What’s Happenin’ at EFI Connect 2018

By Andy Slawetsky – EFI Held their 19th annual user conference January 23 – 26 at The Wynn Resort in Las Vegas NV. About 1,300 customers and partners gathered at EFI Connect to see the latest technology from EFI and partners and to learn from the vast array of educational breakout sessions.

This year’s show was slightly smaller than last year’s, but SVP Frank Mallozzi and CEO Guy Gecht told analysts during a Q & A session that they’re not worried about the drop in attendance.

In fact, EFI is considering other dates to reduce conflicts many of their customers have in an effort to double the show size over the next few years. That’s quite ambitious!

The schedule was jammed packed as EFI tried to maximize our time. This year, we were pretty much stuck in a breakout room for what felt like hours as they rolled group after group in front of us. This would be my only complaint for this show; it felt a bit claustrophobic and I would have liked them to somehow break this up a bit more.

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The first night began with an opening Keynote from Guy Gecht and then another of his famous Fireside Chats. Guy interviewed two customers instead of one; a change that I thought made the interviews more enjoyable as we got to see two partners and hear about very different relationships EFI has with them both. This Fireside Chat was with Eric Bacourt of Hinojosa Packaging Solutions in Spain and Mal McGowan of McGowans Print in Ireland.

Once the opening sessions were over, we were whisked off to the T-Mobile Arena, where we took in a Golden Knights hockey game with our friends from Ricoh and some EFI execs that made it over.

The next morning started bright and early at 7 AM, officially the earliest program meeting time I’ve had in 20+ years doing this job (ever). As my body was still on east coast time, it wasn’t as bad as I feared, but man, that was early! EFI gathered a group of analysts to officially roll out their new EFI MarketDirect platform. This is a cross media promotional platform for commercial printers, tying online and print media together into a cohesive marketing program.

The best way I can describe it without using the above standard industry jargon is with this analogy; I run a newsletter most of you read. MarketDirect would allow me to market products to you based on what you’re clicking on in my newsletter with custom VDP content. You might click on something about Xerox and suddenly you’re receiving very personalized, custom mailers and digital content from me about the Xerox products you were interested in. Maybe I should invest!

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After the breakfast announcement, we went to the general session where we heard more about EFI and where they’re going as CFO Mark Olin took the stage to chat with us for a while. Mark covered some of EFI’s 2017 highlights, which included the acquisition of Xerox’ FreeFlow Print Server DFE business, the launch of CommandWorkstation 6 (already 70,000+ installs), the launch of Fiery DFE for Nozomi and Reggiani printers, and numerous other Fiery DFEs. It was a busy year!

Upon conclusion of the opening session, we were moved to a smaller analyst room (dungeon) where several of the sponsoring EFI partners had the opportunity to present to us. Platinum sponsors such as Andrew Copely and Rahgni Mehta of Xerox as well as John Fulena of Ricoh provided us with updates as did a host of others, including senior EFI executives.

We had a break for lunch and then we were back in the room. The afternoon sessions started with a heart warming tribute to an English analyst, Sophie Matthews-Paul, who passed away in 2017.

I had met Sophie several times at EFI Connect events over the years and she was one of the most respected senior analysts at these meetings. I didn’t realize before, but James “The Mohawk Man,” who I also had met at these events is her son. James delivered a wonderful eulogy on his Mum, who was buried in a coffin covered in printed packaging wrap – a send off that was only too fitting.

I really enjoyed the Q & A with Guy and Frank and I learned a ton. EFI appears to be pumping the brakes on acquisitions. Guy was clear that they could always change their mind if something intriguing came along, but for now, they’re not focused on buying anyone. There were lots of great questions during this portion of the meeting. At one point, someone asked about their thoughts on augmented reality, to which Guy responded, “we still have a lot to do in reality before we get into augmented reality.” They’re also not moving into 3D anytime soon. EFI is going to focus on their areas of strength and grow them. That’s the plan.

Once the meetings were done, I headed back to the main conference area, where I spent some time going through the booths. Most of the booths were more like tables and not very elaborate. One company went above and beyond this year, almost to the point where it seems like they thought they were going to a different show. Ricoh’s booth stood out at this year’s conference in a big way. You’ll see from my photos, they had a real presence at this event. Not only was their booth right there when you walked onto the floor, but it was huge and loomed over the rest of the show. Ricoh clearly wanted to make a statement at this event and their booth did exactly that.

There were lots of other great companies at EFI Connect too. I mentioned Xerox earlier. Konica Minolta was there showing their MGi technology. 3M was once again wrapping a car, although they seriously upgraded this year, choosing to wrap a Porsche instead of the Tesla they have done at the last few shows. There were loads more that can be seen in my photos.

One notable high-level sponsor that was missing this year was Canon, whose spot in front of the main entrance seems to have been usurped this year by Ricoh. Canon’s absence was surprising to me given Canon and EFI’s very strong longstanding relationship.

The evening concluded with a great dinner at The Wynn with EFI executives and analysts. I love how accessible EFI’s people are. They’ll talk to you about anything. They’re just great people.

I appreciate being invited once again to what may be the biggest annual print event in the industry. EFI does a great job keeping the ball moving forward and their momentum will continue to carry them for quite a while.

~Andy Slawetsky

EFI Customers Discover the New Age of Digital Print at 19th Annual EFI Connect Conference