Stephanie Selesnick investigates consumer electronics show CES 2023 at Venetian Expo in Las Vegas.
CES 2023 is one of (if not) the largest annual US exhibitions, held early January. This year’s edition had (pre-verification) 115,000 visitors, including 40,000 international visitors from 140 countries, 4,800 media and 3,200 exhibitors including 1,000 start-ups. They exhibited across 2.2m net square feet in multiple venues, and 60% of US Fortune 500 companies were represented.
US exhibitions tend to have more display rules and regulations than elsewhere in the world, as well as unions to contend with. Business typically is more transactional rather than relationship based. Deals can be and are struck quite quickly.
Eureka Park, CES’s innovation area, housed many of the 1,000 new companies and a good number of those participated in country pavilions. CES has strict requirements for this popular section and successfully staged it on the first floor of the Venetian Expo. Those Eureka requirements include:
- If the owners of the company dream that their technology would benefit consumers one day, then they belong in Eureka Park.
- If a company has launched its first product, it must have been launched on or after the prior calendar year. Any start-ups with products that launched before then are not considered.
- Crowdfunding campaigns, pre-orders and beta stage are allowed.
- The product or service must be innovative with the potential to make a profound impact on the market.
- The technology must be demonstrable as a prototype or software mock-up, no paper or concept entries.
- Must be a first-time exhibitor or fit the criteria once again for a maximum of two years.
I spoke with four country pavilion organisers about recruiting and training exhibitors for CES and discovered some similarities and a few differences. Inflation was a factor, and some made mention of the increased prices of exhibiting over past years.
The country pavilions I investigated were: Israel, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and Ukraine. Participation is partially to wholly subsidised and it is ‘plug and play’. In other words, upon arrival exhibitors can simply plug in their gear they’re ready to exhibit. Organisers were smart in offering exhibitor elevator pitch and/or media training.
Israel. Ms. Yardin Zinger, director of digital media-retail and sport sectors, Israel Export Institute, and I met on an extremely busy pavilion. She said since the country has participated in CES for over ten years, “It’s a known place for investors and buyers to find great innovative technology to buy or invest in.” The 21 exhibiting companies were, she said, “all start-ups from different industries, ranging from A.I.-run home and office gardens, to voice recognition software for those in medical distress, to data storage solutions, and more.”
Recruiting for the pavilion is first-come, first-served and sells out quickly. Two months before the show, the team works with exhibitors on their elevator pitches, one-pagers for investors (19 of the companies were seeking second or third round investors), and KPI’s/ goals.
The country uses its network of Israel’s 50 Foreign Trade Administration’s global offices and commercial attaches to help promote the CES Pavilion. They also work with the Export Institute which shares intelligence on prospective buyers and investors for exhibitors to set up at-show meetings ahead of the event.
The Netherlands. The Netherlands considers itself to be a country of innovation. With 40 companies in Eureka Park and another 30 in a separate country pavilion upstairs, the orange and navy-blue colours of both pavilions are striking on brand (the orange) and purposefully designed.
Ms. Sandra Brandenburg, project coordinator NL Mission CES 2023 and Ms. Wytske Kist, communications and partnerships coordinator NL Mission CES 2023, said selected companies were judged by a team of experts who decided on viability to be successful in the US, i.e. be a good market fit, viable, ready to do business, and financially healthy.
Companies are start-ups or scale-ups. Pre-show training begins with an intake call to assess each company’s needs. Some may need help with business proposals, others with pitches, media training or figuring out KPIs and goals. With CES Unveiled being held in Amsterdam, all CES pavilion participants are required to exhibit at that event, a mini-CES if you will, and it creates a sense of community with the exhibitors.
Switzerland. The SwissTech Pavilion was hot pink and black – quite a stand out, housing 25 companies. This was their fourth time exhibiting at CES. The pool for exhibitors consists of a large network of Swiss start-ups and agencies who support them, including the Swiss Innovation Agency, Innosuisse. Both Ms. Karine Wittmer, trade commissioner of Export and Investment Promotion Switzerland, Swiss Business Hub USA and Ms. Bettina Thomas, head of trade fairs for Switzerland Global Enterprise, shared information about the pavilion.
Exhibitors pay a portion of their expenses to participate. Plenty of preparation is provided to exhibiting companies well ahead of the show, including a US-based coach for Pitch Training. Marketing materials are reviewed by others, along with proposed company responses. If exhibitors fit the Eureka Park criteria, they may also participate in the pavilion for a second year.
Pavilion companies included VR tech, sustainability, and human impact (how tech can help humans/medical). Fem-Tech: Six (25%) of the companies were woman-owned, and two panels focused on supporting the growth of women in tech and building that community were held.
One of the exhibitors had a completely enclosed room within the pavilion set up as an A/R experience with each visitor earning a Swiss chocolate (what else?!) at the end of their quest. I liked the on-brand tie-in with the pavilion itself.
Ukraine. Co-sponsored by the ministry of digital transformation of Ukraine, USF, USAID, Western NIS Enterprise Fund, GIST, and UVCA (Ukrainian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association), this was the fifth edition for the pavilion, and the first during a war. Mr Adrity Koldyuk, chairman of the UVCA Supervisory Board, told me about the pavilion and state of technology innovation in the country. Surprisingly (to me!), he said, “No one has stopped investing in Ukrainian tech companies. We have seven Unicorns, two of which happened this past summer.”
The country’s number one export is IT services. Pre-war it was number two after agriculture.
Over 100 companies competed for 12 spots in the Ukraine Pavilion. Ultimately, only 11 exhibited due to US visa issues (sound familiar?). Normally they work closely before CES to train exhibiting companies, but this year were unable to. However, Koldyuk said, “Most are pretty sophisticated at this point.”
Many of the exhibiting companies focused on SDG – sustainable products and new solutions such as recycling leaves to make paper. He called them ‘dual-use technologies’ – innovative products to address problems now to help 25+ million people survive the war, like processes to make clean drinking water, and later to help the environment.
Conclusion. Numerous studies have determined the number one reason people visit an exhibition is to see what’s new. The energy in CES’s Eureka Park was palpable and the aisles jam-packed. As Zinger of Israel summed up: “The essence and soul of CES is Eureka Park – if you want to see trends and what’s new.”
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