i3 | February 26, 2019

CTA Startup Grads

Jeff Schrum

How CES has helped three startups connect and grow

Recognizing the critical role startups play in driving innovation and growing the industry, CTA began welcoming startup companies in 2011 with a membership category designed to meet their needs and still offer full benefits. Among them, access to CTA market research and networking opportunities rank as the most valuable benefits.

“Our staff and members offer a wealth of expertise and knowledge to help newer companies make the connections and secure the tools they need to thrive,” says Deb Kassoff , CTA ’s director of member programs. 

Today, CTA’s startup membership comprises a quarter of the association’s members. What’s more, CES 2019 hosts the largest startup event on the planet, Eureka Park. i3 recently talked with three startup members to hear how CTA helped them connect and grow.

Joe Born: Chairman and CTO, Aiwa

An industry veteran, Joe Born knew that membership in CTA would prove essential as his new audio company launched. With barriers to entry lower and competition among startups increasing, Joe says staying informed and connected was paramount to his success. He believes access to CTA market research has been invaluable for tracking consumer insight as well as the ability to connect startups with their peers. “CTA is a key part of our network,” he says. 

Relationships with other startups and companies – often with differing products but similar missions – has been a critical component to his success. “For example, our sales used to be based on a relationship with a buyer or merchandising manager,” he explains. “Now we do seven figures of business with Amazon. Our asset is not the relationship, it’s the knowledge, the understanding of how the algorithms work, how to present your products on Amazon's pages and so on.” That knowledge emerged from the company’s network, developed through participation in membership organizations like CTA. “We have to connect to our peers to share as much knowledge as we have to thoughtfully connect vertically with our supply chain.”

Jeff Gindin: President, Cycling Designs

Jeff Gindin joined CTA in the early stages of his company. This journey, however, was unexpected. Enjoying a bicycle ride on his first day of retirement, he turned a near-collision from a passing vehicle into a new business idea and ultimately a company. The product, Cyclesight, is a bike-mounted rear-view camera and event-recording solution that gives cyclists a full view of their surroundings without turning their head. Newly retired from Microsoft, Jeff explains that he launched his startup knowing a fair amount about software and operations, but very little about manufacturing.

The relationships he formed within CTA – both peer-to-peer and mentor-protégé, as part of CTA’s Mentor program – proved invaluable. “At my first CES I signed up for a mentoring session – five of them actually,” he says. Advice from those meetings proved quite helpful by being part of industry discussions to find solutions to his unique challenges. “I’ll participate in a CTA Small Business Council meeting taking notes and something hits me over the head,” he says. “I hear something, and it triggers an idea that I can use in my business.” Jeff is now releasing a redesigned prototype of his product and beginning a new round of fundraising.

Sunil Koduri: CEO, zSolutionz 

“Since this is my first startup, I wanted to join those who were facing similar challenges in succeeding during the initial stages,” says Sunil Koduri of zSolutionz. CTA’s Startup membership category provided that opportunity. Sunil is developing a health and fitness application that analyzes body movements using computer vision and machine learning algorithms. Understanding the dynamic and competitive environment in the health and fitness category, Sunil relies on CTA market research to track consumer trends and purchasing behaviors to refine his product’s features and capabilities.

“Without these reports, it would have been much more difficult to create a robust software application in a short time frame,” he says. Sunil credits his participation at Eureka Park for generating new contacts and business. When asked about trends in the health and fitness area, Sunil points to artificial intelligence as a bright spot for category growth. “This a great opportunity for small companies, especially startups, to positively influence the direction of health and fitness.” 

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