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The 100% digital CES, a tragedy for start-ups?

Since CES was established in 1967, the popularity of the event has continued to grow. In 2019 4400 exhibitors, including 420 from France, attended. Among these exhibitors, many start-ups have been able to gain visibility among the market giants, and some have even had a real success story. For example, Pixminds, a French start-up, which won 6 awards in 2019, and 4 more in 2020.

From the Las Vegas show to the “sofa show

However, this year, to adapt to the pandemic caused by Covid-19, CES, is organized in the form of online conferences. But most of the start-ups usually housed in booths in Las Vegas in the middle of a large flow of visitors, now see this providential visibility reduced to a simple display of a logo in a catalog of 1968 exhibitors. “The real question is how to be visible,” wonders Pascal Lavaur, CEO of Go4ioT.

Mixed feedback

The CES 2021 exhibitors’ catalogue allows to search precisely for companies/start-ups according to their nationality and their sector of activity. If the sorting seems rather efficient, the personalization of each company’s page remains rather meager, and each of their profile looks the same, 3 videos of 90 seconds maximum and a few illustrations. This is not at all equivalent to the experience they can offer via a physical booth.

Moreover, the virtual organization of the show, allowing each visitor to follow the various conferences or keynotes, without leaving his screen seems to leave little room for chance discoveries of these players.”The magic that can happen, the random opportunities that make the strength of CES, you don’t have it at all online,” laments Pascal Lavaur.

And yet, if the 100% digital CES experience is nothing like what the various exhibitors had experienced in previous editions, the show remains a reference for start-ups aiming at the international market.”Having participated in CES allows us to gain credibility with our partners and customers,” says Mathieu Legeay, co-founder of LudoTech.

If this new edition of CES Las Vegas, and its new online format, does not seem to be perceived in the same way by the various participants, it is also the first of its kind. It will surely be reviewed and improved, if the context requires it to be held online again, and companies will learn positive or negative lessons that will allow them to improve for future editions.

Article written by Axel André and Mathieu Richard (Mastères IIM students – Institut de l’Internet et du Multimédia)

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