The start-up company Genoa is returning the lost colors to the TV screen
By Oded Chermoni – 9 May 2004
The peaceful lives of the residents of Pleasantville, the quiet American town created by director Gary Ross in his homage to the 1950’s black-and-white TV sitcoms, are changed beyond recognition when two teenagers arriving from the 1990s bring color to the gray-scale habitat for the first time. This colorful discovery transforms the inhabitants’ lives.
Over the last few months there’s been lots of talk in the domestic industry scene that Genoa Color Technologies, a small Israeli start-up, is a candidate to lead a revolution of the type that which took place in the Pleasantville of Hollywood. Genoa is a chip company whose products are intended for different types of TV screens – rear projection, front projectors and LCD. The company presently has just 17 employees, who occupy an antiquated, crowded building in Herzlia Pituach.
Genoa’s technology shows up the world we see on our TVs today as rather colorless. The color range of today’s technology is a far cry from the color of the real world – only about 55% of the visible color gamut. “In fact, there has been no real change in television technology since color TV started in 1954. There’s a color triangle that can be used by today’s technology – RGB (Red, Green and Blue) – and the color displayed is rather limited. But, we’ve all got used to missing colors on TV that we see in reality. The color gold in a movie isn’t seen as gold on TV; the sand on the sea shore looks kind of off-white rather than golden yellow; and the turquoise sea looks bluey-grey,” explains Ilan Ben-David, founder and CEO of the company.
Genoa’s revolution restores the missing colors to TVs using unique algorithms that for the first time in 50 years permit the addition of up to three extra primary colors – yellow, cyan and magenta. The company’s demo, that has been seen by the managements of some of the largest display manufacturers in the world, reveals colors to viewers that have never before been seen on the small screen. Philips, one of the largest manufacturers, is already planning to integrate the company’s chips in all its new rear-projection TVs. “What really attracts these companies is the showroom effect. Manufacturers want to grab the consumer, and show him the differences in color and image sharpness between the TVs. For most of us, the number of colors isn’t that important because we’re not aware of what we’re missing. That’s the way it’s been for 50 years now,” says Ben-David.
Genoa’s technology comes from the world of printing. The founders came out of Scitex and built on the printing technologies that they knew. “These days, printing has fewer technology barriers and you can digitally transfer a very wide spectrum of color. This problem doesn’t exist either in cinema since you have all of the color in the pysical film media, and this gets shown thanks to the high power of the projection lamp. But TV manufacturers, even though they’ve progressed over the last few years from cathode ray tubes to LCD are unable to solve the color problem by means of a powerful lamp; they lose 50% of the brightness when they enlarge the color gamut,” says Ben-David.
According to him, the uniqueness of Genoa’s development is that it doesn’t require a change in the TV, doesn’t require a change in the broadcast format and doesn’t require compensation for a loss of brightness. “We have developed a chip that makes it possible to both increase the color gamut and simultaneously increase the brightness by 40%. Plenty of companies have tried unsuccessfully to develop similar solutions over the years. When their managements see what we’ve done, their eyes pop out when they see the difference we can deliver” he adds.
Genoa, established in 2000, was under the radar screen of Israeli VCs until recently, with the exception of Platinum Fund who believed in it. In recent months it’s been hard to find a manager of a major fund who can conceal his interest in the company.
“It’s a discovery of the last few months. Until then we were too esoteric a company for Israeli funds. Their interest was sparked after they became more exposed to the Far East, and heard about us from local companies in Taiwan and Korea. Then suddenly the interest picked up. That said, at present we’re not fund-raising” said Ben-David. Genoa has raised $10M so far, and the last round of $3M was raised at the start of the year from the existing investors, Platinum and privates.
Genoa will record its first sales in 2005 and hopes to break-even in 2006 when multiple TV product lines will be built on their chip. “The chip will cost tens of Dollars but this will be balanced out by other savings achieved by the manufacturers such as expensive projection lamps. In practice, the increase in cost won’t hit the end-consumer” says Ben-David who believes that the really good tidings are still to come. “The plasma screen trend is temporary, and plasmas will only be used for very large displays. LCD screens will dominate the TV market in the near future, even though they will be more expensive than the conventional CRT TVs we’re all used to,” he concludes.
This translation was prepared by Genoa, and has not been checked or approved by Haaretz