How has CES 2021 impacted tech start-ups?

How has CES 2021 impacted tech start-ups?

CES is the world’s largest consumer electronics exhibition and usually one of the biggest and busiest annual events on the tech scene. More than 200,000 journalists, analysts and technology companies descend on the Las Vegas strip every January to hear about the latest gadgets and innovations of the future. But this year the event has been transformed into the first all-digital show in its decades-long history.

To fill the void of dramatic showcases, on-stage keynotes and wild after-show parties, attendees are logging on to watch consumer technology’s major names discuss upcoming trends in virtual booths and roundtables.

But what impact has this digital shift had on smaller B2C tech companies?

Fighting for the limelight

Getting a spot at pre-show events like Showstoppers or Pepcom can be a sound investment for a B2C tech company. You get the chance to be in a room with 500+ quality journalists and there is more freedom to engage – before the chaos of the actual show begins.

One of our clients Planet Computers, first launched its clamshell smartphone, the Gemini PDA, at CES in 2017 and usually attends CES Unveiled, where the media gets exclusive previews of the products to be launched in Vegas. As a smaller company that cannot compete with the astronomical PR budgets of big brands, the smaller shows have proven to be a great way to access key journalists, maximise visibility and boost sales. Planet raised around £250,000 in the first 24 hours after showcasing its product at CES!

Although Showstoppers and CES Unveiled adapted and moved its events online this year, it is hard to have the same impact without presenting the products in person or answering questions face-to-face.

Equally, if you are a smaller technology company, an online event might not compare to the exposure you could get at the physical event. Usually at CES, journalists would wander down the endless aisles of the conference halls and stumble across less recognised brands that have ‘undiscovered’ innovations.

Think outside the box

It is not all doom and gloom though; the changes to this year’s CES and other industry events such as MWC could present an opportunity for start-ups to save thousands of pounds which would usually be spent on an exhibition stand and think of creative new ways to showcase your products. Could you partner up with an established publication and hold your own virtual event? Or play the long game and invest in your own physical event later in the year, giving you direct access to the media?

Future of CES

It will be interesting to see how CES plays out in 2022. I was trying to avoid saying the C word, but… with Covid unlikely to miraculously vanish in the next few months there might not be an appetite for a physical event again next year. Will journalists be desperate to return to a physical event for the buzz of the crowded conference halls and 12-hour days, or will this year’s show cause a seismic shift to all-digital future events?

Emily Brewster

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