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How one startup used CES to springboard from concept to exit in 2 years


Ignite X specializes in helping technology startups grow their market visibility and brand. We bring expertise, connections and tenacity to helping brands break through the noise. Here are some of the things we've learned along the way. 

How one startup used CES to springboard from concept to exit in 2 years

Carmen Hughes

In earlier blog posts, we asked marketing veterans to weigh in on whether CES is worth the investment.  

Today we’re delighted to share perspective from CEO Ilan Abehassera. In 2016, Illan unveiled his company’s product, Ily, at CES. Ily improves and simplifies long-distance communications for families. Not only was his company, Insensi, one of CES’s innovation award nominees, but it was also one of the few startups invited into TechCrunch Disrupt’s Hardware Battlefield competition. After CES, Insensi experienced tremendous traction and demand.  Within 7 months of launching at CES, Insensi was acquired by Nucleus, a wireless home device manufacturer.  We sat down with him to ask him about the keys to his success at CES.

In the early stages of your startup, Insensi, did you anticipate that CES was going to be a launching pad for the company?

1. Yes! CES is this huge, complex event, where you have to be there—if you are a hardware startup. Even if you don’t have a booth, you need to be there. It’s the one place where the whole industry shows up, from distributors to potential employees to some investors, etc. Everyone is going to be around. It’s a very good way to go to gauge early on the interest level for your product in the industry. There are also other news coverage opportunities for startups here, from awards to different startup competitions like ShowStoppers, TechCrunch’s Hardware Battle, etc.

You and your team traveled to CES the year before you launched the product to scout out and determine whether this was the right venue for your launch. What did you learn from this? And do you have advice to share about this endeavor?

This was a very good plan for us to do. We just went and visited CES for 2 days to understand what was behind it, and what investment would be required. We didn’t spend a big budget to do this either. Me and my team went and looked at the competition. We sized up our booth needs, from space, location, look and feel for the booth, etc. CES is such a big beast; if you go in blind, you’re most likely to going to be off the mark on your launch.

Did you eventually use CES as the formal launching pad for the company?

We announced ILY several months a few months before CES. However, we kept mum about the product until CES.  Then at the show, we unveiled real product, with live demos, and that’s where we put the bulk of our energy and efforts.

How did your launch at CES work out for Insensi and its product, the Ily phone? What were a few really important things that CES was able to deliver that you might not have achieved elsewhere?

The launch was really great. We made sure that we had as much coverage as possible. We participated in as many startup competitions as possible. We were lucky enough to have been selected for TechCrunch’s Hardware Battlefield, pitching Ily on-stage to the audience. We met so many people, and our booth was packed with people from the moment the floor opened up to closing time the entire time. International players from distributors, carriers, partners, etc. This made it easier for us to grab people’s attention and talk with them.

What were the lessons learned from your investment in CES? What worked well and what didn’t?

Well, you need to spent a lot of money to build a great booth. The booth rental itself is cheap, but building a great booth that is going to standout does not come cheap. Building a great booth is going to be costly, but you have to make the investment in order to capture people’s attention. 

If we had to do it again, we would repeat our formal product launch at CES for sure. We brought most of the team to CES. In retrospect, I would probably organize the accommodations differently. Maybe instead we’d rent a house offstrip, so we could all be together. We also didn’t spend money on tchotchkes, T-shirts, etc. We kept our trip as lean as we could. 

If you could launch Ily today at CES, would you?

Without question, we would do CES again. It’s the best investment we did for Ily. We built a bunch of great relationships there. My only advice is don’t miss it! Especially if you’re building a consumer electronics company, you have to be there. While there are a lot of people, and you may feel like it is going to be hard to get attention, go ahead a make the investment. Buy a booth ($2,000) and then go! Plan to meet as many people as possible during that week.

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Stay tuned to IgniteX for more strategies and tactics that make companies scale faster.