In Search of Strivers at CES

CESSo I'm headed to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show and here's what I want to know:

Which exhibitors in the sea of booths, announcements, demos, and sales pitches are not quite satisfied with what they are showing? I'm not talking about companies that aren't ready for prime time. I'm talking about the ones who are striving to do something really special and are still working on that something special, even if what they've got to show is pretty amazing.

The Strivers ... These are the kinds of companies that I want to know about. I want to talk to the engineer, designer, development director, product manager that is not just excited about what they've accomplished (or good at selling it), but passionate about what they are trying to accomplish. Being haunted by the detail or the feature that you don't think is quite right is okay. It means you're engaged and thinking about what you have to do to make the most of your product, even while talking up the product that's on show.

I know these are things that most marketing managers don't want to come through in the pitch or at the show. The company line, for good reason, is about how amazing the products are, not how amazing they could be.

Of course, nobody wants someone to look over their product line and ask, "So, is that the best you can do?" But what if that question wasn't a put down? Maybe the right question is, "What's the thing about your product, user, or technology that keeps you up at night?"

It may not be fair to expect an answer that would give away future plans, but maybe a wry smile will give away that there is more in store and I've stumbled on a company that should be watched.

How do you find the most interesting companies at a trade show?

David-Henry Oliver is an engineer, product design consultant, and founder of Cusp. He is focused on creating extraordinary products by introducing dynamic mechanical elements and logic into product components. The result is products with unique motion signatures that create brand awareness and better user interfaces.

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