Colin Kavanagh: CEO for Philips Entertainment Lighting

How did you get your start in the entertainment technology industry, and what has kept you within it to this day?

“I had a summer job as a lighting designer and console operator for a hotel theatre and it turned out the job also included building the console and installing the lighting rig. It was certainly low tech compared to today’s standards. Later, I moved to Silicon Valley and entered the world of technology. The entertainment side came many years later in the form of a small startup called Element Labs. In reality, my background is more in business development, technology application, product development and customer service which, over the years, has served me well in this industry.”

What has been the most significant evolution in the pro lightning sector over the last five years?

“The improved efficiency of LEDs delivering instant on /off, silent dimming and colour changing, as well as the IoT, connected lighting. Also, Pixel Mapping and Magic Sheet technology have really come into their own. These are all areas where Philips Lighting holds the No.1 spot. My preference is for the LDs not to be constrained by their knowledge of technology, but instead, use their amazing creativity and imagination to deliver an incredible experience. My job, our job, is to use technology to enable your imagination. Our challenge is to hide the technological complexity and provide LDs with powerful yet easy to use tools. In all, the most significant evolution is that lighting went beyond illumination to become a creativity tool.”

From your native Ireland to Philips’ Netherlands HQ, to your current base in Texas, how are you hoping to further the brand worldwide?

“We have four distinct brands within our portfolio, which are Showline, Selecon, Strand, and Vari-Lite, our most well-known brand. The brands are tailored to different segments of entertainment lighting: automated luminaires, architectural, theatrical and live event, fixtures controls and dimming; data and distribution, and television fixtures. Our brand portfolio is in a very unique position of leveraging technology and commonality and being able to offer total solutions to the end customer. It is our strategy to grow each brand independently while also offering a total solution package to our customers. Not all of our customers are fully aware of the different brands and the depth of our portfolio, and we are addressing this through training, marketing, and consolidating our separate brand websites under one business website. Controls and Dimming; Data and Distribution, and TV Fixtures. Our brand portfolio is in a unique position of leveraging technology and commonality and being able to offer total solutions. It is our strategy to grow each brand independently while also offering a total solution package to our customers.”

During your time at Philips you’ve held several different roles. What opportunities does your latest post as Head of Entertainment Lighting bring?

“On one hand, I have a passionate and capable team that possess incredible industry knowledge supported by four signature global brands. On the other hand, we are part of Philips Lighting, a global leader in Lighting Products, which boasted 2015 sales of EUR 7.5 billion, with approximately 36,000 employees in over 70 countries. The opportunity is leveraging this amazing resource and innovation powerhouse to deliver value to our customers and grow the Entertainment business to the number one spot. In my past role I was fortunate enough to have worked across all businesses, which has granted me deep insight into the capability and available resources.”

You’ve just returned from LDI 2016. Can you share your insights?

“Firstly, I must thank my team – they did an incredible job! I wanted to make a bold statement at LDI that Philips Entertainment is committed to the industry. We had team members from all over the world at the show and some very interactive discussions. All the feedback was extremely positive. One of my first decisions was to have a private showing of our latest technology. This completely exceeded my expectations, every show was at maximum capacity with requests for more. I also had the opportunity to meet with many customers and really appreciated their feedback and offers of support. The energy at LDI was electrifying, I really enjoyed the event.”