Online tech fair painful for startups: never the same impact


Due to the corona crisis, the world’s largest tech show, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, will be held online only this year. And that is especially painful for startups, because it is the place to show their innovations and products every year.

“The problem is, when you walk into a conference like CES, you suddenly spot something you would never have encountered otherwise. You get into a conversation and can touch something,” said Francisco Jeronimo, analyst at market researcher IDC. And that is impossible with an online event, he says.


“Online it becomes like searching Google and getting a list of names. It’s impossible as a startup to stand out and get the same attention,” said Jeronimo.

It is less problematic for the big brands. They do get the attention they want through slick PR and the wide range of marketing opportunities they have, he explains.

Less participants, fewer visitors

So this year digital Zoom conversations and streamed press conferences instead of crowded conference rooms and halls where major brands and startups want to show their cool gadgets to the world. 

Last year there were about 4,500 companies. Despite the fact that the upcoming event will take place online, and the space is in theory unlimited, CES has space for about 1,500 companies, says CES top woman Karen Chupka. She expects that there will be at least 150,000 visitors this year, so digitally. Last year there were 170,000. 

And even though no one can meet face to face and not touch their products, Chupka is not worried that the fair will become less relevant. 

“In recent months it has become clear that consumers are more willing to integrate technology into their lives. Technology has not come to a standstill, but has accelerated. CES offers an opportunity to meet new companies. The need is still there”, Chupka says.

There is still an opportunity for companies, large and small, to present themselves to the world, she emphasizes. “It will even be easier to get more visitors. Because you no longer have to board a plane to Las Vegas.” 

Tailored recommendations

“We work with artificial intelligence to make recommendations based on your interests. We recommend sessions to attend and what your relevant exhibitors do. We want to provide ways to discover and connect with new companies. come, ”says Chupka.

She admits that the strength of CES lies precisely in the chance encounters. “Impossible Burgers were standing here with their vegetarian burger. They met someone from Burger King, at a tech fair, something Burger King didn’t expect. And now those vegetarian burgers are just there on the menu.” However, those chance encounters can also take place online, she says. 

Never equally effective

Analyst Jeronimo also thinks that CES is certainly still relevant, but there is a big challenge for the startups. “If the startups don’t become very innovative, they will hardly get any attention.” An online event never has the same impact for startups as a ‘normal’ event, he says. 

“By standing there, in a booth at that fair, there is always a greater chance that you will be found than if you are just a link at a large online event. The large companies get most of the attention there. Startups are missing out. really the people who walk by. “When a startup has to run after an investor, it is much more difficult.

And this is about two things, Jeronimo explains. “Investors, customers or potential partners are paying attention to those business opportunities, for example to become a distributor.”

Jeronimo expects it to be a challenging year for startups to find investors anyway. “At a physical event, the investor is looking for potential investments. If they stop, you give your ticket and there may be a follow-up appointment. If you as a startup have to run after an investor online, that is much more difficult.” 

Last year

Last year there were 50 Dutch startups that formed the Dutch delegation at CES. In total there were more than 1,200 startups, each of which had its own place at the fair per country. How many that will be this year, and what the online environment will look like is still unknown.

Also this year there will be a delegation at a so-called Holland Pavilion. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) is involved in this. Participants who register come in a preliminary phase to prepare them for the digital CES. 

“We do coaching and pitch and media training. And former participants share their tips and tricks, so that the participants are as well prepared as possible to be able to pitch their story to investors. That is really the added value of this digital mission”, says Celeste Flores-Uijtewaal, spokesman for the RVO.

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