Coming back from my cousin Liz's funeral yesterday I flew from Indianapolis to Detroit in the company of a Delta Captain and a man named Eli. The three of us had an animated conversation from takeoff to landing, one I was particularly interested in because Eli said he worked for the Chinese OEM company that builds 40% of the world's component music loudspeakers—nothing under its own name, all OEM. During the hour-long conversation I gleaned various bits of information about Eli's career. He said he was 62 or 64 years old and that he'd working in audio-related fields for 43 years. But I didn't quite get his name, so I asked him as we landed, and he began to spell, "H-a-r..." and I repeated that, and then he said "ends with '-rari,' just like 'Ferrari.'"
So, back at base camp, I Googled "Eli Harari" and up came multiple pictures of the guy next to me on the plane...or so I think. But the pictures and websites identified him as the now-retired founder and former Chairman of SanDisk, who is essentially the principal inventor of "digital film," i.e., system flash memory.
However, I'm at a loss as to how to reconcile the various disparities between the online information I've found and what my seatmate told me about himself. Did I just get the name wrong? Quite possibly. Sure looks like the same guy, although I guess couldn't swear to it in court.
Second career? Mistaken identification? An imposter!? I guess I'll never know. Should have gotten his card.
But in any case, as I researched the actual Dr. Harari trying to unravel my little mystery, I found a 2011 "oral history" at the Computer History Museum, which I read. In it I found this anecdote (I've cleaned up the punctuation a bit):
[At the 2010] Consumer Electronics Show, I was walking through the booth, and—with another guy, a SanDisk guy—so when we were going into the Kodak booth, he kind of whispers to me, kind of in jest, he says, "You know, you better not let them know who you are."
And I said, I was a little puzzled, I said, "Well, what do you mean?"
He said, "Well, you are the man who killed Kodak."
And I thought about it, and actually, no, really Kodak killed Kodak. I didn't kill Kodak, nobody killed Kodak. They killed themselves. We worked with Kodak Japan on this compact flash, parts of Kodak understood the value and the power of this technology, and were very strong partners of ours. But the hubris that you get, at some of these companies that have a monopoly...Kodak had 70 percent market share in film. They were 65 percent, or so, gross margin, so they were just milking it, and they just wanted this thing [digital] to go away. And they had the technology, Kodak had the CCD technology, they had the digital imaging, they had everything they needed to displace themselves, but they didn't have the guts to do it, and it was done for them.
I mean, we were part of that, we enabled digital photography, but it was not—we never dreamed that we would—what had happened. The dramatic—because silver halide is such a good technology, really, I mean, you have 30-megapixel resolution, you know, perfect images, for $2.99, $3.99, for 24, so—but you kind of see the extent of the devastation to Kodak. Their market cap today is about one tenth of SanDisk's market cap, and I think that we are undervalued. So this is a very unforgiving field.
A quote from Eli Harari of SanDisk, who I might or might not have sat next to on the plane. Or maybe I sat next to a guy who looked like him whose name I got wrong.
The most telling phrase of that quote: "[Kodak] had everything they needed to displace themselves, but they didn't have the guts to do it, and it was done for them." That's what I've always believed, although I know some others don't agree.
(Thanks to the mysterious Eli)
P.S. A couple of tidbits to pass along—the Delta pilot, Tom, very nice guy, said that in his opinion the Indianapolis airport is the nicest airport in the U.S., and LaGuardia is the worst. And Eli the Mysterious, who said he works for the Far Eastern speaker manufacturer that builds loudspeakers sold under dozens of different name brands, said that Revel speakers, designed by Kevin Voeks (pronounced "vakes"), are the best.
P.P.S. Sorry for the poor reporting in this piece...I did my best under the circumstances!
[UPDATE: Two regular readers/contributors quickly zeroed in on the solution to my mystery. John Camp (a.k.a. John Sandford) immediately realized that Eli Harari of SanDisk is "like the 157th wealthiest individual in the world," and that billionaires only seldom travel coach class on commercial carriers. But it was writer and researcher primus inter pares Jim Hughes who first identified my seatmate as Eli Harary—a "y," not an "i"—who is indeed a longtime stalwart of the audio industry.
I still haven't figured out what the company is that Eli Harary works for...companies are really guarded about sharing the identities of their OEM suppliers, or even that they have OEM suppliers at all, and, hence, OEM suppliers themselves keep a remarkably low profile.
UPDATE to the UPDATE: beuler discovered that "Meiloon is the name of the company. From Eli's public LinkedIn profile: 'Meiloon Industrial is the worlds leading ODM/OEM of premium audio products.'"
Thanks to everyone who corresponded with me about this, and to those who figured it out. I need to hire better reporters! :-) —Mike the Ed.]
Original contents copyright 2015 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Mark Sampson: "I worked as an industrial photographer at Kodak from 1984 until 2004, so I was there for all that. Mr. Harari's assessment is spot on."