14.12.2020 by Fotis Georgiadis
“Your initial ideas about entrepreneurship are likely naïve. The real world is much more difficult and complex.
— The steps from inventing to developing to market launch is challenging. You must learn and adapt quickly.”
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs I had the pleasure of interviewing Eran Ben Shmuel, CEO & Cofounder of Juganu.
Eran has over 15 years of experience in leading cutting-edge, high-tech companies from zero to mass production. He is an expert in solid-state electronics and high-speed control systems. Eran holds a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering and Physics from the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology as well as numerous patents in Physics and Algorithms.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After my career as a classical violinist, I wanted to find ways technology could be used to help people. I began pursuing degrees in electrical engineering and physics at Israel’s Technion University, which is widely compared to MIT in the United States.
When I finished my studies, I teamed up with a longtime friend, Alexander Bilchinsky, to start our first company and we found great early success in our work with Goji (then RF Dynamics) and the Vection oven. It was dubbed the “magic oven” because it used radio waves to heat food in a fraction of the time it takes for a conventional microwave oven.
We then created Juganu in 2011, where our mission has been to transform public spaces into safe environments through innovative light technology ever since.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I’ve been lucky to see how technology can impact some of the most fundamental parts of people’s lives.
I remember when we first connected our system in Vera Cruz, Mexico. I was fortunate to spend time with some residents after the system was set up. What left a deep impression on me was the feeling of safety a well-lit space gave them. I was also struck by realizing how priceless that feeling of safety is.
What people can accomplish while feeling safe is incredible. It meant that the city’s parks and roads could be used for their actual intention. For example, people felt comfortable walking at night with their children, and that presence of people made other people feel safe.
This feeling of safety meant that people were happier. For me, this showed that technology–when used well and properly–has the potential to make our society happier.
Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
As the global COVID-19 pandemic persists, people want solutions that will help them return to some semblance of normalcy. Juganu’s patented indoor lighting system, called J.Protect, offers continuous protection that inactivates 99.9% of pathogens and can be operated remotely from an app.
The fact that the system inactivates bacteria and viruses including SARS CoV-2 has become critical as scientists have found that the virus can survive up to 28 days on surfaces. Plus, since it’s an overhead lighting system, J.Protect also works well against airborne pathogens.
The light has two disinfection modes: Allegro, which is continuous and can be used safely while people are present in a room; and Presto, which is accelerated to disinfect an area within minutes once cleared of people (i.e. after closing).
Juganu is also the only company to develop a circadian overhead lighting system that promotes well-being through the recreation of natural light shifts, based on sunrise and sunset.
So, we’re not just using the best lighting; we’re exposing people to the safest, healthiest light possible.
How do you think this might change the world?
Our lights are 2×2 feet and can be easily installed in basically any business with an indoor space — movie theatres, hospitals, retail stores, restaurants, schools, airports, etc. The list goes on.
We’re all empathetic to the fact that businesses must stay open to survive. J.Protect can help business owners open doors while ensuring spaces are continually sanitized — all from the lights above their heads.
Along with creating a healthier world, one of our primary goals for Juganu is to create a more connected world through light. As IoT and innovations like 5G evolve, our technology will act as a platform and have the capability to bridge us toward concepts like “future” or “smart” cities. That is our long-term dream for our technology.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Protecting the health and safety of our communities is a core principle behind Juganu’s entire mission. While we do use AI and deep tech to automate processes, we do not and never will infringe on people’s privacy or sell personal data and information, which many of our customers find reassuring.
It’s also very important for people to understand that COVID-19 isn’t the first time a virus has impacted our daily lives, and it won’t be the last.
Pathogens and bacteria are always present. Our society will continue to be vulnerable to pandemics like the coronavirus. While COVID-19 is certainly an inflection point and global focus right now, we believe our J.Protect technology will be relevant long after this pandemic ends.
Now more than ever, it’s important for people and businesses to approach the future with this thinking to ensure they’re well-equipped to stay protected for the long-term.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
Alexander and I were the inventors of a unique lighting solution used for regular, high quality lighting. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, we saw the incredible impact it was having on our everyday lives and set out to create something truly original and helpful.
Our creation became a potential solution: a blend of lights that stop the spread of the virus and other pathogens.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
While we remain focused on offering a solution to businesses and public facilities to get through the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve been working closely with potential partners worldwide to adopt the J.Protect system.
We already have support from incredible partners like Qualcomm and NCR Corporation and are seeing demand across the world, specifically in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, and Asia.
