Creators' Stories - Alice Min Soo Chun




Bio

Alice Min Soo Chun is the original inventor of the Solar Inflatable Light and Solar Light Assembly. Her idea was developed after many years of research and development in photovoltaics and thin film substrates. The first prototype was made in 2009, while she was a professor at Parsons the New School and at Columbia University.

Since that time, inspired by mission to maximize the power of the sun, reverse the growing rate of toxins in our environment and motivated by her personal story, she has raised over $1Million in funding through crowdfunding and other investors. The design was improved upon to become the SolarPuff™ using recyclable materials, light diffusion, and origami folding and self-inflating design.

FCBC Creator's Stories - Solight Design

A Funding Mission Powered by the Sun and Fueled by Love

Alice Chun founded Solight Design, a mission she felt compelled to pursue and grow, based on her personal story of the horrors of pollution from toxins in our environment and how they were affecting her family and her life. She used this “power of love” and her talents in design, architecture and knowledge of solar power along with the resources of crowdfunding to change her life and the lives of others forever.

Ms. Chun has been traveling around the world, spreading her story, growing her advocates and developing a community of “warriors of light” to continue the usage, uptake and popularity of her technology. In dark corners of the world where families are spending a third of their resources on fossil fuels, Solight and it’s partners are bringing solar light into their realities, creating brighter and healthier places to live.

She hopes to influence other start-up founders to do the same with their ideas. “In the end, it’s about the passion that pollinates from a love of what you do and pass on your passion as a gift to the world and it will fly back to you 10 million-fold.”


Questions & Answers (Q&A)

1. While you were working as a professor at Columbia, how did you find the time and resources to create Solight Design? What ultimately motivated you to take the ‘leap of faith’?

 

I loved my work at Columbia in material technology and sustainable design/architecture, but my most important job became being a mom. When my son was diagnosed with asthma, and I spent time at doctors after doctors’offices, and visit after visit, I was shocked at what is happening now, that one out of four kids in NYC has asthma – I started to wonder what kind of toxic environment we now live in. I went into overdrive with my research every spare moment. A worried mom does better research than the FBI.

It became an obsession and I had no choice but to pursue a solution. Not only did the innovation studio at Columbia help in this journey but every resource in my power to better understand a solution. I fought with my mind and heart, continued to dig deeper into the problem and use my background, technology and design sense. I could see no other way than to dedicate my profession to helping my son’s future , his childrens future, and the planets’ future. That is when I decided to focus on the most powerful source of renewable energy, the power of the sun.


2. You talk about the “blood, sweat and tears” of being an entrepreneur, how do you keep going when times get tough?

 

Thankfully, we live in a world where when you have an idea and a passion, there are tools to help get you to your destination. Crowdfunding is a great way to get started when you have a product like our SolarPuff™. We started with Kickstarter and had some great success, including so many wonderful stories of giving, connecting and sharing our story.

Explaining to other creators and inventors how you have to just keep going and going through ups and downs helps to constantly reinforce that commitment to my company and all of its stakeholders. I shout this out wherever and whenever I can. I meet with children all over the world showing them the power of the SolarPuff™ - with the mantra “Light Warriors Never Give Up!” Sharing this with others keeps the momentum going within me.


3. How do investors respond to the passion around your social mission and what is your key to success raising money through crowdfunding and beyond?

 

The biggest advice here is to really, really focus. In Solight’s crowdfunding campaigns I think it was clear that I had a huge social mission tied to the profound link between climate change, global warming, poverty and health. It moved some investors who understood this message and jumped on board.

When I took the next step in funding, I did the same thing. I found an amazing mentor at MIT who had worked for the Peace Corps who was literally wowed and compelled by my mission. Like a series of dominos, contacts begot other contacts and I found myself surrounded by like-minded people sharing our story.

4. What do you see as the biggest impact of what you have created on the world?

 

I hope the biggest impact will be to improve the lives of millions of people around the world and stir up energy around making our planet a better place to live. I’ve seen this happen from Nantucket to Nigeria and beyond.

I am spreading the seeds and story of the SolarPuff™ to help replace the horrible fossil fuels that are now causing so many health problems that we see today through a pop-up design that has a “wow factor” for everyone who holds in it their hands. It is light, powerful and has a design that was inspired by my love of origami. The best thing that could happen is lighting up the world with the power of the sun.

5. What about the FCBC movement interests you? What are some of the reasons you decided to speak at the event?

 

I want to share my story with other entrepreneurs who may be looking for ideas, inspiration and “how to” knowledge to get to their next steps. I would love to tell my story of how I went from a passion to solve a problem and found other like-minded people through crowdfunding campaigns with both Kickstarter and Indiegogo that lead to even greater success stories.

Past Campaigns