CEA Chief Economist Shares What To Expect at CES 2015

With more than 2 million net square feet of exhibit space, over 160,000 attendees and an entire show floor, awards ceremony, and conference program dedicated to the innovation ecosystem, the International CES® continues to prove why it’s one of the most relevant innovation and technology shows in the world.

This year, NVCA has partnered with CES to provide complimentary conference passes for our members. All NVCA members are invited to attend our VC-only reception at CES on January 6th. To register for CES and our reception, please click here.

We spoke with Shawn DuBravac, Ph.D., Chief Economist at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, the organization behind CES, for his insights on what to expect at CES 2015. He is also the author of CEA’s third book, Digital Destiny: How the New Age of Data Will Transform the Way We Work, Live, and Communicate (Regnery, 2015), which focuses on the massive shifts coming from the digitization of information and human interaction. In Shawn’s role as CEA’s chief economist, he is charged with forecasting and analyzing the technology trends that impact individuals and industries.

NVCA: Technology influences lives at an individual level and through the adoption of technologies on a macro scale by creating efficiencies in industries. What are some of the societal challenges and opportunities created by new technologies?

DuBravac: Technology creates many new challenges while solving others. It shifts our energy to something new. For example, as we move toward self-driving cars, our focus will shift away from the act of driving, or even where we live so we don’t have to drive as far each day. Instead, our focus will shift to working, or eating, or anything else. The challenge will be how we adapt to these new technologies as they shift the way we live our lives. There’s no end to what challenges technology will address.

Venture capital investors play a key role in working with entrepreneurs to grow companies that transform individual lives and the economy as a whole.  At the same time, venture capital – like so many other industries – is driven by human relationships between investors and entrepreneurs. How do you see technologies supporting the human-centered connections that are critical to building and growing businesses? What changes can we expect to see, in the venture industry, in the next twenty years?

Communication has changed significantly as a result of digital technologies, which has an impact on all industries that depend on human interaction and relationships. For example, the medical industry is changing – for the better – to incorporate technologies that enable doctors to interface with patients via mobile devices for diagnosis, check-ups, etc.

VC is heavily influenced by geography – so we will start to see a shift from VCs who prefer to invest in companies that are geographically close (particularly in early stage) because of the necessary human-centered connection needed in those early stages of building a company. Technology will help remove the physical barrier of distance and open up VCs to more start-ups than ever before. Technology is also changing how we discover things – Kickstarter is a great example. It allows anyone to view new ideas, projects, companies, etc., that previously you would need to have a human connection.

How we look at an investments today will also change. In addition to our knowledge of a product categories and markets, we will be able to use previously unquantifiable metrics (excitement, nervousness, etc.) as a way of assessing entrepreneurs.  If an entrepreneur has a wearable on and their heart rate is being measured for signs of stress, anxiety or nervousness, we can start to quantify the qualities of our entrepreneurs. This will create new challenges and new questions for the venture capital industry.

What trends in consumer technology can we expect to see at CES 2015?

What can we expect not to see?! This year, there’s more to see than ever before. There’s 50 years of history here at CES. In particular, digitization, sensitization and connectivity of diverse companies that people might not have viewed as CES exhibitors historically but now feel the digital world collide with their world. L’Oreal, for example, will be at CES for the first time in 2015. They have not historically been there. Typically, skincare and cosmetics is an “analog” industry, but now their world is immersed in digital. Before, the question used to be “Is it technically possible?” Now it’s “What new technology integration are we adding today?”

What are some must-see stops for NVCA members at CES?

Three things. First, Eureka Park to discover the international breadth of budding entrepreneurs and home-grown innovation from fledgling prototypes to progressing startups, spanning the entire consumer technology spectrum. Second, Marketplaces. And third, of course, serendipity – many people come to CES with a tight agenda. I would advise some time to simply walk around and take in all that CES has to offer. Wander the show floor, check out the startup stage or explore the conference programming.

To that we would add, attending the VCs at CES reception on January 6th!

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