Ultimately, we hope hospitals, schools, malls, restaurants, hotels, and other heavily-trafficked spaces will adopt J.Protect as their primary lighting solution.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
We’ve been working with strategic partners to introduce Juganu to U.S. media as we work to bring our lighting technology to help those businesses operate safely during COVID-19 and beyond.
We’ve also started to build an active social media presence on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to ensure we’re connecting with business leaders and stakeholders who could benefit from the J.Protect technology.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
The first person that I would say is Ayal Shiran, from Viola. Ayal was introduced to me as an investor, but since then has become a well of knowledge, experience and advice.
The second person is Julian Brodsky. Every conversation we have is a window into the mind of someone who is doing many great things that has brought knowledge to the world. I am grateful for the time that I have to speak to him and the fact that he is on our board.
He is encouraging and inspiring and always gives me a lot to think about in regards to how I can be better.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
For us, bringing goodness to the world is not just measured in CSR initiatives; it’s a fundamental value of or organization. Juganu has created a platform that allows cities to serve their residents better.
This platform, called The FOAM, transforms public spaces into safe, fully-connected WIFI enabled areas that can be used by residents to their full potential. We do this by connecting thousands of digital nodes to our streetlights, which create a publicly accessible invisible network.
I think about the multiplier effect this has. When we invest in public goods, whether that’s transport or libraries or even parks, we provide people with better and increased opportunities.
Increasing public access to resources goes a long way in reducing socio-economic gaps. The outbreak of COVID-19 has proven that access to resources plays a crucial role in ongoing success and development. For example, with Zoom classes, access to education is linked to our access to WIFI. And just like a public library: when we fail to provide this, we leave people behind. Parks and outdoor spaces are critical to our physical and mental health but having access to them is often regarded as a luxury.
What if we could rethink the urban environment?
What if city parks were used as open learning or working spaces?
What if university students could use parks as open study zones?
What if micro businesses could do parts of their work outside?
When our streets and spaces are well-lit, they act as a magnet for people. Not only does it reduce accidents, but families have a place to go for a walk in the evening while women feel more comfortable exercising alone in the evenings.
Essentially, having these types of public spaces increases our sense of safety, improves health, reduces crime and provides more possibilities for people. For me, providing the foundations on which people can build, learn, play and live brings goodness to the world.
I also learned from being a touring classical violinist that you need to be serious and continuously work and practice for a reward. You also need to stay focused. Even if you’ve achieved a superior level of quality, you must remain tenacious in working at your craft. Even after all that practice and work, you must perform well and bring real value.
This is similar to the mission of Juganu. We want to bring real value to the market. Our technology offers performance at the highest level and maintains that consistency in quality — and we’ve made it incredibly cost-effective so most businesses can afford it.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Your initial ideas about entrepreneurship are
likely naive. The real world is much more difficult and complex.
— The steps from inventing to developing to market launch is challenging. You must learn and adapt quickly.
- As an entrepreneur you should have two eyes on the
— One eye should look at the future because you’re creating something that doesn’t exist. Look far ahead and figure out how you’re going to get there.
— Your other eye should look at the world that exists today and how you can bridge the current challenges. This may be the toughest task as an entrepreneur.
- Choose your teams and partners carefully.
— Entrepreneurship is a team sport. Your partners are critical to your success
- Your life isn’t just the technology you create.
— The technology you create is just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll need to handle everything else in a way that is smart and realistic. Be sure whatever you create has real value.
- No one will prepare you for the situations you’ll find yourself in. That said, oftentimes there is no right or wrong answer.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
When you create things, not just technology, create them through a lens of improving the world. Use your creativity, time and effort to make the world better for more people.
Use the best parts of our accumulated knowledge to push the world forward and to give people more opportunities. Make things as accessible as you can to help people access more and be healthier.
We created Juganu in this image. I believe when you use technology for good, you can make a huge impact on people every day. I really want to create technologies that provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I failed a lot. Don’t be afraid to fail, because you will fail. When you do fail, choose to see the good in it. See what you can learn from the failure and build yourself up again.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Juganu’s mission is to create a safer, more connected world through light. Our patented lighting tech transforms public spaces into safe environments by inactivating pathogens like SARs-CoV 2 — the virus that causes COVID-19.
Our tech has been clinically validated and EPA-registered in the U.S., and we’ve recently been backed by esteemed investors like Comcast Ventures and Viola Growth. We have rapidly-growing offices in the US, Mexico and Brazil and are working with partners to make our tech available around the world.
Help us not just triumph over the coronavirus pandemic, but to create a safe, more connected world that will transform our society as we know it!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow Juganu at the Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter handles below!
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.