UT Dallas alumni survive, thrive in ‘Shark Tank’

Robert Francis rfrancis@bizpress.net


Two former students at the University of Texas at Dallas’ Naveen Jindal School of Management Full-Time MBA Program went into the Shark Tank and not only survived, but emerged with a $350,000 deal with Mark Cuban. Ilumi co-founders Corey Egan and Swapnil Bora braved the sometimes nasty waters of Shark Tank to present an investment opportunity for their company to Cuban, Lori Greiner, Barbara Corcoran, Robert Herjavec and Kevin O’Leary. For the uninitiated, Shark Tank is a reality TV show that features entrepreneurs making a pitch to five potential investors – the “sharks” – to support their product or idea.

Plano-based ilumi is a series of color tunable LED Smartbulbs controlled wirelessly via Bluetooth using an app for iOS or Android. According to the company, ilumi lighting systems are seven times more energy efficient than a regular light bulb and will last for up to 20 years. The outcome was great, said Lisa Shatz, Jindal School assistant dean of MBA programs and director of the Full-Time MBA Program. “This is absolutely as good as it gets,” she told Egan and Bora shortly after the programed aired on April 18. “You guys rolled up your sleeves. You did not give up. You kept going… We are so incredibly proud of you.” UT Dallas alumni Egan and Bora met at the school as students.

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“Swapnil and I were actually classmates at UT Dallas, where we came up with the idea,” Egan said. The Shark Tank victory is not the former students’ first success in a competitive venue. Ilumi won the 2010 UT Dallas Business Idea Competition. Egan and Bora, who worked with entrepreneurship professors, earned their MBAs in 2010. The Jindal School encouraged Egan and Bora and other students and alumni to audition for Shark Tank last year. It’s not the first investment success for the company. Ilumi’s appearance on Shark Tank comes on the heels of successful Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns where the company raised over $200,000 total in crowd funding. During the program, Egan explained that users can program lights to create a sunrise effect, romantic candlelight or even a post-Dallas Mavericks game celebration. The latter is exactly what they did during the program. “Mark, represent your team and ours by lighting it up blue and green on game day,” Egan said. “After the Mavericks win, let the celebration begin.” Then, Egan and Bora danced as the lights changed colors during the ABC primetime program. Dancing with the Stars may not be in their future, but the pitch worked: After some negotiation with O’Leary, Cuban offered the funds for a 25-percent ownership of their company, which has patents pending and aims to ship its product by the end of the year. “Mark’s just going to be just like fuel on the fire,” Egan said in an interview on the show. “This thing is going to spread like wildfire and ilumi’s going to shine across the world.”