The Updated Ultimate Guide To Hacking CES 2019

It’s the stuff of Hunter Thompson novels.

If you’ve ever been to CES, you know it’s an absolute clusterflip. There’s almost 150,000 people, 52 football fields of trade show glitz, with schlep after schlep just to get to the convention center.

But as a tech industry analyst, I’ve found it invaluable to see how IoT startups and tech giants are presenting themselves. (Side note: you can see my writeups of CES 2018 and CES 2017 here.)

There’s a now-famous post by Uber founder Travis Kalanick explaining, with beautiful growth-hack panache, exactly how to maximize your stay on a budget. A lot of Travis’ advice revolves around avoiding taxis (ha!) and instead renting a car (haha!). Obviously, things have changed a lot since Travis was going.

So, as a third-timer going to CES this week, here are my updated tips to hacking it:

Getting there

  • Don’t stay longer than you need to. If you’re there to “take it all in,” and have a few meetings then 2 nights is the perfect amount.
  • The Venetian (where Sands Expo / Eureka Park are housed) will store your luggage at the cabstand even if you’re not a guest. You can go straight from the airport and be right in the action. Just be ready to tip.
  • HotelTonight can work, even on-strip. Last year I went without a hotel because I refused to pay for $600/night for a hotel I’d barely be in. I got a far better deal with the app day-of.
  • Take the Monorail as much as possible. It’s the fastest way to get to the Convention Center if you’re mid-Strip or more south. *Important caveat: avoid getting caught in the convention center mass-exodus at 6pm, it can be unbearable at the rail station
  • Uber/Lyft works great in general. Again, like the monorail, the traffic can be punishing at rush hour.

Being there

  • Don’t miss Eureka Park. This is the most startup-y section of the whole event and can really give you an idea of what is coming in the year. It’s the primordial soup. This year there will be 1100+ startups in Eureka alone.
  • As Travis wrote, the panels are usually ‘meh.’
  • Gather intel wherever you can: craps tables, bars, monorail cars. Almost everyone you’ll see is there for CES, so my go-to is asking, “what’s the best thing you’ve seen so far?” I’ve found a lot of cool stuff this way.
  • The parties are usually free and can be found with Google. (This KarenNet event guide is the best source.) Last year I saw a Rick Ross concert for free, although it’s still unclear how a startup could afford sponsoring that.
  • Try all the AR/VR headsets. CES is a great chance to see the progress from ODG, Microsoft, and the rest.

In general

  • It’s an open secret that Steven Sinofsky makes the best CES writeups every year. He just cannot be beat. During the event, you should just see what he’s tweeting about and go find it. His CES 2018 post has tons of nuggets about what it’s like to be on the ground: “Tradeshows are, in general, gross…but just a few minutes in the two things you see in oversupply are passion and hustle.”
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll likely walk 6+ miles in a day there.
  • Bring chapstick. It’s in the desert.
  • Meeting people at the convention center can be mayhem. Whenever possible, my solution is to pre-save the cell phone # of who I’m meeting to text/call when finding each other. You’ll find it necessary.
  • For a day-to-day guide, I can cosign almost all of the advice in VentureBeat’s CES guide

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