Update: Please see below a response from Eiki to this story.
Things took a turn for the worse on Friday as Eiki laid off another round of greatness, including their 15-year general manager, Steve Rubery, and, according to one source, 50% of their tech and sales support teams. In addition, their dealer network was notified that, although future products will continue to be supported, it will come in the form of a third-party support company and not by Eiki.
Eiki’s history in LCD projection is storied. Headquartered in Osaka, Japan and founded in the early 1950s, Eiki started out by making 16mm film projectors and was one of the first companies in the world to make an LCD projector — in fact, the first to enter one into the InfoComm Projection Shoot-Out. I remember that day as it was so bright that both Sony and Barco demanded we put up black pipe and drape to prevent the light coming from the Eiki projector’s screen — easily 10x that of all the CRT projectors in the room — from drowning out everyone else’s images. Yes, it was that bright. Not to mention, they set it up in less than two hours; this is notable as everyone else took at least 48-hours to set-up their, then, CRT projectors.
Eiki made its mark in projectors in the late 1990s, however, by OEM’ing Sanyo LCD projectors and reselling them under the Eiki badge — along with Proxima. And, as Proxima was swallowed (and destroyed by InFocus), Eiki benefitted from that Sanyo relationship as they were the primary outlet for distributing Sanyo’s technology — until Panasonic cut them off after purchasing Sanyo back in 2009.
Since then, Eiki has struggled to differentiate itself from the plethora of projector companies out there — eventually emerging as the leading K-12 supplier by 2013. That crown is now owned by Epson. Most of Eiki’s projectors, more recently, have been supplied by the same company making many of the other “undifferentiated LCD” products, Coretronic Corporation. But, as margins eroded in the educational space for projectors, Eiki didn’t seem to care in that they refused to differentiate or move beyond that market until last year when they launched a LED poster product.
But that’s apparently too little, too late. One of the worst-kept secrets in the projector industry is that Eiki has been looking for a financial partner for almost two years and, according to one company insider I spoke to today, they continue to and hope to find one quickly to turn them around. Their best hope would likely come from their own supplier, Coretronic Corporation, who could use the Delta/Vivitek model of partner/owner — but that’s apparently unlikely to happen.
All this considered, one thing is for sure: Eiki has great brand equity. The name, itself, is worth buying.
Update: Eiki also announced recently that it’s hired John Schippers to the position of chief operating officer. Schippers sent the following comment on August 6 in response to our story:
Eiki recognizes that Rave is a big part of the AV industry and have always enjoyed much of your work. Eiki also recognizes that Rave is a responsible and objective publication. Hence, we are taking this opportunity to positively respond to your recent editorial “Eiki’s Survival is Questionable.” It is our wish that our response will offer your readers a clearer understanding of Eiki and also help clarify Any misunderstandings.
While Steve Rubery did work here for 15 years, he only had the title of general manager for a few months. Over a period of time, as in accordance with company policy, a performance review was conducted and it was subsequently decided that his position be revised to that of a GM of sales and marketing, as this would reflect his truer responsibility and job scope. Again, in accordance with company policy, his position was called for review sometime in the month of June.
It is true that we did let go two of our technicians, but it was made for a specific and strategic reason and that is, to fulfill a more speedy and efficient local customers support service via an increased number of authorized service stations. Such a strategic move has been practiced and duplicated in our other global subsidiaries to good effect. Our authorized service centers are all trained by Eiki personnel and we work very close with each one of them. It is actually common practice for a manufacturer to use authorized service centers.
It was erroneously reported that Eiki let 50% of the company’s sales team go. This is not true! In fact, we have actually hired a new regional sales manager based in Texas and have also added three new rep firms in the last month. Our sales administrator was let go due to our new restructuring plans. In fact, we are currently interviewing people for a newly created position that will address some critical needs and at the same time also help support other departments more efficiently. Eiki is continually making various changes in an effort to make the company stronger and better able to address the ever changing market challenges and conditions.
It is a well-known “secret” that over the years, investors have been always knocking on our door for a viable partnership commitment. Eiki has always been looking for good business partners in order to move positively forward in the face of a more competitive market. All said, Eiki is on solid financial ground and always looking for good opportunities to go forward.
We understand your “insider” may not be happy with our company. We all know that it is not fun looking for a new job and it is also not fun for those of us here to see a friend leave the company. We trust you understand that sentiment; however, it is our sincere hope that this update will help clarify matters and thus reflect a more accurate picture of the company.