Each January, Las Vegas plays host to CES, an international showcase of the year’s most remarkable tech innovation and advancements made by big name brands and early-stage startups alike. The show can be especially impactful for startups, as it offers an opportunity to build brand awareness, find investors, receive market validation and attract media attention.
Part of its continuous initiative to raise the profile of Cleveland as a city of innovation, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) returned to CES for their fourth trip in as many years. The group—including a few JumpStart clients—was comprised of current CWRU students, graduates and faculty in attendance to showcase their startups and innovative technologies.
Accompanying Case to further establish Cleveland as a growing tech hub was the City of Cleveland Economic Development organization—on hand to connect with companies interested in relocating to the city. The Cleveland-Health Tech Corridor also made the trip to engage in conversations regarding the bounty of resources available to health and tech companies in the region.
The Cleveland Cavaliers even provided the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy to help attract attention to the Northeast Ohio contingent!
During a recent roundtable conversation, each of the CWRU companies discussed their unique takeaways from CES 2017. Here are their experiences:
2017 marked Everykey’s fourth visit to CES—and their best yet. Founder and CEO Chris Wentz credits this year’s success—an increase in booth traffic and email signups—to the fact that he and his team felt much more prepared this time around.
Everykey, a Bluetooth device that replaces your keys and passwords, not only experienced increased consumer interest—due in part to recent hacking and security breaches covered heavily by the media, they also had a chance to speak with investors from both coasts, including those in the car industry. The timing of these conversations couldn’t be better as preparation is underway for Everykey to begin raising Series A funding.
Reflexion Interactive Technologies
Matt Campagna, CWRU Computer Engineering student and co-founder and CEO of Reflexion, unveiled his company’s prototype at this year’s CES. Reflexion, a quick, portable and affordable concussion screening solution, currently has clinical trials underway at Penn State University that are slated to conclude in May.
The company’s primary goal at CES was to increase awareness among potential investors and customers. CES gave them the opportunity to start conversations with angels and receive positive feedback from members of the venture capital community.
Reflexion has been making great strides in recent months, receiving notable media attention from Forbes and being selected as one of eight finalists—out of 200 entries—for the Student Startup Madness championship event at SXSW in March.
CWRU professor Xu-Qian Zheng visited CES for the first time as a member of the CrystalE team. CrystalE is a clean energy startup that provides retrofit, energy-harvesting, low-powered sensor nodes to building energy management system providers. The company enables cost-effective transformations of ordinary buildings into smart buildings.
CrystalE has participated in a number of business competitions, but the team had never demoed their product to the public. Zheng appreciated the fact that presenting their product to a new audience offered the opportunity to walk away with valuable suggestions and feedback.
Jim Basar made his first trip to CES with CWRU in 2013 as an intern for Intwine Connect, a company that is working to design the IoT of the future. Basar was introduced to Intwine through CWRU’s STEP, a Professional Science Master’s degree focused on innovation and entrepreneurship.
Now a Product Manager and Partner at Intwine, Basar and his team spent their time at CES demonstrating how their technology seamlessly integrates with technology developed by other companies, including CrystalE.
In his first year at CES, recent CWRU grad Roy Chan exhibited his startup, WES Power, a payment system that bypasses the existing payment infrastructure. This was the first time the product had been demoed to anyone outside of the WES team, and Roy was thrilled with the feedback, suggestions and critiques he received. In addition, the team made connections with several potential customers in niche markets.
CWRU Engineering student, Xyla Foxlin, is the founder of Parihug, an electronically-connected set of stuffed animals that allow loved ones to “hug” each other from a distance. For Foxlin and Parihug, this year’s CES was viewed as an opportunity to connect with media and promote their Kickstarter campaign that is set to launch this spring.
Foxlin is quickly making a name for herself in the tech industry. Parihug joins Reflexion as one of eight finalists in SXSW’s Student Startup Madness competition, and the startup has also been invited to participate in SXSW’s Startup Spotlight.
Staying busy outside of work on Parihug, she recently launched Beauty and the Bolt, a YouTube channel designed to the barrier to entry for any maker project– regardless of who you are and where you came from. This side project earned her an invitation to SXSW Create, the hardware hacking and maker arm of SXSW.
While a Systems & Control Engineering student at CWRU, Mark Lorkowski first began working with e-paper technology. Over the last few years, this project has evolved into Bluboard, a large format, wire-free, e-paper digital display, primarily used for signage.
Lorkowski is very glad that he made the trip to CES. While there, Bluboard made valuable connections and has received promising follow-ups from many of these contacts.
Founded by three CWRU grads, BoxCast is a streaming platform that makes it easy to deliver live, HD video to everyone, everywhere. The company currently streams approximately 10% of non-major NCAA events that don’t have TV contracts, along an ever-growing list of use cases for a variety of organizations.
The BoxCast team feels that the CES show provided exposure for their brand at just the right time—a period when live streaming is top of mind for a lot of companies. They had the opportunity to connect with several big-name organizations that are considering implementing live streaming solutions, and they have been busy responding to numerous follow ups since the show. The team reports gaining “over the top traction” while at CES.
The Maker Machine, developed by Ottia, brings creativity to the next level by putting 3-D printing, wood cutting, cake frosting, and more into one affordable and easy-to-use machine. Founder Connor Colombo, a first-year mechanical engineering and computer science major, also gained a lot of traction while at CES.
Beyond making valuable connections, Ottia was invited to speak at Venture Summit in California at the end of February as a Top 50 Innovator, and invited to SXSW’s Startup Spotlight as a Top 20 Innovator in Tech. In addition, they will be launching a Kickstarter at the end of February.
To keep up with CWRU’s student and alumni startups, follow CWRU LaunchNet on Twitter.