Go far off the beaten path where there is no rulebook and blaze your own trail. - David Jones
Nowadays, smartphones are ubiquitous. In fact, mobile data traffic across the globe is projected to have increased nearly sevenfold from 2017 to 2022. We all expect that information can be transferred, services organized, and problems solved on the go. But, do you expect your mobile device to address the challenge of providing clean energy to developing countries? Or even to access an Energy Management System via a virtual power plant?
Well let me introduce you to David Jones, founder and CEO of Lite Injen Labs, the parent company of Lumena Energy one of the largest software development firms in the Midwest. David is a brilliant entrepreneur and solar energy subject matter expert. With the successful launch of Lumena Energy at the Google Headquarters in 2019, his vision has led Lumena Energy to becoming the largest minority owned renewable energy company in the Midwest. He is not only enabling cleantech to some of the most remote areas of the world, David is doing it in style. His virtual power plant is managed completely from an app and whether your city's entire power grid fails, you will have access to reliable power. Lumena Energy's cloud-based network combines decentralized energy resources into a single aggregated sources, which increases your reliability. Renewable energy, cutting edge technology, enhanced customer experience, and all at your fingertips...Re.volutionary!
David Jones is a technologist, inventor and serial entrepreneur. He is the founder of Lite Injen Labs and Lumena Energy. David holds a BFA from The Juilliard School, and an MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is currently leading the firm to the expansion of the world's first black owned virtual power plant network which aims to power 1 billion households globally.
Q: From studying music composition at The Juilliard School to producing a clean energy technology enabler, what inspired you to pursue entrepreneurship in technology and software development?
David: Believe it or not, technology has always been my passion. In my family I've always been the de facto Wi-Fi wizard, eradicator of viruses and amateur coder, this extended to both family members and schoolmates.
Growing up in a middle class Black household, actually turning those skills into a monetizable career was a pipedream at best. There's power in representation, and during the 90's --and unfortunately even now in the 2000's, there hasn't been a whole lot of noteworthy Blacks in Tech for enterprising youth to look up to.
I got into the entrepreneurial side of tech out of necessity. 6 years ago, I was an airline pilot and had a great idea for an aggregator app that would display realtime pricing for products and services globally. However, I didn't have $40,000 to build a working MVP and no one would give me a dime. So, on overnights and during downtime I taught myself a coding language called Ruby. After a few months of trial and error, I had a working prototype and that started me down the path toward becoming a tech founder.
Two years later, after traveling the world I began to see an unmistakable common thread. Typically in black and brown countries, energy grids held together with duct tape and bubblegum all exhibited the same socioeconomic problems. High crime rates, lower educational standards, and subpar living standards. I taught myself electrical engineering and went on to receive my NABCEP Associate certification to bring resolve to some of these global issues. It was also paramount that my team and I serve as role models for future generations, this issue is far too grand to tackle alone.
Q: Tell us more about Lumena Energy. What is a virtual power plant?
David: Lumena Energy is a cleantech firm, our core focus is an IAAS based Energy Management System (EMS). We aim for our EMS to serve as a backbone for municipalities seeking to create smart grids.
The simplest way to describe a virtual power plant is by thinking of an energy grid as a tree. The roots are power plants from which the energy originates, the trunk is the infrastructure, the branches are the power lines, the leaves are individual homes and buildings. Stored energy is collected in the trunk that can be used when demand is too high or blackouts occur, and the entire system is regulated by Cloud architecture.
These transactions are all managed through the Cloud.
Q: What has been the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome as an entrepreneur in the STEM industry?
David: STEM in itself is a deeply nuanced, highly specific set of concentrations; naturally with bleeding edge technology such as Cleantech, IoT, Machine Learning etc. there's a steep learning curve for anyone not directly involved, that poses a big challenge when engaging with the public.
I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention how much institutional racism has bottlenecked our progress, it's truly a vexing scenario, despite the modern marvels of African American contribution. Every associated practice of STEM is what it is in part due to Black brilliance, and yet we are still stifled and scoffed at.
Q: We believe that our personal expressions should translate into how we operate as business and community leaders. We call it “Bringing Your Whole Self” into any situation. How do you ensure that you are authentic to yourself and your work?
David: I've always been the black sheep of my family ergo, individuality and uncompromising authenticity come with the territory. However, people can see through a phony quickly, especially when you're at the tip of the spear. So if the goal you are pursuing is anything beside fervent enthusiasm to solve a problem, you're selling yourself and your team short.
Q: What advice would you give to other young professionals or entrepreneurs looking to take their career or education to the next level?
Make short term, mid term and long term goals and stick to them.
Invest in your education.
Protect your reputation at all costs.
Command your worth.
Be relentless in your pursuit of excellence.
Address niche problems, go far off the beaten path where there is no rulebook and blaze your own trail.
Q: At Re.engineer, we believe in challenging the status quo. How you are applying your background in the arts to solving technology challenges around the world.
David: Maintaining an up-to-date knowledge base on current events, industry standards and emerging tech keeps me oriented with market needs, this gives me a firm grasp on which to begin iterating on concepts. Sprinkle in a little creativity and ingenuity and a viable idea is born.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
David: I'm not big on sleeping, especially at night. Being an entrepreneur is not an easy feat, there is always something that needs to be done. I worry about competitors and enemies of progress, but conversely there is a high level of eustress associated with being kept awake. I'm in a constant state of creation and iteration, majority of my most impactful ideas happen when the world is silent and I am free to get lost in my imagination.
Lumena Energy: lumenaenergy.com
Lite Injen Labs: liteinjenlabs.com