So I’m turning 40 this month, which I mention not as some cheap ploy to get presents from my friends in the industry, but more as a lazy writer’s segue into a story about a company that is also celebrating a milestone birthday this year.
Before I had the chance to speak with AVC Group president Mark Terry about his plans to bring ELAN, Niles, and Xantech under one roof (see my interview on page 16), I chatted with one of ELAN’s founding fathers, Bob Farinelli, about his company’s 20th anniversary this year. Although 20 years might not sound so noteworthy when compared with Denon’s 100th anniversary, it’s important to remember that we’re talking about a CEDIA-centric manufacturer and one of the pioneers of multi-room audio. Just ask Farinelli: “That’s a long time ago,” he said to me. “What were you doing 20 years ago? I feel very fortunate to be involved in consumer electronics as a category for that long. It’s challenging, because there’s a lot of competition, and you have to prove your worth to your customers every day.”
What I had not realized, until our conversation, was that ELAN was originally a division of Square D, which after being bought by Group Schneider in 1995, was divested and sold to Farinelli, fellow ELAN pioneer Paul Starkey, and investors.
In a short amount time, Farinelli and Starkey went on to build ELAN into one of the multiroom audio industry’s most visible innovators. With Farinelli doing the engineering and Starkey the marketing, they accumulated 21 patents and an impressive portfolio of smart home products.
In 2001 the duo sold their company to Linear LLC to provide an infusion of capital for growth and expansion. In subsequent years, ELAN expanded its line with home theater products from the purchase of Sunfire and IP-based system technology from the acquisition of HomeLogic. That second purchase, in turn, has helped bring about the launch of the company’s most recent, and perhaps most evolutionary line, called “g!”
ELAN has now reached a new phase in its timeline, following the merger, essentially, of ELAN, Niles, and Xantech, into the newly formed AVC Group. Despite this latest change, however, Farinelli and Starkey are even more involved than ever, with Bob accepting the newly created AVC Group CTO role and Paul having been promoted to ELAN’s president.
Farinelli says that he’s been asked to “rationalize the lines,” deciding which company is “best of breed” in what product category and then help play traffic cop as they develop new products going forward.
“I have always enjoyed being involved in both product development as well as business management,” he said. “I believe in Mark Terry and what he’s been able to do in the past and want to be a part of that team going forward. What I live for is working on projects and getting new products out. That’s what’s fun–going to a trade show and talking to customers about the new and exciting things that we do. That’s what really what gets me up every morning.”
It’s refreshing to hear that sort of passion after 20 years in this business. Happy Birthday, ELAN.