Atlona Co-Founder Ilya Khayn Gained an Early Foothold in AV
NAME: Ilya Khayn
OVERTIME: While earning a degree in mechanical engineering, Khayn was always involved in AV projects and stayed as current as possible on all of the industry’s innovations.
SCN: At what point did you realize that you were destined for a career in technology?
Ilya Khayn: I realized it at a young age. My entire educational career was focused around technology and engineering. I always was amazed by new innovations and advances in technology, and knew I was going to be a part of the process. I received my technical education in Russia, and when I came to the U.S. in 2001, I dived into a whole new world of innovation among Silicon Valley companies. Influence of the community and technology in the Bay Area played a big role in where Atlona is today.
SCN: How did your education and career experience lead you to the AV industry?
IK: I majored in mechanical engineering; however, I always had a passion for the AV industry. Throughout my schooling, I was always involved in AV projects and stayed as current as possible on all of the industry’s innovations. When I came to the States, I spent more than three years working in various functions surrounding retail electronics environments, which helped me to understand both the business side of channel sales and the consumer demand for new technology.
SCN: What was your objective in founding Atlona in 2003?
IK: My brother Michael and I started the business in 2003 as a distribution company. We were young and very ambitious, and wanted to offer a whole range of bleeding-edge products to our customers. Our limited experience served to help us look at the AV industry with an outsider’s perspective, ultimately steering us toward a very unique approach. Within the first few years, we had successfully established ourselves as a distributor of professional AV equipment and accessories. It was an uphill challenge, considering our limited resources, but we were able to become a top-tier distributor for several wellknown brands in the industry. One of the main reasons for our success was the focus we put on listening to our customers, understanding their needs and demands, and making quick and effective decisions to meet them. Our focus on customer service helped to garner exceptional references in the industry, increasing our customer base dramatically.
Eventually we realized we had a choice to make: to continue growing as we were, selling hardware from innovative manufacturers, or to take what we had learned from direct contact with our customers, and design and deliver innovative products ourselves. In 2005 we decided to invest some of our resources in developing our first integrator-centric product under the Atlona brand. Within the year we became prolific, working with manufacturing and design partners to deliver products first on the market. We quickly gained recognition and brand awareness through existing and new sales channels, as well as media attention. We began to see demand for AV products in multiple markets including residential, commercial, and consumer. Our company had finally found its niche in this industry, and our objective became quite clear: to develop and provide AV products that connect technology to our customer’s world.
SCN: What is the greatest challenge currently facing the AV industry?
IK: Education. With so many different products, formats, and standards these days, it is very hard to find the best solution for your needs and make a shift toward sustainable technology. We find that integrators and end users alike are gun shy with technologies and standards that may be here today, and gone tomorrow. We even find customers relying on older legacy formats, which may not deliver all the functions of modern digital formats but have proliferated in the market to the extent that they are comfortable knowing exactly what the performance output will be.
This tendency to use superannuated equipment is in part due to manufacturers not providing enough education and training for customers to understand the technology behind their products. It is imperative for manufacturers to provide the tools and resources to educate their dealer base on the latest technology and how it will benefit the end user.
Kirsten Nelson is the editor of SCN.