CES Inspiration for the Entrepreneur

CES 2013

Last week, I headed to Vegas to attend the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It’s an amazingly enormous trade show that featured 1.92 million net square feet of exhibit space! To put that into perspective, a football field is 57,000 square feet, including end zones, so CES covered almost 34 football fields! (And my feet still hurt from hiking most of that…)

Sony CES
This was just a part of Sony's display area... Yeah, CES is big!

This year, CES had 3,250 exhibitors displaying 20,000 new products, which attracted more than 150,000 attendees from more than 170 countries. In other words, it’s BIG.

CES for Entrepreneurs
Oh, wait, did I say that 4K televisions were the hot new thing? Well, they've already been trumped...

While the items that stole the show included the plethorea of 4K televisions (and tablets) and Samsung’s flexible displays, the show also featured some vendors that could offer inspiration to Hawaii’s entrepreneurs. Even more, Startup America had an entire section called Eureka Park that showcased more than 140 start-ups, emerging companies, and entrepreneurs in both an expo and live interviews with guests such as Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, Slava Rubin, Founder of IndieGoGo, and many VCs, startup founders, and tech journalists.

A pleasant surprise was the number of startups at CES who were based “everywhere else” (i.e. not Silicon Valley). I spoke with several entrepreneurs from Santa Monica, a few from Atlanta, one from Wisconsin, one from Utah, and others from Indiana, Maryland, and upstate New York. Sure, the bulk of startups were based in San Francisco, New York City, Boston, or other tech hubs, but it’s encouraging to see talented entrepreneurs building great products and companies from seemingly random locations. The excuse of “Hawaii is too remote” is becoming less and less true.

Get Some Inspiration

Having spent three solid days trudging around CES, playing with new tech, talking with founders and engineers, and consuming tons of articles and posts, I’ve put together the following list of startups, gadgets, services, and components that might spark an idea or help advance an existing idea. By no means is this list exhaustive; it’s just a collection of interesting, entrepreneurial items from this year’s CES.


Cosmo Wenmen and his reproduction of "Head of a horse of Selene" produced over 120+ hours by Makerbot's desktop 3D printers.
  • MakerBot – You’re probably familiar with the rapid advances of 3D printing, but MakerBot and others were showing some amazing items printed as-you-watched. One of their most creative customers, Cosmo Wenman, was on-hand to show his 3D-printed art projects, one of which is at right.
  • Sculpteo – Even better than MakerBot, Sculpteo offers 3D printing as a service, so no need to purchase a device. For any lean startups (or makerspace) focusing on a physical product or component, this offers a very economical way to build prototypes and test designs. They can print in 45 different materials and have a printing facility in San Francisco for quick shipping to Hawaii.
  • Sphero – If you’re interested in developing for an existing platform and want to create something extra fun, check out Sphero’s robot ball. Another “not-from-Silicon Valley” startup,  the device was designed by a robotics grad from Colorado State and a math/physics grad from U. of Northern Colorado, and they are based in Boulder. They offer a full SDK and an open API, and there are already over 20 smartphone apps that create interesting games and interactions with Sphero. There are interactive, multi-player games, and even some using augmented reality. It sure beats building another fart app…
  • Condition ONE – While maybe not useful for coders, this company is developing an “immersive video app” that uses your device’s accelerometer to allow you to rotate 360-degrees while watching streaming video. Imagine Android’s new photo sphere, except with video. It’s amazing, and could sprout a business creating videos for tour operators or a virtual around-the-island tour.
  • Displair CES
    If you were planning to develop a monitor that projects an image onto water vapor, you're too late.

    Christie Street – Although there were plenty of CES startups who found funding via Kickstarter, Christie Street offers a new spin on the crowd-funding model by vetting the teams and projects to help ensure that the startups actually have the credibility and expertise to follow-through on their inventions. They not only offer support and expertise to the inventors, they also protect buyers with insurance and escrow accounts that allow you to get a refund if the product never materializes.

  • Lockitron – Showing that Y Combinator goes beyond software, Lockitron is building a WiFi- and Bluetooth-enabled keyless entry system for your home.
So, any ideas?