Startup Studios- Behind The Scenes: Lights on Lab

Dianna Lesage
5 min readJun 19, 2020

Jeff McDermott, founder of The Lights on Lab, is many things but slow-moving is not one of them. He is an entrepreneur with drive and vision who connects fragmented pieces of the startup ecosystem to create new opportunities at a rapid pace. His sharp mind and broad skillset help him connect with industry players and his candid yet friendly style proves that you can be both expert and human at the same time.

From resource allocation to team development and exit- Jeff was hands-on every step of the way with his Startup Studio, The Lights On Lab- which was sold earlier this year. I was thrilled to sit down with Jeff and chat about how he built, ran, and exited his The Lights on Lab.

*General overview of conversation/ transcript but quotes are not verbatim

DL: Lights on Lab is not an incubator, it’s not an accelerator or a coaching program- can you explain what it is and highlight the goals you had for the organization?

JM: Lights on Lab began as an incubator because I wanted to build companies by partnering with entrepreneurs. But, most of them didn’t know what they were doing and didn’t want to listen- it’s hard to manage people in that capacity, especially when they’re remote. So, we scrapped the incubator model in late 2014 and we restructured it as a private equity firm. So, an entrepreneur would come to Lights on Lab with an idea (something we can validate) and it’s our job to help build the internal teams, find out how much money we need to raise, raise the capital, and then take the venture to market. And that’s how the Studio model came to be.

DL: Great. Correct me if I’m wrong but let me see if I can sum it up: you want entrepreneurs to come to you with an idea, and then you’ll help them build a team, test the idea, and validate it in the market. But, before the venture even launches fully, you want to have a buyer or someone in line for acquisition of the venture.

JM: Yes but we don’t help them (the entrepreneurs) we just do it.

DL: Oh- so an entrepreneur just comes to you with an idea and you + your team will

Dianna Lesage

Venture Studio expert. Creator capitalist. Lover of innovation.