Michael Keoni DeFranco ’10
I am currently in my homeland, Hawai'i, at the 54th Annual Hawaiian Civic Clubs Convention as a voting delegate. Which was founded in 1918 by my uncle Prince Kalaniana'ole with the objective to Elevate the social and intellectual status of Hawaiians and restore pride in race, identity and heritage. The principles I learn here apply to my company back in New York. We run Lua with the spirit of Aloha.
I walked into Wesleyan with the vision of launching a software company before I graduated. I knew that Wesleyan did not offer business courses, which is exactly why I applied. I took government courses with a focus on nation building which applied to my two passions: Hawaiian studies and entrepreneurship. The same two passions that led me to found Lua in 2010, a communications software company with a name rooted in an ancient Hawaiian philosophy and martial art that taught silent communication during warfare and how to live a balanced life. Lua is a communications system for mobile workforces; teams, companies and industries that have percentages of their workforce that work outside of the office on a regular basis. Places like hotels, airports, stadiums, disaster teams, and governments. I founded Lua at the beginning of my senior spring and added two co-founders and former Wesleyan roommates the day of graduation in 2010 (Eli Bronner and Jason Krigsfeld '10). We drove a U-Haul from Wesleyan to NYC and started working full-time from there. Over the course of the next year we employed over 30 Wesleyan undergrads and alumni in part time positions (fact). We were building databases for Bloomberg to help finance the company as we bootstrapped and were able to help out friends in a lackluster job market pursue their dreams. We are proud to say that we helped bands fund recording time to put out records, helped aspiring directors finance their dreams of becoming filmmakers and helped artists stay afloat as they followed their dreams of painting - all successes now. We all worked hard to help each other fulfill our dreams.
In 2012 we were accepted into the NYC technology accelerator, TechStars and graduated with over 30 investors and $4M in seed financing. We were mentored by Wesleyan alums like Andy Weissman and Brad Burnam and financed by Strauss Zelnick. We now have a company of 20 based out of Manhattan.
Our vision at Lua is to help the world work better together. As the world becomes more connected and more people begin running their businesses off their phone, and as internet reaches places for the first time like Africa and South America, we are the platform that they chose.
There is a Hawaiian saying that goes A 'ohe pau ka 'ike i ha halau ho 'okahi, all knowledge is not taught in one school. But for the three of us, Wesleyan was a life changing experience and a great school to start in.