Welcome to Eureka Park

In January 2019, OhioIoT attended the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  We exhibited in Eureka Park, the designated area for startups.  It was a great and intense week.  We spent a lot of money, learned a lot, and had fun.

Here’s a rundown on what we took away:

Signing Up

Guess what – most of the companies that are attending in 2020… have already signed up.  If you are thinking about getting to Eureka Park next year, now is the time to get on the internet and figure it out.  If you are signing up now, don’t despair.  We signed up in August, and were very worried about our original placement – all the way in the back of the room.  But there are two things to note:

  • First of all, the entire floor was packed with people.  We thought you needed to be near the front to get enough exposure.  But this was not really the case
  • It’s a fluid situation.  We politely called in to inquire about our location.  With a little nudging, we ended up getting moved twice, and by the second time, we were all the way to the front of the room.  I’m not saying this will work for everyone, but it is apparently a possibility if you get on the phone

Lock up your hotels as soon as you get accepted.  Attendees get a very good rate at some of the downtown hotels.  You can cancel your rooms before the event, but you cannot add a room if they are booked, so start big.

 

Ready for action at the booth

Fired up, and ready to sell

Contact Information

I originally put down my mobile number and email as the primary contact for the company.  This was a mistake.  After the spam calls started coming in, I created a Google Voice number to serve as the new company number.  The spam calls to this number eventually died down.  But, to this day I am still getting unsolicited email advertisements with no unsubscribe button.

For your CES directory listings, I strongly advise creating alternative contact points that you can turn off after a couple of weeks or months.

 

Lightening sound effects

Plugging in our internet-connected lightening sound effects, which could not be heard during the show.

Costs

Here is a rough breakdown of the expenses that we incurred for the week:

    Booth:               $1,000
    Internet and power:  $1,300
    Backdrop:            $1,200
    Flights:             $1,400
    Hotels:              $1,700
    Meals:               $1,200
    Taxi & Uber:           $400
    Shirts & Bus. Cards    $800
    Printed Materials      $200
    Booth Decoration:      $400
                         ------
                         $9,600

That doesn’t include everything (and no, casino expenditures were not expensed!), so it’s fair to say the week went for $10K.  Does it have to be that much?  No.  But it could also be more.  You can save some money by having a smaller team, stay few nights in the hotels, and also reduce your booth graphics to just a backdrop image.

Attendance costs $1K, but your starting budget should be somewhere near $5K, going up to $10K or $15K depending on your situation, or desire to impress.

Team dinner at the Venetian

Trying to blend in the with the civilian population at dinner.

Preparation Checklist

I was full-time, seven days a week (including Christmas and New Years) from October 17th until the conference in January.  Where did all the time go?

Well, for starters, going to CES was stretch goal for us.  You haven something, you want to get it out there.  You’re ready for the big dance.  But, once you’re officially going, what features would you like to have ready, at a minimum?  Undoubtedly, even if you are feeling ready for CES, you still have a deep pipeline of problems you will want to solve, and features you want to add.  Do you really think you can let yourself relax thinking, “we’re blowing $10K next month, but let’s just leave these features off the table for now”?  No, you run headlong into late nights trying to make sure everything possible is incorporated for the big week.

But, you also need to take part in other non-OC types of activities.  Here are some notes that I had at some point:

The team:
    - who's going?
    - are hotels and flights are booked?
    - what will they wear?  order shirts, if necessary.
    - do they have business cards?
    - do we have a schedule to get on the phone and agree on talking points?
Booth materials:
    - back-drop graphics
    - side-panel graphics
    - any stands to hold equipment?
Tech:
    - ethernet switch and wifi router - you'll need both
Logistics:
    - when is everyone arriving?
    - where will you meet to deliver the badges
    - who will be in the booth, and who will travel around the exhibition

 

For booth furniture, we took a risk that paid off.  Instead of taking furniture with us, at both tremendous cost and inconvenience, we just went to Home Depot in Las Vegas, bought some planks, nails, glue, and a hammer, had Home Depot cut the wood to length, and built ourselves the required furniture in the booth.

