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Kiwi start-ups taking CES by storm

New Zealand businesses exhibiting at the world’s largest gadget trade show are making their presence felt, writes Victoria Hallum.

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas sprawls over 2.6 million square feet (240,000m2) of exhibition space, attracting hundreds of thousands of industry heavyweights, buyers, reviewers, commentators and general gadget geeks.

At least 17 companies made the trip for the four-day show, which wrapped up on January 9 (NZT).

As part of its remit to help business succeed through technology, Callaghan Innovation, the Government’s business innovation agency, assisted 14 firms, with most setting up stalls in a special silver fern-branded New Zealand section of the start-up only Eureka Park space. NZTE also brought three companies.


CES started off with a blast for Swiftpoint as their “Z” mouse was named best Gaming Innovation at the show. Grant Odgers from Swiftpoint says this had led to huge interest.

"With all the VR and AR stuff on show at CES, it’s a huge coup for a mouse to win best innovation and everyone has wanted to come and try it.”

Java Hi-Fi.

Ben Reynolds from Spalk has made some important contacts as the company seeks exposure and licencing partners for their sports commentary platform.

"We've had the NBA and the MLB [Major League Baseball] visit our stand and lots of major broadcasters. These are amazing contacts for us to make, and they’ve all been interested.

“We now have an open door to go and meet these people, which is amazing. We also got into to AT&T's dedicated tours they have been doing for their premium clients, like Pepsi which meant even more valuable exposure.”


Axel Busch from underwater drone-maker Boxfish reports similar levels of interest in their product. “We've met suppliers, customers and potential partners. We've had the Navy past, Exxon Mobile - all sorts of high quality contacts.”

“At these kinds of shows you hope to have just one moment a day where you think ‘yes that was worth it, just to come,’ but we have had 10 of those moments every day.”

Axel Busch pitching at CES.

Other companies have received media coverage from influential outlets such as Tech Crunch and specialist publications and blogs such as The Jazz Times. REYEDR, which makes a heads-up display unit for motorbike units with an associated app which connects social riders got a write-up in the CES Daily publication which is circulated in the event itself.


But for all the companies, simply being in the same space as some of the world’s largest electronics and software manufacturers has been worth the hectic preparation and travel.

Dotterel, who make drone noise-reduction technology, and were a finalist in Callaghan Innovation’s 2015 C-Prize, have taken the opportunity to make contacts with other players in the drone industry and entered a pitching competition.

Co-founder Seamus Rowe says that being on the ground in Las Vegas is going a long way to getting the Howick start-up off the ground.

“The most valuable thing for us was to be able to walk up to the booths of major drone manufacturers and be taken seriously because we are here. We had some good meetings set up before we came, but managed lots of others.”

Deluge.

And of course, businesses were also looking to get some of the expected 170,000-plus attendees to part with their cash.

Synthstrom’s Ian Jorgensen says their Deluge all-in-one portable music synthesizer, sampler and sequencer, has generated huge interest.

“It’s been frantic for the whole four days. The feedback on my product has been amazing. I have talked to so many people that will now go and buy the units.”

Victoria Hallum is Callaghan Innovation’s Manager of International Partnerships.