Efi Arazi was a daring innovator.
Like all great innovators, he was a person of vision, driven by relentless ambitions to manifest it, even if it meant challenging the prevailing norms of the industry. As testament to his innovation and entrepreneurship stand two of the companies he founded: Scitex and EFI.
The story of Scitex’s inception, a company that redefined the pre-press and graphic arts industries launching them into the digital age, revolves around Efi’s brilliant way of identifying opportunities for innovation in places where no one else did.
Efi noticed that the Color Separation Scanner consists of two tightly coupled, yet functionally different devices: a scanner, which converts the input color slide to a digital image; and a plotter, which prints the individual separation films (one each for C, M, Y, and K). Efi ingeniously concluded that by decoupling the scanner and the plotter, they could be connected through a general purpose computer; the computer, in turn, would read-in the scanned image-data, process it, and drive the plotter to create the color separation films.
By transforming the Color Separation Scanner into a system with a computer, a scanner, and a film output device, Scitex led the industry out of the dark rooms and into the modern era of computers. Films, glue, solvents, and fumes were replaced by color bitmapped displays and interactive image editing software. The black art of adjusting the knobs of the Color Separation Scanner was replaced by interactive color correction software and a suite of human-friendly software tools. Film output was now independent of the scanning process, allowing for unprecedented workflow and efficiency improvements across the industry. All of these innovations paved the way for the desktop publishing revolution.
In the late 80’s Efi Arazi left Scitex and founded Electronics for Imaging (EFI). Efi understood that several key innovations — the Mac, the Laserwriter, Adobe Postscript, and Aldus Pagemaker — could be used together to replace, in effect, Scitex’s systems. Although, at that time, desktop publishing was only used for entry-level applications, Efi knew that eventually it would become a disruptive threat to the company; nevertheless, he felt he could not cope with it from within Scitex, and therefore decided to move on.
Behind EFI’s commercial success lies, yet again, Efi’s unique way of discerning where innovation could be leveraged. Canon’s CLC 500 was branded, at the time, as a high-end color copier. Efi, however, quickly realized that the CLC 500’s scanning and printing units are connected through digital data and control paths. Decoupling the two, inserting a general-purpose computer between them, and connecting this computer to the desktop publishing network, would transform the CLC 500 from a copier to a high-quality color-printer. And thus, the Fiery was born, EFI’s greatest commercial success.
Efi’s grand vision for EFI was Color Portability: to take the idea of WYSIWYG, the hallmark of desktop publishing, and make it valid for color. As it turned out though, Color Portability was commercially less successful. Yet, indirectly, it was the instigator of the award-winning Cachet Color Editor. It also served as the cornerstone from which key investments and business relationships were built, such as with Adobe, Apple, Canon, Xerox, Kodak, and others.
Efi was a master of creating and leveraging patents. His ability to maneuver between business contentions and collaborations with equal finesse, was remarkable. At the early days of EFI, seeing Efi doing everything by himself — without secretaries, administration, or marketing personnel — was a telling experience. After all, just few months back he was the guy running Scitex, a company with a turnover north of $0.5B, and more than 4,000 employees world-wide. His willingness to regress to start-up conditions — going to Kinko’s and making copies of a presentation before going to meet Steve Jobs to “educate” him about Color Portability — was indicative of his audacious mentality. Efi had it – that inexplicable quality that separates the truly brilliant, game changing pioneers, from your run-of-the-mill entrepreneurs.
Efi Arazi was indeed a daring innovator; but for me, as I’m sure for anyone who had worked with him, he was also a teacher and a mentor. Through him I was exposed to the epicenter of the industry, the place from which the desktop publishing revolution had sprung. I watched him closely as he came up with and pursued ideas, and pushed himself and everyone around him to fruition. When I went down my own path, and founded XMPie, I cannot help but feel that perhaps a fraction of his vigorous spirit had rubbed off on me, and helped me through the trying times of a company’s formative years; and I’m sure my experience is not unique. In a way, Efi had influenced the generation of high-tech innovators that followed him. We can only hope to do the same for the next generation and carry on the Efi Arazi legacy.
He will be dearly missed.
- Jacob Aizikowitz
Last Friday, July 2nd, was the 10th anniversary of XMPie. It was a pleasant, sunny morning here in NYC, and as I was walking east on 48th Street to the office, I reflected on this milestone. My thoughts led me to realize that it is not so much the independence of the business that we are celebrating. What we are really celebrating is the livelihood, strength and relevancy of the XMPie brand.
With the suite of solutions, capabilities, beliefs and vision that XMPie represents, it made a huge difference in the business lives of many of our customers. Some had dreams of practicing cross media, one-to-one communication, but could not see how to do it. Others never realized that personalization in digital printing is just a piece of one-to-one communication, which is a much bigger and more promising business space. For both of these customer types, XMPie showed the way and gave the platform from which they could innovate, expand their businesses (sometimes even re-invent their business with a different flavor, focus and even name) and lead the industry. And now, these customers are opening our eyes, showing us where we have gaps, and helping us developing the insights of where the next frontiers should be.
This synergistic relationship between us and our customers, which spans these last 10 years, is what we are celebrating. And this relationship is what we desire to maintain and expand as we go forward to the next 10 years.
Editor’s Note: Jacob Aizikowitz is President of XMPie