i3 | September 01, 2017

2017 CT Hall of Fame: Marcia Grand and Arlene Harris

Stewart Wolpin

Two Top Women Executives to be Inducted on November 7, in New York

The Consumer Technology Hall of Fame honors visionaries who have made a significant impact on the consumer technology industry. These leaders and entrepreneurs have laid the foundation for the technologies, products, services and apps that are improving lives around the world.

Grand and Harris will be inducted along with 10 other industry leaders at an awards dinner on Tuesday evening, November 7, at the Rainbow Room in New York. Over the next several weeks, i3 will highlight this prestigious class. Please join us for the awards dinner as we celebrate this extraordinary group of honorees. Register for the dinner today.

Marcia Grand, Publisher, TWICE Magazine

Marcia Grand has been a fixture in the consumer electronics business for much of her 45-year publishing career. As vice president/publisher of TWICE (This Week in Consumer Electronics), Grand helped establish the magazine as the preeminent trade voice in consumer electronics and herself as one of the industry's most prominent personalities.

Grand was born Marcia Trachtenberg on Groundhog Day in 1947, and lived much of her early years in the Bronx Pelham Parkway City Housing Projects. Her first job at 17 was as a secretary at Tata Industries, then an Indian export firm, which was followed by other secretarial jobs.

In 1969, Grand came across an intriguing New York Times help wanted ad for a “Gal Friday...Creative Mama” at Tape Recording and Audio Times magazines owned by a young publisher named Richard Ekstract (CTA Hall of Fame, 2002). Starting as a secretary/typesetter, Grand worked with Ekstract and began to learn publishing from the bottom up.

When Ekstract was granted the rights to publish the official CES Show Daily, he asked Grand to help out with ad sales. Both Ekstract and Grand were startled by how perfectly suited she was for the job when she sold more ads than either of them thought possible. During her time with Ekstract she handled everything from typesetting to production to billing and later sales, leading to her being named associate publisher of Consumer Electronics Magazine (CEM).

In 1986, three years after selling CEM, Ekstract decided to publish TWICE and recruited an initially reluctant Grand to launch it with him. Grand's decision to join TWICE proved to be a wise one. Within six months, TWICE became the number one publication in sales volume in the field contributing to the demise of all but one of its 16 competitors.

Grand always fought for TWICE properties. She lobbied for and received approval to add major appliance coverage to what was a consumer electronics/video software publication. Instead of following an order to randomly cut TWICE circulation from 40,000 down to 25,000, she chose instead a targeted cut by dropping the video software subscribers and coverage and convinced the new owners that, given the lack of annual contract advertisers, a frequency change from weekly to bi-weekly was imperative. These moves and others helped secure TWICE’s future growth and stability.

Grand's goal was to help industry retailers and manufacturers/suppliers through TWICE print and digital editorial as well as revenue-producing product/service advertorial supplements she created. As a result of her travels and connections in the industry, Grand was considered a valued advisor by many, especially new companies getting into the business. She also regularly connected people to people, recommending the right individuals for the right positions, and gave away job wanted classified ads in TWICE to people that were out of work.

Grand received the Reed Elsevier Passion for “Winning Publisher Award” in 2004, the “Torch of Liberty Award” from the Anti-Defamation League in 1999, and the “Legacy Award” from Women in CE presented during CES 2013.

Grand left TWICE and the industry in 2013 as one of its most visible executives. She has since been traveling extensively with her husband, Richard Grand. When in New York, she also conducts mediation sessions part-time, and enjoys helping others navigate through their conflicts.

Arlene Harris, Founder of GreatCall; “First Lady of Wireless”

Serial entrepreneur Arlene Harris was literally born into the wireless business. So, after inventing numerous innovations, it's no surprise that she is known as the “First Lady of Wireless.”

Harris was born in rural Los Angeles on June 6, 1948. In the early 1950s, her parents started ICS in South Central Los Angeles, a business that provided car radiophone service. At 12 years old, Harris became a mobile operator and worked during her junior and high school years.

With an undiagnosed reading disorder that eliminated college possibilities, Harris worked for Air Canada at 18, and then joined Continental’s Military Air Transport during the Vietnam War and Air Micronesia in Honolulu.

Back in L.A. in 1969, Harris helped Continental plan, test and train agents, and also implemented the first data bases for IBM's automated ticketing and Direct Reference systems for the new wide-body Boeing 747s and McDonnell Douglas DC-10s. In 1972, Harris returned to ICS, where she participated in the introduction of the first high-capacity wireless business based on the Motorola Pageboy II beeper, developed by Marty Cooper (CTA Hall Of Fame, 2008). Harris later married Cooper.

Using her automated management systems, Harris and her family built the largest single-city paging operation in the world. ICS developed the first resale business, a concept mandated by the FCC in its 1982 cellular rules, as well as the first provisioning and self-help systems. In 1981, ICS developed Life Page, the first wireless health application. The Harris’s sold ICS, which is now USA Mobile.

In 1983, Harris and Cooper co-founded Cellular Business Systems Inc., which provided cellular billing and management services (CBSI, sold in 1986, now Netcracker). Harris served on the FCC/EIA committee that developed the Cellular Inter-Carrier Billing Exchange Record (CIBER) that enabled payment for roaming services. Between 1983 and 1986, Harris founded Subscriber Computing Inc. (SCI), Cellular Pay Phone Inc. (CPPI) and, with Cooper, their incubator, Dyna LLC.

SCI built the first networked automated provisioning systems now used by nearly all cellular retail channels, as well as a theft abatement system. She worked with OKI Electric and Motorola on the first mobile “app” – an over-the-air cellular phone billing and system, The Cellular Pay Phone. Her two patents on this product were the first of many that are licensed to Verizon, Qualcomm and others. At SCI in 1991, Harris enabled the global prepaid concept when she developed the first-ever cellular prepayment system. SCI is now part of Verisign.

In 1994, Harris introduced SOS Wireless, a "safety phone" service. The combination of SOS and innovations such as the first over-the-air website phone management evolved into GreatCall Inc.

Then, Harris bought a carrier that gave her access to a national roaming footprint and that enabled local phone numbers. In 2004, Samsung agreed to make two custom phones for Harris and, in 2006, she launched GreatCall and the multiple-award winning Jitterbug phones. By 2017, GreatCall had nearly a million subscribers and was sold to a private equity company.

Harris serves on the board of overseers for the Illinois Tech Stuart School of Business and the board of advisors for the IIT Institute of Design. In 2007, she was inducted into the Wireless Hall of Fame and named by Fierce Wireless as one of the 10 Top U.S. Wireless Innovators of All Time. Today she's working on the next big plan.

September/October 2017 i3 Cover Issue

Subscribe to i3 Magazine

i3, the flagship magazine from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, focuses on innovation in technology, policy and business as well as the entrepreneurs, industry leaders and startups that grow the consumer technology industry. Subscriptions to i3 are available free to qualified participants in the consumer electronics industry.