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Businesses

Why CES Is a Bad Scene For Startups 89

Posted by samzenpus
from the slow-start dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "If you're a small-to-midsize tech company, CES isn't exactly the best place to get noticed. Every January, thousands of developers and startup executives flood Vegas with dreams of a big score. But they're not headed to the poker and blackjack tables in pursuit of that filthy lucre—instead, many of them have dropped thousands of dollars on a booth at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), arguably the highest-profile technology conference of the year. (In addition to the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to reserve a space on the convention-hall floor, that money goes to demo units, flying employees to Vegas, and much, much more.) If they haven't managed to secure a spot in one of the Convention Center's massive halls, they've set up a demonstration area in a suite at some hotel on the Strip. And if they're too under-capitalized or unprepared for a hotel, they're lurking in the Convention Center parking lot. Seriously. It's a little insane. But in a certain way, you can't blame the startups: at some point, someone told them that CES is the best way to get their company noticed, even if it means blowing the equivalent of three employees' yearly salaries. On paper, the get-a-booth strategy makes sense—aside from SXSW, CES hosts possibly the greatest concentration of tech journalists in a relatively small space. What many first-timers don't realize (until it's too late) is that startups have a hard time standing out amidst the chaos: there are too many companies at too many booths attempting to sell (at top volume) too many variations of the same core ideas. If that wasn't bad enough, a fair portion of those companies are trying to draw attention with flashing screens, giveaways, music pumping at top volume, and other gimmicks. (Hey, it's Vegas.) So not only does your Nike FuelBand knockoff need to compete against a hundred other 'smart bracelets' on display, but you somehow need to make yourself visible despite the plus-size Elvis impersonator belting out 'Don't Be Cruel' in front of that chip-vendor's booth a few steps away. That's just the sort of quixotic endeavor that would drive even the most stalwart startup founder to drinking before 9 A.M."
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Why CES Is a Bad Scene For Startups

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  • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday January 06, 2014 @04:35PM (#45881995) Homepage Journal

    Right, and it's a demonstration of how poisonous innovative culture in the US is. Everything is about being noticed and spectacle, not about useful ideas, even when targeting so-called experts. Marketing permeates American culture and destroys everyone that doesn't buy into the catastrophic tragedy of the commons it creates.

  • They do, kind of (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday January 06, 2014 @04:38PM (#45882027)

    CES has a "New and innovative Technology" section (not the actual name I think), in the Venetian (the main show is in the convention center). It's where a lot of smaller and more interesting companies hang out.

    CES has done what they can to separate smaller companies with new stuff from the establishes behemoths of the show that have blocks of display space. The real question is, what value can a company gain even if they are noticeable there? For the money you spend going to CES you could reach so many more people in other ways I think, virtual and physical...

  • In general terms (Score:4, Interesting)

    by istartedi (132515) on Monday January 06, 2014 @04:41PM (#45882055) Journal

    We live in a world of constant information flow. Betting anything on one big discrete burst of information is an anachronism. Trade shows are just one example. The other one that always leaps to mind is quarterly releases of financial information such as employment or sales for corporations. Sales data are being aggregated every second. You know that there is something to be gained from jumping the gun on quarterly releases, and you know somebody is doing that.

    Anyway, trade shows are an anachronism. There's no reason to--what? Vegas? Holy crap. Forget everything I just said. Vegas, Baby!

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday January 06, 2014 @05:20PM (#45882413)

    At least from a marketing point of view they are poison. Unless you happen to be the best, cheapest and most innovative around. And nobody is all three.

    These shows have two key drawbacks for you as a presenter. One, they are at a certain moment in time. And as Murphy's Law has it, either your Next Big Thing (tm) is not done yet or it was done 8 months ago and nobody gives a shit anymore. And second, you're not alone there, everyone you are competing with is there and your customer can compare trivially easily how you fare against your competitor.

    Now why the heck would I want that?

    You are paying an insane amount of money to put yourself into the shark pit. Instead, if you're a big company, you can easily launch your own private "we have done it" party and invite a ton of journalists where they may report about you, and only you, where you can bombard them with the awesome new features of your gadget without them being able to see that your competitor has all that and more. And if you're small, well, the last thing you need in the first place is to be put next to a monster gorilla who outshines you in every aspect. It's like trying to get noticed with your hot dog booth next to the worlds biggest food court.

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