From 2015 through 2021 I was the founder and owner of Technology for Humankind DBA Filimin, makers of the Friendship Lamp. During my tenure the company grew to over 40 employees with annual revenue of over 3 million in less than 6 years.
Filimin was conceived from my invention of the Friendship Lamp as a way for my own family to connect across distance. The concept is simple: touch your lamp and your loved ones’ lamps light the same color as yours, no matter the distance. Any number of lamps can be grouped together and any member of the group can choose the color of their lamp. At its core the Friendship Lamp is an ambient, unobtrusive way to stay in touch with those you love…a “digital hug.”
The invention was well received by the local community — it was clear that other families and loved ones wished to connect as well. My friend Kenton Hansen suggested organizing a Kickstarter to raise capital. Funded with the successful campaign and a business loan, we shipped the first Friendship Lamps in March, 2016.
During my tenure, Filimin manufactured, sold and shipped more than 250,000 Friendship Lamps. The lamps have been featured on major online media, including Buzzfeed three times, Mashable twice, The Today Show, The Washington Post, and Business Insider. Buzzfeed’s video about Filimin went viral, receiving nearly 5 million views. We developed new models, such as a wooden model and a picture frame.
I feel that all companies have an ethical responsibility to contribute positively to their communities and the world, and not just in regard to the products they offer but also in how their products are made. This is why all Filimin products were manufactured with a close-knit team of employees in Wichita Kansas and not overseas. Filimin’s team included participants from the Women’s Network and the International Rescue Committee. The Women’s Network is a non-profit that helps women in transition from abusive situations to independence and the workforce. The International Rescue Committee helps refugees seeking asylum to make Wichita their home. Participants from both of these organizations were critical employees in contributing to Filimin’s success since job satisfaction, innovation and personal growth are best served with diverse points of view. My wife wrote an editorial outlining the difference employing refugees had made for the company.
In running the company, I drew inspiration from the model of servant leadership and from visionary thinkers such as Simon Sinek, and Seth Godin. I incorporated this mindset with the basics of lean manufacturing such as is outlined in Paul Akers’ work. It was important to me that employees felt safe, supported, and free to experiment. Collaborating with coworker Pankaja Withanachchi, I also implemented a hybrid Scrum model for our internal marketing team.
I sold Technology for Humankind in May 2021 to pursue other interests. Friendship Lamps continues under new ownership.