This was the 13th year for EFI Connect and the 10th year since EFI acquired Printcafe. It was the largest event yet, with 1,200 attendees (750 of them customers).  One of the highlights of the past few years has been the Fireside Chats that Guy Gecht conducts with such industry luminaries as Bruce Chizen, formerly CEO of Adobe, and Shutterfly’s President and CEO Jeffrey Housenbold.

This year, Gecht conducted an informative fireside chat with Indigo founder Benny Landa (now operating a number of companies under the umbrella of the Landa Group, including Landa Digital Printing). Landa talked about the birth of digital printing, going back to back to the days when he was working with Savin on the development of liquid toner.  He also talked about his childhood and how those experiences shaped his entrepreneurial approach to research, development and business. He also revealed that the company had executed 430 letters of intent for various nanographic presses at drupa, most of which have been paid, and the majority of which were for the B1 sheetfed version of the Landa Nanographic press, which will be the first to come to market.  The company is in the process of selecting beta sites and still indicates presses will be available at the end of 2013.

Gecht attempted to delve a bit more into Benny’s personal life, hobbies, etc.  Landa indicated that he really didn’t have hobbies since he loves what he does so much, and that he would prefer that his competitors’ employees have hobbies. But arguably the funniest point in the discussion was when Gecht asked if Landa had seen any movies lately.  After some thought, Landa replied, “Debbie Does Dallas.”

Kidding, I’m sure. But it was a unique end to the fireside chat discussion, leaving Gecht speechless.

That aside, the event was extremely positive.  It included more than 180 educational sessions, and a number of vendor partners in the exhibit area, including Kodak, Xerox, MBM, MGI, Ricoh, xpedx, Esko and more. Another change this year was a broader focus on EFI Fiery.  Last year, Fiery classes were pretty  much limited to dealer education, but this year there were 10 Fiery sessions directed at users.  This is important as the industry increasingly focuses on making operations more efficient. Udi Arieli’s Automated Workflow Experience (AWE) was also featured, and can be seen on EFI’s home page for those who haven’t seen it yet.  It is a fun, but educational, animation that explains the various aspects of workflow, its benefits and the dangers of not addressing this aspect of a printing business. It is well worth the 10 minutes or so it takes to run through the series.

The company continues to acquire on a relatively aggressive schedule and maintains an organic growth target of 10%.  In the past 18 months, EFI has acquired seven companies, including cretaprint for digital decorative printing of ceramic tiles; Metrics (Brazil) and Alphagraph (Germany) as a geographic footprint expansion; Entrac and OPS to add product functionality; and Technique and Prism as further consolidation of the print MIS market.  EFI has one of the better acquisition records in the industry, especially in terms of integration of the businesses into EFI and the way acquired customers are brought into the fold.  I found it interesting that of the last 11 acquisitions, 10 of the leaders of those companies are still with EFI.

In his keynote, Gecht spoke about the Window of Opportunity, a theme he has used before, and he expanded that to “Opening the Doors to Your Window of Opportunity.” He offered four suggestions for attendees to ensure that they take advantage of opportunities and continue to grow into the future:

  1. Find out what your customers will need (3-5 years out)
  2. Never stop innovating
  3. Work with companies that invest in innovation
  4. Never stop increasing productivity.

All good advice. Perhaps easier said than done, but EFI has demonstrated through its own leadership that it can be done, and EFI Connect provides an opportunity for attendees to leverage the experiences of their peers and interactivity with EFI and partner executives and technologists to set them on the path. During his presentation, Guy highlighted a number of customers from around the world that have taken this advice to heart.  He also pointed out that the company “walks the talk” by continuing to invest 20%+ of its revenues in R&D and has more than 800 developers and engineers worldwide, in the US and India, that are basically working 24/7 to bring the next generation of EFI products to market.

Events such as EFI Connect, which is scheduled for January 21-14 in 2014 at the Wynn in Las Vegas, have obvious benefits for the vendors that run them. For attendees (EFI claims 18,000 customers worldwide), there are also significant benefits to focused events of this nature, including networking with peers, the educational experiences and the ability to interact with executives and engineers from EFI and partner companies. This particular event seems to gain value each eyar, as well, as the breadth of EFI’s portfolio continues to expand and attendees have the opportunity to learn about new business areas they might be able to enter to offset the decline in the traditional printing business.