Tuesday, January 22, 2013

EFI Connect 2013

I was very happy to get the opportunity to attend EFI Connect again this year.  I am pretty sure it was my 10th time around, out of 13 years, of this very special industry event that began life back in the Printcafe era. Wow, time flies.  The very substantial turnout of customers, partners and EFI employees continues to make it an impressive event. Only The HP Graphic Arts User Group meeting, Dscoop8 will have a larger customer turnout in the industry this year. 

January was unseasonably cold in Las Vegas, but inside the Wynn at Connect, it was hot! For me, as a former employee of EFI, it was like reunion.  I saw so many colleagues and friends, it was great to catch up and find out what's new with products I was involved with during my tenure, as well as learn about the systems and technologies my industry associates are using to run their businesses.  The striking thing this year-- it was almost "mind blowing"-- was see all the new EFI employees-- many of whom I know, but not from EFI-- like Mark McGowan, the CEO of Online Print Solutions (OPS), and Chris Woods, from Technique. Both very well respected technology companies were recently acquired by EFI, and were attending their first Connect event as part of the family.  EFI has been on a major global roll acquiring MIS vendors over the last year and a half-- including Metrics in South America and Alphagraph in Europe, not to mention venerable Prism, which was more or less a "tent stake" if not a tent pole for the new acquisitions and brought back Filip Buyse (prior to Prism, he was VP at Printcafe) as GM of the Web2Print products. At Connect this time around, Filip was so busy with customers, I only got to briefly say "hi" to him!

Guy Gecht is an amazing CEO, and he can also be quite amusing when he wants to be--  always a source of great knowledge and insight. His fireside chats with industry luminaries have become the stuff of legend at Connect.  I've been thrilled to hear them in the past, and this year's talk with Benny Landa was amazing. An industry legend and the founder of Indigo (acquired by HP a little over 10 years ago), and now CEO of several new ventures, including a new printing press and ink company, LandaCorp in Israel, Benny is like the Steve Jobs of the printing industry. He's been personally involved in over 1,000 patent applications in his career, and a large number were granted. He brings a beautiful vision and a contagious excitement to the printing industry like no other individual, or company for that matter... although EFI and HP are both close seconds in this area. I've seen Benny Landa speak 4 times starting with, and including at drupa last year. The coolest part is that I have learned something new about the man, and what he is doing, every single time.  That's pretty rare.

Benny spoke of his childhood, telling an amazing story about his father's tobacco store in which the man and his son, out of necessity to make a living for the family, built a passport photography machine. Among other unique features was that it made an image positive on glossy paper. He drew a direct line from this machine to Indigo, over the course of a few minutes of a spoken history that I'd never heard.  It was very moving.

One funny part of the Landa interview was when Guy asked Benny about the importance of workflow.  Guy was obviously fishing for an EFI endorsement, but Benny said flatly, "You're asking the wrong guy."  Guy pushed a little bit, and Benny retorted, "Why don't you ask Udi?"  At that point, much of the crowd erupted in laughter, because Udi Arielli is so well know, and another terrific feature of Connect was his Automated Workflow Experience (AWE), which is an animated, interactive, but live narrated movie that Udi's "british-academy award" winning daughter helped him produce, explaining the importance of CIM and automation, and how EFI's products enhance and streamline printing operations of any shape and size, from end-to-end. 

Benny Landa is also well known for never hiring people who have hobbies.  He wants people whose love is the work they are doing.  Clearly, he's found success hiring such people!  Guy grilled Benny on his hobbies... Music? No.  Books?  That's my wife's department.  Movies?  Benny says, "I saw a movie once in the seventies... it was called 'Debbie Does Dallas', I think."  This brought the extra-curricular activities line of questioning to a successful conclusion, and also brought the house down! Classic, outrageous, iconoclastic. Guy Gecht is as sharp as it gets, incredibly fast on his feet, and this proved that he and Benny are cut from the same cloth.

Of course, perhaps the biggest attraction of Connect is the training classes.  There were more than 150 classes at this year's event. At trade shows, there are a few interesting seminars delivered by consultants, unfortunately often leaving attendees with more questions than answers. At Connect, you can send your people to get deep-dive training, and actually save money versus having an EFI trainer come in-house. Plus, with features like the keynotes, other outside speakers, meals and receptions, not to mention unparalleled networking, it has all the good features of a trade show, too.  Many printing company owners find it to be an amazing value and use Connect as a perk for top-performing employees. There were even a number of third-party vendors in attendance, like Kodak, Xerox, MGI, Ricoh and Esko, just to name a few-- MGI even had a digital press on the floor of "The Lab", which is the central meeting space of the event. Along with the annual golf outing, and Andy Booth's newer tradition of a bike ride up Red Rock Canyon, people actually got to step outside the ritzy confines of the Wynn, too. 

If you are an EFI customer, and haven't made it to Connect, you owe it to yourself and the future of your company to attend next year.

1 comment:

  1. Nice write up, sounds like a great time for fun, learning and networking. I miss going to Connect.