Ray Coneys remembers George Feldstein as a Renaissance man: “He was a pilot, he loved cycling, he loved crew [rowing], and he had a tremendous interest in history.” Coneys recalls that Feldstein, the man who founded Crestron in a room over a Cresskill, New Jersey delicatessen in 1972, was especially fascinated by military history. “No matter how you feel about it, the fact is that military technology often drives technological advancement.” George Feldstein was equally fascinated by NASA’s Apollo program — his thirst for knowledge was nearly unquenchable, and he was always eager to share what he'd learned.
The business that George Feldstein began to craft 50 years ago, driven by his boundless curiosity, led to the evolution of a company that now boasts 90-plus offices around the world. Today Crestron’s technological solutions can be found in the boardrooms of the world’s largest companies and most luxurious homes. They’ve been installed in the Pentagon and the White House, in courtrooms and classrooms, and even major-league sports stadiums.
Coneys joined Crestron in 1990 and has since become vice-president of sales enablement. His memories of Feldstein as an extrovert driven by his “need to learn/need to teach” are especially vivid. “George would ride his bike, say, to a shopping center, and strike up a conversation with a young person rounding up the carts,” says Coneys. “Before you knew it, he was offering them a job at Crestron. It used to drive some of the execs crazy, but if you had an interest in what Crestron was doing, he’d find you work.”
Feldstein had a uniquely American perspective on creating a team, and according to Coneys, that vision was shaped by what he observed during World War II. “George loved the idea of America as ‘melting pot’ — we went to Europe with our shirts untucked and our helmets tilted to one side, and we beat the bad guys with the big guns,” he says. “How? We were innovative. We were the ultimate team players.”
And Feldstein imbued that notion — that idea of the American innovator and team player — into the DNA of the company he founded.
Dan Brady, Crestron’s COO, echoes Coney’s sentiments. “This company is about innovation, but innovation is always driven by people,” he says. “George always valued the individual contributions that all these brilliant minds brought to the table. He empowered them to experiment, to make mistakes, and to learn from those mistakes.”
The First Big Hit
In the company’s early days, Feldstein cold-called various firms, pitching his services as tinkerer, repairman, and problem-solver. But there is a through-line that runs back to the company’s first big “hit” to the present day: a drive to make technology easier to control — wirelessly.
“The stepping stone into audio-visual was slide projectors,” says Coneys.
Yes, there was a time before PowerPoint — and slides were just that, slides that sat in a carousel in a projector. The best way to present a combination of data and images was to gather one’s colleagues in a dark room, pull down a display screen, and fire up the slide projector. Feldstein saw an opportunity to refine this presentation tool. “The slide projector control went beyond just forward and advance; it also included fades and dissolves; you could incorporate multiple stacks of projectors into a timed presentation,” Coneys remembers. That interest led to controlling not just the projector but drawing the shades in a conference room remotely as well — and ultimately achieving more and more functions without cables.
“When I joined the company in 1990, Crestron already had a two-way, bidirectional RF touchscreen,” says Coneys. The product was big, it was clunky, but it worked. “In situations where you couldn't run a cable to a high-end meeting room, table, conference room, or a lectern, you could still have a touchscreen, and it would be wireless,” he says. Shortly after Coneys was hired, the company began delving into adding color to those screens and refining their control systems further. “At that time, touchscreen controllers were black and white. George simultaneously released the first color touchscreen with a video window: You could have a feed going to the touchscreen and display a video preview on this color touchscreen.”
Feldstein’s vision extended into every product, says Coneys. “We were the first control system that had an ethernet port,” he recalls. When that feature was added, ethernet had yet to be accepted as standard. The same was true of HDMI — Feldstein was one of the first to understand that HDMI would become the digital replacement for analog video standards.
“To this day, if you look at our products compared to competitors, we're typically way ahead as far as our network standards,” says Coneys, “including the security protocols that we support, because we made a decision to do that. We were early adopters of that.”
