Meet Hagan Kolanz, a current Senior at CU Boulder and former Founder of Hyperion! Hyperion was a specialty glasses company that created liquid crystal lenses with the ability to quickly adapt to changing lighting conditions depending on the environment.
Hagan was born and raised in Greeley, Colorado, and moved to CU Boulder in 2018 to study Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Computer Science and Entrepreneurship. His interest in entrepreneurship began during his Freshman year of high school when he taught himself how to cut hair and created a small hair cutting side business that allowed him to make money throughout high school.
Once Hagan arrived at CU Boulder, he came up with the idea for specialty glasses with lenses that changed in transparency to adapt to different lighting conditions. At the time, a similar technology existed, however, he wanted to create lenses that would change much faster and could be distributed throughout the military. Hagan pursued this venture, but things eventually came to a halt.
In 2019, Hagan identified the need for specialty glasses that could adapt quickly to changing lighting conditions. His mother had glasses with a similar technology, but they took over five minutes to adapt to the lighting environment and proved to be more of a hassle rather than a convenience. His mother shared with him what she would like in a pair of glasses and Hagan got to work finding a way to create them. Hagan elaborates,
“My mom explained to me how she wished there was a way to simply touch the lens of her glasses or press a button and that action would instantly change the transparency from light to dark. When she said that, I realized there was definitely a market for this product within the ski community and potentially the military.”
Hagan pursued his mother’s idea with assistance from his brother, Max Kolanz, and focused on creating the product for the military market. The duo felt that entering the military first would make it easier to branch into the ski goggle industry because they could claim the technology as “military-grade.”
Experience with CU Boulder
Hagan was able to work closely with Kyle Judah, the previous Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship with CU Boulder Engineering, and Rex Laceby. He received guidance and assistance from both individuals who became mentors for Hagan.
Hagan and his brother participated in both the New Venture Challenge and Get Seed Funding (GSF.) They researched and prepared their venture through opportunities offered by NVC and CU Boulder’s innovation teams. Hagan comments on his experience,
“I participated in these competitions mainly for the experience and I’m glad I did. I learned how to write a pitch, what investors are looking for, and how to sell an idea. NVC offered seminars that I participated in to help prepare me for the competition. Through these seminars hosted by the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship, I learned how to get funding from different sources.”
After Hagan and Max dedicated several months to developing the technology behind Hyperion, they discovered that the military had already invested in a company that produced a similar kind of liquid crystal glasses. Hagan ultimately felt that the competition was far too strong to enter the market, especially after learning that the military already had invested in a company themselves. They eventually phased out of Hyperion and decided to put the project aside for now.
Hagan learned that having support from experts in the industry is extremely beneficial. During his time working on Hyperion, he focused on finding investors with industry experience that could help progress the company. Hagan also learned the importance of identifying problems to solve and basing companies around those solutions. He further explains,
“It's always good to start with a specific problem that you’d like to solve. For instance, we began with the problem that my mom was experiencing and worked on a solution from there. I learned that investors and advisors also want to hear about a specific problem to solve, rather than just doing something you want without any real reasoning.”
Hagan also learned the importance of research. He found that it’s incredibly important to do due diligence at the beginning of your venture prior to investing money into a project or idea.
Advice for Students
Hagan provides the following advice for students,
“It’s important to do your own research and all of the legwork beforehand. Even if you don’t think that the idea you have is going anywhere, I would encourage you to go through the entire process. You’ll learn a lot!”
Although Hagan’s journey with Hyperion was not entirely successful, he still values his experience exploring the venture while at CU Boulder and is interested in pursuing another venture in the future if the opportunity arises.