In a private conference call earlier today with Gary Plavin, projectiondesign’s U.S. president from his office in Teterboro, New Jersey, and Jørn Eriksen, president and CEO at projectiondesign from HQ in Fredrikstad, Norway, I was not overly surprised to hear the details behind today’s news of the “change in ownership” of pd to include Norwegian private equity firm Herkules Capital AS. As I told Jørn and Gary, the real surprise came a couple of years ago when I visited Fredrikstad, and marveled that a major player in an industry dominated by huge publicly owned manufacturers, could still be mostly owned by a guy as entrepreneurial as Bård Eker.
Until today, Bård Eker was the majority owner of projectiondesign, one of the most advanced DLP projection manufacturers in the world. But the surprising part is that he was/is also the industrial designer of the world’s fastest production sports car (the Koenigsegg), and also the industrial designer and pilot and owner of the fastest boat in Class One powerboat world championship (The Spirit of Norway)… not the typical kind of person behind the scenes at a projector company.
Even more surprising, in the ensuing few years since I met with Bård and team in his wooded design lair about 15 kilometers outside of Fredrikstad, was that a company that dukes it out with larger, publicly held manufacturers, could hold onto to that kind of entrepreneurial spirit.
As explained in today’s press release, Bård Eker’s 54-percent share in projectiondesign has just been bought by Norwegian private equity firm Herkules Capital AS. But in a conversation with Jørn Eriksen today, it all fell into place.
“In a natural evolution, as projectiondesign has become more streamlined, and less entrepreneurial not in a product design but in a management sense, “Eriksen said, “Bård has decided to sell his stake. Projectiondesign is established, and for an entrepreneurial player like he is, he saw the need to focus on his more start-up spirit, not the management side of an established company.”
But Eriksen explained that he personally made sure, before the deal was inked, that Bård’s projection design team could be brought into the company, lock, stock, and barrel. In other words, all the key design engineers, that literally resided in Eker’s wooded studio, are now on staff at projectiondesign.
“I went to the design team, out in those nice woods, and made sure they were on board with us in the new company structure,” Eriksen said. “In fact, we built a new building to house them on the main projectiondesign campus. So in terms of the kind of design that Bard brought to our product development, there is no change to our plan or to our method: continuing to bring cutting-edge design and northern European class manufacturing standards to all our projectors.”
According to both Gary Plavin and Eriksen, this news is really just about speeding up the process of moving pd along a path of creating multiple platforms for projectors. One example is their recently launched Avielo brand for high-end home theater. Projectiondesign also recently showed some impressive LED-based projectors.
So while this news today is important, we probably won’t see much change initially in what has always, the past decade or so, been a refreshing addition to a product landscape that often drifts toward commoditization. Not much danger of that from the guys in Norway.