’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Then I get a text from Pawel, one of Tooploox’s founders that said:
Do you want to come to CES 2018 with me?
As you can imagine I packed my bags in 2 seconds and got everything ready to hit Las Vegas in January. Merry X-mas to me! CES (Consumer Technology Association) is the biggest convention for electronics in the world, 5 days of keynotes, new products, brands, and tech. It’s also a great place to do business and connect with new and existing partners…and last but not least, it’s VEGAS!
The day came and we traveled for over 24 hours until we got to our hotel, one of the most iconic places in Las Vegas, the infamous EXCALIBUR Hotel and Casino. The wow factor started as soon as we entered, a huge hotel decorated as King Arthur’s castle, it was the definition of kitsch but it made you feel like a kid in Disney World. After putting down our bags we set our plan of attack for the next 5 days, we had to visit some partners, have a couple of meetings with very interesting contacts and of course, find new business. Mind that the time difference was 7 hours so after all the travel we were knackered.
The first day of CES was kind of a preview, not an official launch but more of a “press day”.
After a classic all-you-can-eat Vegas breakfast buffet, we had our first visit, “The Media hall”. It was held in one of Vegas newest hotels, The Aria. Here we met with some old friends of us, the guys from Samba TV. We worked with them back in the day but we remain friends till today. They organized a sort of TED talk with Neil Patrick Harris, yes!, Doogie Howser M.D.! (google it)
We listened about a new app that allows celebrities to create a “media channel” that groups all of their social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc. All in one place. It’s called IAmApp.
We spend the day walking around there and met some friends of Pawel at the Vewd booth, basically if your TV is smart, it’s probably thanks to Vewd. They create the software behind most TV operating systems.
The next day wasn’t as easy. We headed to the main convention center where all the action was supposed to be. When you think of Las Vegas you think, sun and heat, well not today, it was the first rain in Las Vegas in 136 days, and it wasn’t a soft one. The number of cars and the amount of traffic due the event was huge and a flash flood didn’t help. But we made it, we hit the South Hall where VR, Robotics, and other fun stuff was showing the latest. The number of people visiting (180k throughout the 5 days) and how big this whole thing was, finally took shape. This hall was supposed to be one of the small ones and it was huge! The total size of land being used for CES it was close to 800000 m2! We decided to split in order to cover more ground.
At the convention center, you could find all of the big established brands, like Sony, Samsung, LG, all with massive booths and expos. We are talking millions of dollars to show their latest tech not only in mobile or emerging technologies, but also their blenders, ovens, and other consumer goods. We also found some new and rising brands and those are the ones we are aiming to help. The only issue is that the main expo is mostly for sales, most of the people we approach were looking for a distributor or even investors to grow their brand. Many products were very impressive but then you realize that you can find 10 more companies around working on the exact same technology. Here we also got to see one of our US partners, DTS/Xperi, we have been working closely with them integrating multiple global digital radio formats onto a single platform. Millions of dollars invested in a booth showcasing some of our work. It was a proud moment.
Something that I wasn’t expecting, at least on that scale, was the number of Asian companies, especially Chinese.
I can confidently say that 8 out of 10 companies at the convention center were Chinese, Asian or at least with Asian roots, even when most of the exposing team was American, as soon as you get their business cards you can see where are they based or where are they from. The number was impressive as not only brands or products were on display, also parts, logistics, manufacturing, all coming in strong into the US and world market. We had to master giving our business cards with both hands!
Also a big number of visitors were also Chinese which makes you understand the scale of Chinese business and how are the entering every aspect of technology, I know we had a biased view of Asian products as a mass production, low-quality stuff, but when you get to see TVs as good as any Sony or LG at a fraction of the price it gives you a different perspective. It’s complicated when countries like the United States want to prevail over Chinese manufacturing, but seeing how much power are they putting behind their business and world expansion you can see is not going to be an easy task.
After going through most of the convention center we realized that our focus shouldn’t be there, it was great to see all this tech but our best relationships always came from the young entrepreneur spirit, from the startup world. So we decided to head to Eureka Hall where thousands of startups were showcasing their products and achievements. After a quick bus ride provided by the event, we made it to the Venetian Hotel and Sands Expo. Another massive building with a lot going on.
One of the first things we did there was to visit some of our partners like Spire where they welcomed us very warmly, I love to see how they are truly happy about what we are doing together.
Spire.io works by adding a sensor on your clothing that measures many body functions in order to give you an accurate description of what’s going on with you. Sleep patterns, breathing, motion, you name it.
Just around the corner, we met with another partner of us, Naked Labs. They are working on a Mirror that can 3D scan you and track your volumetric body fat %, give you accurate body measurements, and weight.
The Eureka Hall had over 800 new companies showing their products to the world, some of them for the first time, we had to split again as the number of companies was overwhelming. Countries like Israel, France, Italy, the Netherlands they all grabbed the best from their countries and brought them to Vegas to show not only their startups but also how much the countries are investing in their own startup environment, even though some of the ideas were not as good as we expected the overall feeling was cool, the startup world is very much alive. Here we found from really cool tech to, well, just weird stuff. Very young people all the way to 60+ trying to convince you that their products could be the next Google or Uber.
It took us three days of visits in order to see the whole place, we listen to great pitches at the Techstars stage, also some awful ones. I guess the pitching problem is Universal. We also saw Gary V giving his usual “inspirational” talks, it was cool to see him even though I still don’t know what he does.
So after a few dozens of Business Cards given and received we moved on to follow up with the rest of the event. It truly feels that it was a never-ending flow of companies, products, new technologies, etc. Here we also met with our friends from MindMaze who are working not only on MedTech and VR, they are truly involved in everything. Once again we felt pretty good with the way they welcomed us, truly as a close partner.
Meetings and Networking
With 180k attendees and 5000 expositors, doing some high-quality time and networking was not an easy task. Even to talk to some of the startups was tricky as everyone was waiting for the next investor and trying to answer everyone’s questions about their product.
During all the struggle we got a message from one of our friends making an intro for us, we picked a place, set a time and there we were already doing business with a mobile application that might be in everyone’s radar very soon. We were very happy to see that our partners are our best advertising. We also met with some very interesting contacts from our LinkedIn network, we had a great talk with the guys from Axiom Cyber Solutions that are becoming a known name in cyber sec and blockchain solutions. We met Stephen Crystal who is a legend in Vegas and talked E-sports and the future of gaming. He also taught us that doesn’t matter what you do, you will always lose money at the casinos. Stephen is an advisor for the Polish company Kinguin and is helping them on their soon to happen ICO.
Overall the trip was a success, we accomplished our mission of putting our name out there, meeting our existing partners and making new ones. If you ask me is it worth to visit CES, well – I’m not sure. We are spending so much time surrounded by tech and tech news that a lot of what we saw it didn’t feel new, or innovative, or even original. However, to see first hand how fast we are moving forward, it was pretty awesome.
A full post should be written about Las Vegas. This truly is “the city that never sleeps”. It is fascinating to see thousands of people visiting this tiny city in the middle of the desert, and how much of an American cultural icon this is. With the little time we had in between we manage to see a show, to have some drinks at the Skyfall Lounge, to walk around the strip, and of course to gamble a bit (lost $70). The trip back home wasn’t any easier on the body after walking over 60km throughout the week but is for sure one of those business trips that will linger in my mind for years to come.
What happens in Vegas, sometimes comes back with you.