Adelyte recently spoke with Frank White about Harman’s acquisition of AMX, winning CEDIA’s Lifetime Achievement award last year, and his newer project, WELD2.
Why did you make the ChannelPlus brand? Was the brand immediately successful or did it take time to find its footing?
Frank White: It was an extension of a cable TV provider, MultiPlex, where we brought cable equipment to cable companies. It was the same equipment but in a consumer box. TV sets had moved in the late 70’s from being a piece of furniture to being disposable. People would have a relationship with the repair guy, but it got to be too expensive to repair.
The cost to buy a TV was reduced so people started having more than one TV in the house. What cable companies would do to make money is make you buy two subscriptions if you wanted to watch TV upstairs say.
ChannelPlus operated invisibly through a closed circuit channel and that hit the home market in a very remarkable way.
What is the spiritual successor of ChannelPlus?
There started to be a profession of people who would go in and do technology at homes like theaters and securities systems. It adopted very quickly but it became fairly affordable to people of means. It really took technology chops and discipline in order to do that. You had several technologies that were emerging at the time.
How do you feel about AMX's acquisition by Harman?
I like the Harman group and I think I like it. It’s been so long since I’ve been with them that it’s hard to say. They’re on a pretty steady path. And now they’re with a tech company instead of an aggregate of businesses. I liked that.
Where do you think IoT is heading?
It’s an interesting arena. With it, I can tell you which drivers and prop servers are working in a speaker. I can go throughout your WiFi system and see when your peak times are. I can see if AT&T is giving you your full data rates. I’m really fascinated with 3D applications where you can put fixtures and speaking plans in your room and then you can download it and build it yourself.
You created WELD2 with Barry Scovel. Why did you start WELD2?
Barry and I have a 30 plus year relationship and we know what it takes to do residential integration- it’s really hard work. All of our clients options have been very expensive up until now. Marketing companies will say give us $1500/month, and I’ll get your page viewed this many times. But many times publicity doesn’t result it actual sales. We care about how many projects you’re receiving from us, not how many page views.
We’ve been doing it since 2013 and we’ve lost zero accounts. It costs about a tank of gas, beginning at $69/month. Barry and I have sold four companies between ourselves. We’re not in it for the money. We’re doing it for our customers so they don’t have to think about it and because often they're not doing it for themselves.
When did you find out that you had won the Lifetime Achievement Award?
I found out after the June board meeting. I was just shocked. They told me to keep it quiet until they announced it so I just tucked it away. There were a lot of other people that deserve it.
What’s happened in your year post winning the Lifetime Achievement Award?
I really haven’t lived my life any different. I am just very humbled. My family was really proud of it. The way our industry has the discipline of pushing ourselves to learn difficult technology and make it stable for end users is phenomenal. In the beginning there were no industries doing self learning. CEDIA and InfoComm really broke the mold. It’s a very sharing group of people and a lot of times you’re sharing with your direct competitor, but it benefits all of us to share.
What were you most excited for in CEDIA 2015?
It’s basically like a family reunion. You get to find out how everyone has been, how their business and family has been. We get to talk about the disappointments of the year as well as the victories. It’s really cool to catch up with the hundreds of instructors. I really learn a lot every time I go.