CES: once the show is over, what do start-ups get out of it?

Several weeks after the CES, what remains of this key event for digital innovation? In addition to offering participants a stage for presenting their products, the event provides a place for intense networking and exchanges with future users. For start-ups, the CES accelerates their path towards leaving the incubator and provides a major boost in developing their brand.

 

Let’s take a quick trip back in time to January 9, 2017. The Consumer Electronics Show, better known as the CES, has just opened its doors in Las Vegas, triggering an avalanche of technology amid a flurry of media attention. Over the course of this 4-day event, the start-up and digital technology ecosystems buzz with activity. On January 12, the CES then came to a close. One week later, the return to normal can seem quite abrupt following a show that monopolized the attention of the media and technology stakeholders during its short existence. So, was it just a fleeting annual event? Are start-ups merely heading home (those who do not live in the nearby “valley”) after a short-lived fling?

Of course not! Despite the event’s ephemeral nature, start-ups come away with both medium- and long-term benefits. For Sevenhugs, 2017 was its third consecutive year participating in the event. The start-up from an incubator at Télécom ParisTech has presented two products at CES since 2015. It began by hugOne, a product for monitoring and optimizing sleep, followed by the Smart Remote, a multipurpose remote. Announcing new products at the event means, first of all, increasing press coverage, and therefore visibility, in a very competitive ecosystem. But it also means the start-ups benefit from meeting after meeting with business partners.

During CES, we had meetings with distributors, retailers and potential partners every 30 minutes,” explains Louise Plaquevent, Marketing Director at Sevenhugs. “With so many of these different professionals in the same place, it is possible to establish a lot of contacts that will be helpful throughout the year as we look for partners in Europe and the United States,” she adds. Therefore, CES also represents a springboard for entering the American and global market, which would be less accessible without this gathering.

 

Presenting a product to get critical feedback

Louise Plaquevent also points out that participating at CES exposes the products to the public, resulting in “comments and opinions from potential customers, which helps us improve the products themselves.” The Smart Remote was therefore presented to the public twice in Las Vegas: first in 2016, then again in 2017 as an updated version.

Michel Fiocchi, Director of Entrepreneurship at Mines Saint-Étienne, also shares this view. His role is to provide technological support to the school’s start-ups, founded by students and researchers. “For two of our start-ups — Swap and Air Space Drone — their participation at CES allowed them to refocus their products on clearly identified markets. Through conversations with potential users, they were able to make changes to include other uses and refine their technology,” he explains.

The event in Las Vegas provides a boost for the young entrepreneurs’ projects. Their development is accelerated through the contacts they establish and the opportunity to expose their products to users. For Michel Fiocchi, there is no doubt that participating at CES helps start-ups on their way to leaving the incubator: “There is a very clear difference in the dynamics of start-ups that have participated and those that haven’t,” he stresses.

Finally, participating at this major digital show offers benefits that are difficult to calculate, but may be just as valuable. Louise Plaquevent reminds us, in conclusion, that despite the event’s short duration, it is an intense experience for all the companies that make the trip. She points out that “CES allows us to get to know each other, and unites the teams.” This aspect is particularly important for these smaller companies with fewer employees.

 

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