Tales from the CES 2017 startup crypt

CES 2017 has been a kick.  I’m usually hold up in a conference room in meetings for the better part of the show. This year, I’ve had time to explore. A startup kind of girl, I wandered down to “Eureka Park” in the Sands to see what’s trending with entrepreneurs. The place was all abuzz compared to the quiet, corporate Las Vegas Convention Center.  Fortunately, I had the company of 2 industry veterans (one distributor and one fortune 1 retailer), who are experts at scouting out the winners.  It was SO FUN to see ideas come to life.  Here’s a taste:


Personal audio continues to reinvent itself, now into “hearables”. The technology in this space vying for consumers’ ears is amazing. Imagine zeroing in on a one-on-one conversation or eavesdropping on your competitor’s conversation. It’s now possible, and Skybuds is one of the lead innovators.  Immersive sound, noise cancellation, and solid battery life make this something I want in my purse for easy access.  Not to mention, they’ve got Stephanie Lee, a dynamic leader, as one of their spokespeople. Now available on Amazon and in Best Buy stores.

With the heightened awareness around IoT for the home, you can’t be too careful.  Cujo monitors your smart home and alerts you when it fends off intruders.  I also like its parental controls…

Reach Robotics
Who doesn’t like a good robot battle?  According to Chris Beck, Co-founder and CTO, Reach Robotics will be shipping soon to engage friend and foe.  These robots seemed indestructible (trust me, my colleague tried, and he can break anything), for hours of fun.


While not new, these masters of air and paper are continuing to innovate with the new Parrot-enabled drone paper airplane.  Founder, Shai Goitein, can make anyone eager to buy this $200 “toy”.  It’s not just child’s play, but loved by adults as well. Pre-order for shipments in February.

Magic Instruments
For someone who’s taken guitar lessons for more than a year and feels stalled to play a song without a long pause between cords, Magic Instruments turned me into a rockstar.  Rather than worrying where to put 4 fingers on 6 strings, all I needed was 1, making it not only easier to play but also to sing along (I hope there’s no video of that).  Shipping soon…

Their button can connect to activate virtually anything – from a selfie, to your smart home devices, to ordering pizza. Truly a one-touch experience for those of use who love immediate gratification.  Find them on Amazon and in Best Buy.

I had a lightbulb moment with this. With this smart home adapter, you can not only control your home’s lighting, but monitor the air, intruders and more.  With lighting one of the hottest smart home sellers, this makes sense. I asked, ‘Why control your home through a lightbulb socket?’. Co-founder, Jan Christiansen, assured me it’s much easier to make it happen than through a wall outlet.  I remember trying to bring to market powerline home networking, so I get it…

Ladies, pay attention. If you’re nursing and working, you must check out the new “wearable” Willow breast pump.  For those of us with war stories of pumping in airport/airplane stalls and even pub bathrooms (yes, really), this might possibly be the best invention ever for professional moms.  Virtually hidden, you can go about your business (well, sort of) and keep your baby plumped up. Shipping this Spring…Wish John Chang (founder) had thought this up about a decade ago!

Founder, Danny Manu, has found a way to avoid years of language classes… His wireless earbuds not only do the typical audio tasks, they translate into many different languages so that you can have a multi-lingual conversation without speaking another language.  With the original product funded on indiegogo, he’s taking the new version to Kickstarter.

Use just one input device as an art tablet, Midi controller, media editor, keyboard, and more. It transmits through Bluetooth to connect to your tablet.  Reminds me of the Wacom Intuos, but with more abilities.

Living near San Francisco, we see so much attention paid to the urban biking experience.  The Beeline founders are taking us back to the basics of navigation.  With a handlebar mount and connection to your smartphone, urban bicyclists stay focused on the traffic around them and find their way.

Speaking of bicycling…I wish I’d had the Blimp’Air management and compression system the last time I had a flat.  No more painstaking pumping on the side of the road.  Mount it to your bike and easily connect to add air to tires and shocks without using a muscle. CEO, Nancy Aghilone, says it’s easy to refill air with the included dock. With 2 patents pending, it appears to have a market edge.

Muuse Labs
Aimed at kids, Jooki is the wireless jukebox for kids. With kid-friendly figurines, your little ones can activate music you control.  Fun and kid-approved!

Ever try to write a blog and find yourself interrupted by notifications or that nagging pull to check your email? Well, Adam Leeb of Freewrite has found a way to take writers back to basics with a keyboard unit synced with Dropbox. The key is to allow the words to flow and edit later.  Apparently, millennials love it, and Tom Hanks has one of his own.  Maybe, if I had a Freewrite of my own, this blog would have practically written itself!

As much as I want to continue to explore the startup land of CES, my feet hurt (anyone with me?).  I would love to hear about other great startup finds at CES I may have missed, so please leave them in the comments.

About the author:

Suzanne Oehler is an energetic, driven business leader with 15 years in consumer and enterprise tech Sales. Widely regarded for opening and expanding business in brick-and-mortar Retail and digital E-Commerce for consumer technology hardware start-ups, she designs and implements winning Sales strategies that navigate the complexities of Consumer markets.

Read more at www.suzanneoehler.com