Even though I once built a slideshow called “Gadget Porn and Actual Porn,” I have never been to CES. Because the fact is that, as every cool blogger has very creatively beat us over the head with today, CES is tragically unhip.
First of all, none of the actually important tech companies are there: Specifically, the “four horsemen” – Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook. Even Microsoft officially ducked out last year, to much tech media chagrin. At CES 2013, the closest you’ll get to a cool tech company is Samsung. Yes, Samsung.
Second of all, when you look at the list of “official CES parties” to “network” at, it sure looks like a lot of crap. Any time there’s a Mashable party at a conference, BE AFRAID. BE VERY AFRAID.
But the cool part about CES is actually what’s not happening at CES.
Come on, guys, it’s Vegas: Go find the clubs that ASUS won’t be having some top-secret Phablet launch at and boogie. Or pick a random celebrity you’d like to meet and then google their name + CES, because every tech product launch has some random celebrity thrown in nowadays. Now’s your chance to meet Tiffani Amber Thiessen! Don’t believe me? See: Ke$ha performing on Wednesday at the iHeartRadio party
Seriously, instead of going to the “Invite-Only” GENIVI Showcase Reception on Wednesday night, I’m going to find two to three founder/investor friends who are randomly there and go dance at XS. After tracking down and buying this fork that makes you eat less, of course.
This is my first time at CES, and despite everyone telling me it’s going to suck, I resolutely think it will not. Because, as Buzzfeed pointed out in its CES hate screed, “the value in going is increasingly on the sidelines.” It is right.
In addition to all of Aol upper management, I’ve already confirmed that VCs like Google Ventures, General Catalyst, DFJ, Lightbank, Science Inc, Lowercase Capital, Trident and True Ventures will have men (sigh, why is it always men?) on the ground at the conference, and that impromptu meetings with random founders at XS are what these VCs are looking at in terms of deriving value from the sprawling event. Just like with enterprise, VCs are all of a sudden bullish on hardware startups.
And despite all of the cool big companies being “officially” gone, there will be quite a few of their biz dev guys roaming the premises — “cool” or not, VCs want to make those connections, because they eventually lead to
$$$$ partnerships and exits for portfolio companies. Microsoft is apparently still having some sort of secret party there, so there’s that.
“I haven’t been in about five years so maybe there’s something to it,” said Lightbank’s Paul Lee when I told him about my “So uncool it’s cool” hypothesis. “I’m there to network and meet several entrepreneurs, [and yes it] seems like an unusual uptick in [VC] activity…” New Lowercase Capital Partner Matt Mazzeo agreed with Lee, despite his boss’ public opt-out. “CES is a great excuse to get together with a handful of really smart people you haven’t seen in a while and one of the year’s few events with enough pull, relevance, and boondoggle fun that it brings together a rare combination of people from LA, NY and SF.”
I’ll be one of those people, there tomorrow until Friday. And if my time is split between meeting VCs and dancing at nightclubs and doing whatever cool things you guys tip me off on, why not? Could be worse.