Should startups invest in a large scale conference like CES?

The short answer: it depends.

Lars Crama
5 min readJan 18, 2020

This January, I supported the selection of 50 Dutch companies with future-proof solutions for the 4th Netherlands Enterprise Agency ( mission to CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) — one of the largest technology trade fairs in the world, in Las Vegas.

At first, I hesitated to send early stage companies from the Rotterdam Metropolitan area across the big pond. But I decided to join them to (in)validate my assumptions. CES made me realize how a global, large scale event (with over 175.000 visitors) can accelerate the growth of your startup — if you are well prepared.

I took the red pill — and here’s what I learned

50 Dutch Companies at Holland Tech Square , CES2020, Las Vegas

Opportunity is when luck meets preparation.

Skoon provides smart hardware and platform solutions to replace harmful diesel generators through renewable energy. The Skoon team is always prepared to pitch and follow up. So when Gary Shapiro (CEO of the Consumer Technology Association) mentioned Skoon as one of the Startups to watch in his opening keynote — traffic to the booth skyrocketed. With many interesting contacts to follow up. → Be super structured about lead follow up.

CES opening keynote mentions three Dutch startups

Find your launching customer.

Circularise accelerates the circular economy in manufacturing. They provide a solution to make supply chains more fair, transparent and profitable. In 2019, they met their first paying customer at CES. That jumpstarted their business. For this years event, they prepared a list of companies and prospects to meet and scheduled meetings with them beforehand. → Get meetings. Sometimes one new customer is all you need.

The team of Circularise talking to a booth visitor

Amplify your crowdfunding strategy.

Heatbox — the self heating lunchbox, announced their Indiegogo pre-order campaign at CES. A newsworthy item about their easy to understand product resulted in coverage by several media. So a well timed visit to a large conference can help you increase your credibility, exposure and pre-orders. →Be smart about timing your campaigns around the event.

Heatbox, the self heating lunchbox can now be ordered on IndieGogo

Build your (future) investor network.

Meatable are pioneering a way to produce real, tasty meat without harming animals or the planet, by growing meat. Last year they received a 9M euro investment to create their first hamburger prototype — from lab-grown meat. Since commercialization for such innovations requires time, they joined to show their product and connect to investors for their next rounds. →Always be raising.

The team of Meatable, growing better meat.

Meet your neighbour 5000 miles from home.

It’s funny how being abroad helps you connect with people from your own country or region. I met Lightwell, the smart lightpost, for the first time at CES — just in time to find out that they will launch their pilot in my hometown Rotterdam. →A great opportunity to catch up with peers.

Lightwell, the smart lightpost
Lightwell, the smart lightpost

Practice your pitch. A thousand times. develops a weed whacking robot and launched their new Beach Cleaning Bot at CES. With a working demo on their stand, they attracted hundreds of visitors each day. That allowed them to test, refine and polish their pitch, and incorporate feedback to make their story even more compelling. →Always be learning. with a demo of their Weed Whacking robot

Announce new products to the world.

Nowi has developed a breakthrough energy harvesting and power management IC to create devices that live forever. Right before CES, Nowi and Swiss smartwatch module company MMT announced the commercial availability of a the new hybrid smartwatch module. →A great way to celebrate new partnerships.

Nowi & MMT announced their new partnership.

Hit the Jackpot.

Hydraloop builds compact water purification installations to recycle used water in home use. CES awarded them with “Most innovative product of the year”, beating established players like Asus, Acer and Bosch. Also, Time Magazine mentioned Hydraloop as one of the best 25 products of the show, and global techplatform Engadget award Hydraloop with best innovation. This kind of global exposure is priceless. → This is Vegas, after all :-)

Hydraloop wins CES Best of the Best award

How to increase your odds?

Now, here’s the catch. It is difficult to stand out as a single startup at a massive event like CES. That’s why the teams who organized the mission (RVO, Dutch Embassy, Techleap) selected the most promising startups and paved the way for introductions to relevant conglomerates, trade organisations, superconnectors and media. Which resulted in signed agreements, international PR coverage, delegation visits from France, Switzerland, Japan, Korea, Michigan, China, Germany and more, and over 10 prestigious awards won by the Dutch companies.

Joining a strong delegation — such as Holland Techsquare — helps you focus on what matters most: new business connections.

Fifty startups at the Holland Tech Square

My name is Lars Crama, I help bold corporate leaders and tech entrepreneurs grow future proof ventures. I am the founder of — corporate venturing advisory, a partner at Arches Capital — the fastest growing Dutch angel backed VC — and private lead for Up!Rotterdam, a four year program to help scale-ups accelerate their growth.

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Read about all fifty startups here



Lars Crama

I help bold leaders grow future proof businesses. Former fortune 500 & scale-up Director. Lived in Shanghai, Cape Town, London. Home in Rotterdam.