The Wood That Would Become Shelves

those became our shelves.

 

Go out before the show starts, and stock up on bottled water, snacks, and Red Bulls to put inside your podium.  You’ll often find you don’t have time to go eat.

Descending upon the Rock Club

“it’s night time.  you can take your badge off now.”

Schedule

The show runs Tuesday until Friday.  Most people set up on Monday.  We arrived Saturday night so we could begin set up on Sunday morning.  That turned out to be needed.  Sure, it can be done in a day.  But if you’re not sure, it’s just another $100 of hotel.  Is it worth missing the opening bell?  Why not take some extra time, and perhaps a breather, after months of preparation.

On Tuesday morning, don’t rely on the buses from downtown to get you there.  There’s queue.  Just plan on waking up early, and paying some Uber surge pricing.  

If you want dinner anywhere in the area, you should probably have that reservation set well in advance.  Everyone else does, too, and a lot of the restaurants are closed to private parties.  Of course, if you get away from the show, things open up a bit.

Looking forward to the casinos?  You’ve got more stamina than we do.  When you wake up at 7am and talk non-stop for nine hours until 6pm, and then have a pint or two at dinner, your desire to hit the casinos fades fast.  And, there’s something else to consider.  You probably collected hundreds of potential contacts, whether it be from your notes, or just business cards.  It’s a struggle to remember all of these conversations, and you will have just as much activity the following day, compounding the problem.  Consider leaving over an hour in the morning to parse through these notes and clean up your contact lists, before more information starts coming in the next day.

Fielding questions at the booth

“Yes, the little cactus is for sale.”

Networking

When you get your login as an attendee, you suddenly have access to the directory of everyone who will be attending.  There’s a slight adrenaline rush because you are now in the club of all the other people that are launching businesses.  You instinctively start going through these lists and prioritizing conversations.

But, here’s the thing. ..You are going to have so many offline conversations (probably as many as you can physically handle), you don’t need to buttress that with a list of emails that need to go out.  If there is a company you are really interested in, you will be free to visit their booth.

I got a lot of phone calls and emails requesting meetings.  But these were, in ALL cases, someone who was tasked with cold-calling the Eureka Park database, to sell their services.

There are also lots of formal invitations, and pop-up invitations, to cocktail parties.  You imagine that you will be dancing until 2am, and hanging out with Sean Parker.  In reality, these parties are hosted by people who are promoting something.  Unless you are a potential buyer of their services, you may not need to be there.  And.. the entire team will be exhausted.  We dined and crashed every night, because we knew we would be standing on our feet and talking for another nine hours the next day. 

You don’t want to miss the chance to meet someone.  But the people you want to meet are walking into your booth all day long.  Of course there are some killer connections to be made at night, but just attending any cocktail party puts you in touch with the broader population of attendees, with a lower chance of meeting someone who is specifically interested in what you do.

Downtown Las Vegas

“Am I making sense?”       “well.., sort of.”                      

OVERALL ASSESSMENT – EUREKA PARK

I estimate that we collectively have about 1000 conversations over the 4-day period.  This converted in two immediate new customers.  But, probably the biggest benefit to being there was that our entire business strategy was turned inside-out by the feedback we got.  We thought we were selling to consumers, but left realizing that the path was much clearer for selling to businesses.  At a cost of $10K total, that’s $10/conversation. 

We had a booth graphic that read, “Make Your Own IoT”.  This is exactly what people would read before they walked into our booth.  So, that’s not just $10 per conversation.  That’s $10 per conversation with a highly qualified lead – someone who is already looking for a way to make their own IoT (or whatever it is you are doing in your case).  That’s a lot less expensive than any focus group you will ever put together.  The feedback for us was invaluable, and that’s why, in the final analysis, we found Eureka Park and CES to be totally worth it.

 

 

 

Sun setting on Vegas

A beautiful week had finally come to an end.  Time to return to Ohio.