The Consumer Electronics Show is expensive and for a lot of startups, it’s prohibitively expensive, thousands – or tens of thousands – of dollars to be a very small fish in a very big ocean. As a result, there are external activities that are affiliated with CES but aren’t actually part of the show floor and major event itself. One of those I attended a few nights ago, Startup Debut. Indeed, many of those companies were using that as their only shot at visibility during the event.
But if you’re a startup seeking funding, even that can be prohibitively expensive.
Enter a new event for this year, the Launch.it Pitch Event. Co-sponsored by ShowStoppers (yet another off-show-floor event I’ll be attending this evening), the Launch.IT event featured eight companies pitching their company from stage, seeking investment from the venture or angel community.
So how’d they do?
As with any pitch event, this was characterized by a wide range of presentation skills, with at least one company so confusing and vague in presentation that I couldn’t figure out what they actually had to offer. I wasn’t alone: the celebrity investor judging panel also had pointed questions for the entrepreneur afterwards, and even after that I still wasn’t sure what their business was about.
On the other hand, there were some really cool companies offering neat ideas and a good chance of delivering a robust, successful business into the marketplace. A recurring theme that surprised me was also Kickstarter as an early stage tactic for raising capital through product pre-orders. Smart. I’m a big fan of Kickstarter (though mostly for board games, but that’s another story).
The companies that presented were TroopID, Integrated Surface Technology, VioTech Communications, iBoard Canada, ZBoard, Dhama Innovations, Asius Technologies, and Pervasive Group Inc. And they were a mixed bag.
One of the most impressive was Integrated Surface Technology, who have created a nano-tech coating for electronic devices that make them considerably more water resistant, including smartphones and tablets. With a deliverable price of $19.99 to the consumer. That’s the innovation, of course, because there are already companies like Liquipel that offer this sort of waterproofing, but at a high price point. Creating a machine that’s not exorbitantly priced and offers user-managed coatings on demand? There’s a bit opportunity there. I’d use it!
Another technology I thought was interesting and had great promise was from Pervasive Group, with its flagship Android-based parental control system MMGuardian. That’s not unique, but the company is introducing text message monitoring and… more interestingly… monitoring and content filtering for Android-based tablets too. Smart. I’m a parent, knowing that my kids don’t have open access to the worst of the network? That’s good.
And finally, the coolest, a company that used Kickstarter for its intiai funding and actually won the “best business award” from the event: Zboard. It’s a self-propelled skateboard:
It’s kind of the hipster version of the rather dorky — but fun — Segway. But a ton smaller, easy to carry around (though it’s heavy) and way more fun. Oh, and a ten mile range on a single charge, including enough power to take a 200lb person up an incline and back down again too.
These aren’t companies that are going to change the world this week, they aren’t going to have 100,000 square-foot exhibits here at the Consumer Electronics Show, but some of these entrepreneurs just might be the seed of future change, of changing the ocean one drop at a time. And that’s pretty exciting.