Efi (Ephraim) Erzi: Israeli Hi-Tech Pioneer and Philanthropist
Efi (Ephraim) Erzi, born on April 14, 1937, and passing away on April 14, 2013, was a prominent figure in the world of Israeli business, a philanthropist, and a visionary in the hi-tech industry. He is best known as the founder of "Scitex."
Early Life and Education
Efi Erzi was born and raised in Jerusalem, the son of Giselle and Shlomo Erzi. He attended the Gymnasia Rehavia high school and later studied at the Israel Air Force Technical School, where, at the age of 16.5, he joined the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) as a technician specializing in avionics. In 1957, he received an award for an innovative technical solution related to the handling of aircraft equipment following Operation Kadesh.
In 1958, Erzi pursued further studies in the United States, earning an undergraduate degree in electronics engineering with honors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Remarkably, he was accepted without a high school diploma due to his impressive performance during the admission interview. During his studies, he worked on scientific equipment for Harvard University's Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, funded by NASA, where astronomers aimed to overcome optical challenges in transmitting light through the atmosphere. Erzi, in collaboration with Professor Mario Grossi, succeeded in building a television camera that transmitted images from the atmosphere, and it played a pivotal role in broadcasting the first images from the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. At the age of 23, Erzi was appointed as a research associate at Harvard.
Ventures in the Hi-Tech Industry
In 1963, Erzi joined "ITEK" as a lead engineer, a company focused on developing electro-optical imaging systems and telescopes for space observation. Erzi served as the chief engineer on this project and later applied the knowledge gained for civilian applications.
In 1967, Erzi had plans to return to Israel and proposed establishing a research and development center in Israel for ITEK. However, due to the outbreak of the Six-Day War, the plan was nearly canceled. Eventually, the investment became a reality when ITEK invested $600,000 along with $200,000 in discounted shares. The company, founded in 1968, was initially named "Scientific Technology" and engaged in the development and production of advanced machinery for the textile industry.
The company later changed its name to "Scitex" and shifted its focus to the development and production of machinery for the printing industry, printed circuits, mapping, and color printing of books and magazines. Scitex became a global leader in computerized image processing, specializing in hardware and software for the printing, graphic design, and publishing industry.
It established subsidiary companies that marketed its products directly in over forty countries worldwide. Scitex was one of the early Israeli hi-tech companies that emphasized international export. In 1979, it developed the world's first desktop publishing computer and the first CCD scanner. During its second decade of existence, Scitex experienced annual sales growth of approximately 45% and expanded its workforce by around 30% per year.
In 1990, the company achieved sales of $600 million, with a peak workforce of approximately 4,000 employees. Erzi stepped down as CEO and President of Scitex on June 1, 1988, and resigned as Chairman of the Board on January 18, 1989, after Robert Maxwell's Miror Group acquired a 27% stake in the company, and Maxwell was appointed as Chairman.
Entrepreneurship in the Hi-Tech Industry
In 1989, Erzi founded Electronics for Imaging (EFI), with the aim of developing color technology for the masses, leading to color printers in every office and home. The company formed partnerships with industry giants such as Xerox, Kodak, and Canon. In 1992, EFI sold the company for approximately $600 million and introduced technology that revolutionized the graphic and printing industry by enabling end-users to produce high-quality color images from personal computers. By October 1997, the company's market value reached $2.7 billion, and Erzi sold all of his EFI shares.
In 1995, Erzi became President and CEO of Immedia Corporation, a startup that developed technology for digital television broadcasting compression. This technology improved broadcast quality and increased the number of channels, marking a significant technological breakthrough. In 1996, Immedia signed an $80 million, eight-year agreement with the world's largest cable TV company at the time, TCI (which ceased to exist in 1999).
In July 1999, Terayon acquired Immedia for $100 million, and Erzi, who held a 30% stake in the company, sold his shares. In the early 21st century, Erzi also served as the Chairman of MarcaDo, a company he founded in 1995, which employed up to 120 people at its peak and generated sales of approximately $20 million. The company developed a search engine for e-commerce websites, and Erzi was an early investor.
In 1995, the Efi Erzi School of Computer Science was established at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center, offering undergraduate and graduate programs in computer science. In 1999, Erzi launched the "Efi Scholarships" project at the center, providing scholarships to exceptional students with leadership, creativity, and original thinking qualities.
Erzi received numerous awards during his lifetime. He was honored with the Edwin H. Land Medal for his outstanding contribution to digital image processing technology. In 1992, he received the Outstanding Entrepreneur Award from Tel Aviv University's World Entrepreneurship Conference. Erzi also established the Efi Erzi Prize for Innovative Technological Management, awarded at the prestigious International Broadcasting Conference held in Montreux, Switzerland.
Erzi was married five times, with his last wife being Delia Erzi, a philanthropist.
Efi Erzi passed away due to Alzheimer's disease on April 14, 2013, on his 76th birthday, and was laid to rest in the civilian cemetery at Kibbutz Horseshim. He left behind a son and a daughter from his first marriage to Tirtza Erzi.
The Faculty of Computer Science at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center bears his name in honor of his contributions to the field of computer science.
Efi Erzi's legacy in the fields of technology, entrepreneurship, and education continues to inspire future generations of innovators and leaders in Israel and around the world.
- אפי ארזי – ויקיפדיהhe.m.wikipedia.org