The Ups and Downs of a Business
Like any business, Crestron was challenged to weather downturns. Coneys’ early days with Crestron saw the firm running to catch up with its competitors. “Randy Klein joined the company the same year I did,” he says. Klein refocused on making customer feedback Priority One, and the input of the late, longtime CTO Fred Bargetzi, helped the company regain its edge. Through the dot-com bubble burst in 1999, through 9/11, and through the Great Recession, Feldstein “never curled up in the fetal position,” according to Coneys. “He invested money, and he hired people in engineering, and so we came out on the other side with the digital media technology that grew into our DM NVX, AV-over-IP products,” he says.
Feldstein would turn over the reins to Randy Klein in 2014, and Klein would eventually face his own challenge as CEO when the global pandemic hit in early 2020. When Klein retired last year, CE Pro noted his leadership through the lockdowns:
Klein recently shared that the company designed [more] new products during the shutdown than during any other time frame. The company’s broad portfolio covers technology for conference rooms and corporate facilities, UC controls and displays, campus systems, hardware devices for partners such as Microsoft and Zoom, and automated lighting, audio, video, and environment control for luxury homes and yachts.
That can-do attitude is present today. “Through these difficult times with the global supply chain issues that everyone’s facing, customers desperately want our products because they remain the most flexible, scalable, and reliable products in the market today,” says Brady. “And our people are working harder than ever to meet that demand — with absolutely no diminishment in quality.”
“This is exactly what makes Crestron so great: Everyone pitches in to solve problems, and we don’t deflect or yield,” he adds.
“I know from personal experience running our Advanced Technical Support Group for many years that I could always look a customer in the eye and commit to solving their issue,” adds Andrew Ludke, now a senior director of product management. “I could make this commitment because I knew I had the unwavering backing of the company — from the engineers and sales team right through to executive management.”
“Randy and Mr. Feldstein would tell us that if you did what’s right for the customer and the company, we couldn’t go wrong, and that’s proven to be true over and over again in my time here.”
A Family Business
Although it’s now a global business with billions in revenue, Crestron maintains a family atmosphere — which extends to its present leadership team that finds George’s son Dan at the helm. The younger Feldstein was ready to hit the ground running, as was noted in a company press release: “With a background in computer engineering, Feldstein spent the first decade of his Crestron career in R&D, playing a role in designing a number of the technologies Crestron still employs today. Since then, he has been working in Operations alongside Klein and former CTO Fred Bargetzi.”
Coneys recalls many members of the Feldstein family pitching in throughout his tenure. “The first summer I spent in Cresskill, Dan and David [Feldstein] came home from college and helped us full-time workers program Crestron systems.” George’s wife, “Mrs. F,” as she was known, led the accounting department. Wendy Feldstein began in the drafting department before becoming a vice-president of design. Anne Baretz (nee Feldstein) joined — and grew — the legal team. “All of the second-generation family members who joined Crestron invested time in the company before being ‘officially’ brought on board,” says Coneys.
Although George Feldstein has since passed, Coneys sees the founder’s values reflected in the company as it marks 50 years in business. “George Feldstein really loved our customers and always invited them to come into the factory. He loved showing it off and then getting feedback and ideas.
“He worked with a lot of brilliant minds in our industry to help influence the development of our products,” Coneys adds. “Feldstein was open to that; it was part of his genius.”
Dan Brady sees the younger Feldstein embracing those very values George Feldstein held dear: “Innovation, quality, and maybe most importantly, humility.” That’s only achieved when a leader puts the customer first — and strives to create the perfect solution for that customer. “That extends beyond engineering,” Brady notes. “That ethos extends to production, distribution, marketing, sales operations, even accounting.”
“And that philosophy really hasn’t changed at all.”
A Quick Crestron Timeline
1972 — Crestron is founded in Cresskill, New Jersey.
1975 — Feldstein incorporates the firm Crestron Electronics.
1980 — Crestron’s first dedicated HQ is constructed in Cresskill.
1997 — Crestron moves its HQ to Rockleigh, New Jersey, purchases several buildings for its research center, and hires more than 400 engineers.
1998 — The Crestron Certification program begins.
2002 — The Crestron Masters program is introduced.
2009 — Crestron opens its 8,000-square-foot "Experience Center" in New Jersey.
2014 — Randy Klein becomes CEO. George Feldstein passes later that year — with more than 70 patents to his name.
2021 — Dan Feldstein takes over as CEO upon Randy Klein’s retirement.
2022 — Crestron marks its 50th year in business with more than 90 offices across the globe.