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Creating a Portable Lighting Accessory To Capture Beautiful Moments Even in the Dark

Edward Madongorere is the CEO and co-founder of MOON Ultra. A jack of many trades, Ed worked in Marketing at Comcast, Developed E-Learning programs and pioneered the video email marketing process at Cisco and was a designer & project manager at Affectiva. As a talented UX/UI design and cinematographer he would found Edemanté Design & Film where he produced stunning ads and content for clients. His work has appeared on CNN, Fox, CBS, MTV, NECN and more. With a magnetic personality and love for people, he encourages others to pursue their dreams and overcome challenges. “Connecting with people, creating new and unforgettable memories is what it’s all about.” MOON was born out a need to connect and share. Edward also sits on the Advisory board of multiple technology companies.

I had an actual lightbulb moment (pun intended) when the inspiration behind MOON occurred. Inspired by a moment of pure frustration with dark, grainy photos. It reached a boiling point for my wife and me one night in a Boston restaurant. Capturing lots of content was very important to us so we could share with our Autistic son as he grew older. After I came up with the idea, the journey began that same night.

Soon after I met my co-founder, we built a prototype and began testing it with potential customers everywhere. I would go to dark bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and anytime I saw people try and take photos and videos, I would interject. I could see the same frustration in them that I had. With each public test, I would get feedback, which we used to validate.

Did you have any experience/expertise in the area?

You could say I had some experience but not the full picture. See, I had a long career in Graphic/UX/UI Design, Cinematography, Branding, and Marketing. However, I had zero experience in making or manufacturing a product. What I knew to my core was, if I wanted this idea to be a success at all, I'd need to find someone with the skills I lacked. It was serendipitous that I met a next-level genius maker and engineer, who was my complete opposite and shared my level of enthusiasm. Dishen, aka, Dixon, was not afraid to jump in and take the leap with me. His expertise and that fearlessness were all I needed to see. We shook hands and have worked side-by-side for four years now. Together we would become an unstoppable force. Today we have more people on our team that bring incredible expertise in every area of a consumer, hardware brand.

Who is your target demographic?

Our target demographic is content creators. The fascinating thing about this is we live in an incredible time where the age and specific characteristics of this unique individual vary but have one thing in common. Our customers love to capture content and aspire to achieve great content. Photos, videos, Snaps, Instagram stories, Tik Tok videos all suffer from the same things when faced with low light situations. Almost everyone I've talked to suffers from this, and it's an array of people and personalities. So although we have specific demographics, it's ever-evolving and mirrors the landscape of content creators.

How did you fund the idea initially?

Initially, we bootstrapped for the first year and a half. We were scrappy. I focussed on product design and market research, while Dixon focussed on the R&D. When we got to our MVP, is when our personal money had run out. This was when we decided to begin fundraising. I'm sure many founders will tell you how hard it is to raise money, but it's 20x more laborious when you're trying to raise capital for hardware, consumer products. Regardless we trucked on and were able to raise over $1.1 Million from various Angel investors to bring the MOON UltraLight to market.

Any tips for finding first employees?

Pay attention! In your quest to build your company, many opportunities will come your way in random ways. It's your responsibility to be open and receptive to the hints the universe throws at you. This happened to me where I met our Head of Marketing while she was sitting on stage during a panel at SXSW in 2018, and I was in the audience. I knew the minute she began talking, she was who we and MOON needed. She had no idea at that moment, but I was highly impressed and admired her. I knew we would have to meet one day. Fast forward, I ended up in NYC where she was, and I offered to be a helping hand with an event she was doing. The time I got to spend with her was way better than any interview I could have given. Point is you may have to be a bit unconventional at times when finding your first team members.

Did you run any companies prior?

I did run my own boutique Creative agency before starting MOON. All of the experiences I had learned were transferable but not created equal. A startup is hard. It requires the absolute best of you at all times, kind of like having an infant. I had previously worked for a Startup and got to experience all the controlled chaos that goes into growing a company.

What were your family and friends first thoughts on your company?

I'm sure I'm not alone here when I say, some friends and family instantly loved the idea and thought it would be a massive success. Others, well, not so much. They didn't understand why I was willing to let go of everything I had built to start something that was likely going to fail, according to statistics. Ultimately, it didn't really matter what anyone thought. I thought it was a great idea, and I had a vision that I knew if I could get other talented people to come to join me, it would work. Also, I learned from many episodes of Shark Tank, that having friends and family that like your idea means nothing. Feedback from people who actually pay for it is what counts.

What motivates you when things go wrong? What is the end goal?

In a startup, things will always go wrong. My family, my team, and our customers. I envision MOON to be the world's best in mobile lighting and content creation. Having more people capture more moments they can actually keep and cherish, that's what it's about. Knowing I have amazing people alongside me that share in this feeling is what drives me.

Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?

If you've already started, you've already proven you have what it takes. The rest is learning fast and execution. There may come a time when you will have to choose to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of your company. You will be tested daily, and the decisions you make will matter, maybe not at that moment, but in the long run. For me, I decided to move our family from a four-bedroom house to a small apartment and let go of our cars and completely go all in. I believed in my vision to the core that I was willing to make that sacrifice. You'll have to decide just how badly you want it.

How do you protect yourself from competition?

By staying true to who we are. Our competitors already created a lane for themselves. Though our roads may intersect, we need to stay on our path. Customers love to support authentic brands. The minute you start to pretend to be someone else, they can smell it, and that is the beginning of the end. Do we know what our competition is doing? Sure, you should always be aware. Trying not to be reactive to every move they make is vital. Know and listen to your customers!

Do you have any trademarks/IP/patents?

Patents are great, and yes, we have them, but as our lawyers once told us, Patents may not always protect you. Especially in this global market where some don't care about our rules. What will protect you, better than any Patent, is having a strong brand and customer loyalty.

What are the top 3-5 apps your business could not run without?

This is a tricky question because we use a variety of tools to help with a range of objectives. The answer depends on which area of the business we're talking about. As a whole, we cannot do without Shopify for our e-commerce and Zoom for communication since we are mostly virtual. For a third one, I'll list one that I personally can't do without and that's Superhuman. I used to hate emails, now I don't hate emails.

What are your favourite books and podcasts?

My favorite book is Play Bigger by Christopher Lochhead, Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Kevin Maney. This book simply gets me!

Podcasts: How I Built This with Guy Raz, Business Wars, and Legends and Losers with Christopher Lochhead. One thing I do listen to that is not a podcast but gets me so motivated is Movie Soundtracks. My favorite being anything produced by Hanz Zimmer. Something about listening to the Man of Steel soundtrack when you're trying to crush the day that simply feels powerful.

What are your next steps?

The future for us is bright (pun intended). Had to end with a lighting pun. As we grow our brand, we will introduce new and innovative products. My team and I hope that we will continue to reinvent how people use our lighting solutions as a tool to enhance and to shape the way they tell their stories.

Company Name: Moon Ultra
Founder: Edward Madongorere



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