My College Story: Student and CEO

Ian Ferré tells his college story about being a student and the CEO of Greenlite Technologies after creating a startup.

Chris Warham /

Ian Ferré is a rising senior at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He is currently working toward a BS degree in math with a secondary major in economics, but he supplements his analytical classes with more artistic endeavors, like photography, so as not to get too bogged down in the numbers.

Q. Case Western Reserve University is a private, urban university with more graduate students than undergrads. What made you fall in love with the school?

I went on a tour in the middle of a hailstorm—in shorts, so I was freezing cold—and got completely drenched. But the enthusiasm about the school from the tour guide sold it for me, and I knew I wanted to go there. I have never regretted that decision and I have gone on to make lifetime friends, study under some of the best professors, and enjoy the current rebirth of Cleveland. I’m not in love with Case Western for one specific reason, but a combination of the above.

Q. How did you decide to major in math?

Math has always been my strong suit. I have always loved that at the end of the day there is a right or wrong answer that you don’t get with every other subject. In business, there is no clear right or wrong move until you get the opportunity to reflect—and sometimes not even then! Similarly, photography is subjective to opinion as well. But when you are solving math problems, there is a definitive answer, and I like that about math.

Q. What types of extracurricular activities do you participate in?

I’m a supplemental instructor for introductory physics, meaning I help lead additional classes in order to facilitate student learning. I also am actively involved in the entrepreneurship community on Case’s campus, which is growing rapidly and provides new challenges every day. In addition to that, I play every intramural sport imaginable: soccer, flag football, softball. It gives me a nice opportunity to relax.

Q. How have your summer jobs changed and progressed throughout your time in college?

After my first year, I got an internship at a Fortune 1000 company in order to get hands-on experience within corporate America. It was a mediocre job that left me feeling underutilized and bored, so after my second year, I switched things up and worked for myself at my startup company: Greenlite Technologies.

Q. What is Greenlite Technologies? Where did the idea come from?

Greenlite Technologies is a company that strives to bring affordable energy solutions to the consumers who need them most. There are currently 600 million people in the world that own cell phones and live without access to electricity. We created a foot-pedal generator capable of charging cell phones and powering LEDs to help these people save time and money (traveling to the city and paying a service to charge their phones can take up to three days due to the demand). The idea came from a class called Engineering for the World’s Poorest that I took during my first year at Case Western in which my business partner Samuel Crisanti and I came up with the idea. It really took off after we received two grants from the Environmental Protection Agency to refine and market our idea.

Q. Do you plan to travel for Greenlite Technologies in the future?

Actually we are planning our next trip to the Philippines this winter in order to demonstrate our product in a disaster-relief market. Every year, millions of people in Southeast Asia lose electricity for weeks during typhoon season, and we want to provide an easy to use, green power source for charging cell phones so that users can remain in contact with family and friends during these times.

Q. What do you hope to do after college?

After college, I want to get a dynamic job that presents different challenges every day. Currently I’m leaning toward business consulting, but working with startup companies has been an incredible adventure, and I’d be just as happy continuing down that path as well.

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