Venture Capitalists Discuss the Latest Startup Trends at CES

Who better to discover trends at CES 2018 than the venture capitalists that roam the exhibit looking for the most promising startups to fund? TMTPost founder/chief executive Hejuan Zhao brought together three such executives to ask them about what they’ve seen at the show and what they predict for the future. Caerus Ventures co-founder Gregory Borchardt, whose company focuses on connected devices, was astounded by the exponential growth of startup haven Eureka Park, with heavy representation from France and the Netherlands.

GGV Capital entrepreneur-in-residence Jason Costa, who says his passion is deep learning, robotics and autonomous vehicles, noted that the focus at CES 2017 was on drones and driverless cars. “The amount of talk about Amazon Alexa and Google Home has blown me away this year,” he said.

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Indiegogo head of sales outreach John Vaskis was also impressed with the primacy of voice at CES 2018. “And it’s not just voice in the home,” he added. “It’s also leaving the house with applications in cars and adding functionality with robot assistants.”

Costa was also impressed with the robotics as well as how “input modality with devices has changed to voice commands.” “We’re very interested in investing in robotics in the home,” he said. “I can imagine a more functional assistant in the home than a speaker. We’re also interested in robotics as it pertains to factories.”

In the home, said Costa, he’d like to see Apple create a control panel for the TV, noting all the opportunities in bringing intelligence into the home.

Borchardt reported that his company is “looking across the board at the connected hardware ecosystem,” and is also looking at robotics and the smart home. “Platform competition is happening in the smart home space,” he added. “We’re looking at whether startups are trying to pick a winner or be platform agnostic.” His company is also looking at IoT devices in enterprise and in agriculture, where drones continue to be interesting.

Viskas reported that, “China is our biggest market.” “We look for strong teams and products we can highlight,” he said. “To do a successful product launch, most people do a digital marketing effort before they put the page up, incentivizing with early bird pricing, and then reinvesting in the marketing with influencer campaigns.” He was particularly pleased to see a group of developers trying to bring the failed Zano micro-drone back to life.

An audience member questioned the wide range of connected devices, many of them “trying to solve problems that aren’t problems.” Will that change in the coming year, he asked, and, if so, which ones will endure. Costa didn’t hazard a guess as to which companies would succeed. “But I think it’s a trend with major staying power,” he said. “And I think you’ll see more products with voice commands next year. A lot of the products in search of a problem will naturally flush out.”