Elliot (“Ellie”) Salkow (1953 to 2021), founder of Ellies Electronics, is one of the most prominent industry leaders we have lost this year. His humble, private and down-to-earth nature is probably the reason why many people did not notice when he passed away in August.
However, the company he created became one of the driving forces behind the spread of broadcasting in South Africa. Ellies Electronics ’success has made him one of the most influential individuals in South Africa, and the Sunday Times named him among the 10 richest South Africans in the technology sector in 2013 – among like Koos Becker, Johann Rupert and Brett Levy.
I met Salkow seven years ago, when my business interest in television content spilled over into technology. He was very different from most of the other prominent people I tried to approach.
He was approachable to me and others he interacted with and made it easier for people to talk to him.
On the news of his death, the company’s internal circular aptly described him as “a generous spirit and someone who saw the best in everyone.” He made it easier for everyone to suggest and discuss new ideas with him because he was not interested in the personal status of individuals.
As I learned more about him, the story of his personal struggle and his struggle against all odds to build Ellies may explain his simple approach to a people-centered life.
Salkow founded Ellies Electronics in 1979 after spending two and a half years as a sales representative at Aerial King. He drove from his garage and sold antennas from the trunk of his car.
One per household
When the company established its first office on End Street in Johannesburg, it had only two employees. By taking root as a supplier and installer of television antennas, and later satellite dishes and decoders, Ellies helped the penetration of television in South Africa one by one.
After several relocations and adjustments, the company eventually settled into its cult premises on Eloff Street, which includes The Pyramid Conference and Venue Center.
Throughout his career, Salkow was aware of rapidly changing technological trends and built Ellies Electronics as a agile and flexible machine capable of responding to ever-changing market conditions.
He lived by this mantra, so much so that he was often quoted as saying that “getting a good idea on the market today is better than getting the perfect idea on the market in a month.”
In 2019, Salkow became a non-executive director at Ellies and left. A year later, he left the company, allowing new blood to lead its rediscovery.
True to the dreams of many, his legacy has outlived him. Colleagues and longtime employees lovingly describe him as a founder, beloved mentor, leader and pioneer whose legacy lives on in everyone in the company.
For a man who funded his studies by selling mirrors and doubling up as a delivery man when he lost his parents, Salkow is the epitome of the entrepreneurial spirit through self-driving. Developing his company to a listed entity, he experienced inspiring many. Today, it is not possible to talk about the history of broadcasting technology in South Africa without Ellies Electronics. For that, he deserved a place in history.
Lefa Afrika is the director of Afriprime, a television content distribution company based in Johannesburg. He writes in a personal capacity.
This article was first published on TechCentral here, and republished with permission