through iteration and nimble development, each generation of our product gets better and better.  A Responsive Energy Management Platform that combines hardware and software that there is real demand for in the market.  Demand in markets where automated circuit-level control of energy usage is critical; residential energy storage, dynamic electricity pricing, increasing electrification of homes, and more.

Once again, Why?  Why not take a job with IBM, or something easier, or a company that someone has heard of for once in my life?  I believe that those that can create should.  I believe that God wants us to have the courage to “push out in the deep, and let down the nets”, and that he is a God of abundance, and that a scarcity mentality, or a mentality of I am going to sit on my gifts and hoard and collect some earthly treasures does not serve the world well.

Here is another Why, and what has stirred me to put electronic pen to paper.  It’s Friday night after a long week of pushing, and I send a text to one of our early courageous partners, Pittsburgh’s finest residential solar installer, EIS Solar’s founder and President, Joe Morinville.  I do not know Joe real well yet, but Alex and some of the team have built a relationship and Joe is installing our Platform in Pittsburgh in combination with Tesla Powerwall2 home batteries.  I say Joe; “Kevin w Lumin, are you a U Pitt football fan? Our UVA squad opens w Pitt at Heinz Field tmw, we may need a friendly wager”, Joe says, “Are you a drinker?”, I say, “last name O’Shea, I come by it naturally”, Joe says, “Great. I love Irish whiskey so let’s bet a bottle”, I say “Deal!”

A couple dudes after a long week connected by a belief in the importance residential solar + storage to a clean energy future, connected by college football, connected by a love for Irish whiskey!  Amazing Grace.  We are not connected if Alex takes the easier route and applies his newly minted UVA Darden MBA to go make a couple $100K in some investment bank.  We are not connected if I don’t join the dance and take on a job that actually pays me (Startup Rule #3, a paycut is coming). 

So I reflect here as a way to give thanks. For me, I thank God for the opportunity to create and be a part of some amazing stories and connections.I thank Alex for the courage to create and not take the easier path. I thank Maureen for putting up with my shenanigans for 30 years, the long hours, and the risky ventures. I thank all the amazing mentors over the last 27 years since I came alive professionally, far, far too numerous to mention. I thank the team that we have assembled for their commitment, belief, and hard work. Finally, I thank our early partners, the Joe Morinville’s of the world for their shared belief and the courage to back an early-stage company with a tremendous idea out of Charlottesville, VA. The ‘Hoos will take it to Pitt tonight. I will drink that free Irish Whiskey, and man will it taste good, and we will drink it together, Joe and I, and we will celebrate this amazing journey and new connections.

Kevin O’Shea is Co-founder & Chief Commercial Officer at Lumin

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