ISE 2023: Interview with Juan Vila, COO of Equipson

ISE 2023 represents an important appointment for Equipson. The Spanish giant will be present in Barcelona with a a lot of news within which, in addition to launching a series of innovative products, it will present the group’s new business strategies.
A few days ago, we had the pleasure of interviewing Juan Josè Vila, the company’s COO and CMO, to talk about the company’s new strategies and to get a few previews of what’s new at ISE. Welcome back Juan, before we get down to brass tacks tell me briefly the story of Equipson…

Juan Vila: Jose Villa founded the company 28 years ago with the production of 100V loudspeakers and amplifiers for the entertainment industry. With the passing of time, the company focused on international sales through our presence at major trade fairs such as ProLight+Sound and NAMM. Later we started to develop more and more installation and dimmer products, as well as becoming a distributor of DTS and skb case products for the Spanish market. Since then Equipson has chosen to follow two business models: manufacturer and distributor. Today we are the distributor for Spain of Chamsys consoles and other international brands.

The company has grown fast, and when I joined Equipson 21 years ago I helped grow the R&D department with the development of new DSPs and expanded the distribution portfolio of audio products. In 2010, we released the first Blue Line audio-over-ip product in an analogue version, and it is funny to see that years later there is a competitor that has just launched a product with a similar concept. Our team subsequently developed the digital version, thus inaugurating a series of audio-over-IP solutions that effectively replaced the 100V products.

At that time, we also inaugurated the Mark brand, which at that time consisted of a wide portfolio of products for the Spanish market made in Asia, while for the foreign market we used the Work Pro brand that included audio and lighting pro products. In 2001 we created a joint venture with a local company to start developing lifters, and we were lucky enough to find excellent partners who allowed us to focus on quality, so much so that we were recognised worldwide as one of the best lifter manufacturers in the world. This is why we created a separate division within the company, and in 2014 we bought the Fantek company, keeping the brand name. Today, Fantek is a renowned truss and lifter manufacturer in Spain and beyond. How did LightShark come into existence?

Juan Vila: In 2018 we were present at ProLight+Sound in Frankfurt with a small stand where we exhibited a major innovation related to the lighting console market. At the time, there was no product range somewhere between basic and professional consoles, so, we decided to bridge this gap with a control surface managed by a tablet, a bit like some audio mixers are also done. And this is how LightShark was born, an extremely stable console in continuous development, which has aroused a lot of curiosity and is achieving enormous success.
When we launched the LS1 prototype in 2018, I took this risk because I wanted to see the reaction of light operators to a web user interface. The feedback immediately convinced me and I immediately increased internal resources to complete the development of the console in a very short time. We did something big, so much so that we decided to dedicate a separate brand to this console series and not sell it as a Work Pro product. And that’s how LightShark became an independent brand.

Spoiler: To celebrate the sale of more than 5000 LightShark LS1s worldwide, a red limited edition will be presented at ISE! Let’s talk about business strategies. What will change in the near future?

Juan Vila: The strategy we will present at ISE is to split the company into several vertical sectors. One is LightShark consoles. Then we have Work Pro which now covers the Audio market and the AV market with further innovations which we will launch at InfoComm. The latter will be a big change for this brand after 28 years in which there have been no substantial changes. The brand image will change radically and you will see it in Barcelona. The third brand is Fantek, which includes lifters, trusses and stages completely manufactured in Spain, in a factory that to date is the largest on the Iberian Peninsula in terms of size. Then we have the Work Pro Lifter vertical market, which differs from the Fantek products in that it has different characteristics and which many of our customers are fond of. In addition, we decided to keep Work Pro Lifter out of respect for the reputation of the brand. The last one is Mark, dedicated to accessories and present for the first time at ISE.

So the strategy is to divide the company into vertical markets, all under the umbrella of the Equipson group, so that we have different specialised teams to develop different products.
We will entrust the distribution to different distributors within the same state, depending on their specialisation. For example, in Italy we have ZaLight for LightShark and Fantek, while Kennel handles Work Pro products. We don’t want to put everyone under the same umbrella because our experience over these 28 years has taught us that it is difficult to find a company that can handle all markets well. Can you give us some numbers on the Equipson group? How many plants, how many people are involved, etc.?

Juan Vila: The company employs around 90 people, in addition to the various agents around the world. Fantek is located in L’Alter, while Equipson and AudioMusicSystem, another brand of the group, are located in Sillia, all in the vicinity of Valencia. In addition, we work not only with our own factories, but also have other production facilities abroad, in Asia and Europe. All products are engineered by us; some are then produced in-house and others are manufactured abroad. Any preview of what we will see at ISE?

Juan Vila:Many world premiers will be present in Barcelona. As far as LightShark is concerned, we will launch the new LS Core IO console, the first system integration-oriented console compatible with Crestron, AMX and any third-party controller. Compatibility with the Matter protocol to communicate with smart home systems such as Alexa and Google will also be implemented in the future. We will also present LightShark RAY, the world’s first visualiser fully realised with Unreal Engine.
For Fantek, we will be presenting a new truss designed for large tours and capable of supporting, over a total length of 6 metres, a load of around 6000 kg and the F-RING, a ring that ensures no damage occurs when the truss is stacked on trolleys, moved from one place to another or placed on the ground. Work Pro, on the other hand, will present a new range of DSP amplifiers that can be accessed via the website, as with LightShark.  You will also see many new products with protection ratings for outdoor and marine use.

LS Core IO purely logistical question. How will you get to Barcelona?

Juan Vila: As a good enthusiast and representative of #WeMakeEventsSpain, I will be arriving at ISE with my bike (NDR. smiles), which you will see on display at the stand, as a participant in the BikeFest 2023 initiative organised by PLASA, #WeMakeEvents and AFIAL. We will arrive in Barcelona on Sunday 29 in the evening at the end of a three-stage route that starts in Valencia and runs along the beautiful Mediterranean coast via Peñiscola and Tarragona.


Walter Lutzu
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