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The top five entries were awarded a free
booth in the Eureka Park Marketplacetm at
CES 2016. In speaking with these companies at CES, it was obvious that we helped
jumpstart their businesses by giving them
exposure they would not have received if
it wasn't for CTAF. I believe this is a situation where everyone wins. Each company
received great exposure and CTAF was
recognized as an innovator in helping
startups that provide technology that has
a positive impact on seniors and people
with disabilities. The five winners were
Aipoly, Helparound, NuEyes, Perceptive
Devices and Whill.
You are also an angel investor.
Yes. Since I started angel investing about
nine years ago, I've invested in a variety of
startups that are innovating in a wide range
of industries from financial tech to IoT.
Is Eureka Park at CES a valuable
Definitely. As Eureka Park has grown each
year, it demands a greater percentage of
my time at CES. There is no other venue
where one can see as large an assortment
of startup companies from all over the
world. And, at CES 2016, I saw more angel
investors and VC firms than I've ever seen
at CES. Clearly Eureka Park has become a
must-see venue for early stage investors.
Does reviewing grant applications
compare to reviewing companies?
Yes. When I consider a possible investment
in a startup I look at what problem they are
trying to solve, whether the team is capable
of meeting their goals, and the likelihood
of them being successful in doing so. While
the need for profits and an eventual sale of
the company (the all important "exit" for
early stage investors) are not factors in considering grant requests, the requirement of
solving a real problem, with a strong likelihood for success, is very much a part of the
grant review process.
What do you look for in a startup?
Research into whether the problem they are
attempting to solve is a real one that impacts
a wide enough audience is important in
order to verify a sizeable market. The quality
of the team and how they work together is
important and clearly subjective. And, while
early stage investors usually want to see
financial projections, most of us understand
that the income numbers are very speculative, but that the expenses required to meet
corporate goals are much easier to project.
Today, in a tighter financing market, I like
to see the company raise at least enough
money to run the business for 12 months
before needing to raise additional funds.
John Shalam with Shirly, Selfhelp
community member who said,
"When Selfhelp came along, it
opened up a whole new world to
me. It has been a Godsend."
How is the current investing environment?
Low interest rates for the past several
years have had a positive effect on angel
investing. When people are sitting on cash
and can't get a decent return on traditional investments, riskier and potentially
more rewarding investments become
attractive. However, recent negative performance by well-known IPOs as well as
VCs becoming more selective in providing later rounds of financing are having
a somewhat negative effect on early stage
investing. These factors, in addition to the
recent poor performance of equities markets, where angel investors' other investments have been losing money, make for a
tougher environment for startup companies to obtain seed round investments.
What role do startup accelerators play?
Are they competitors?
Accelerators can be competition, but also
a resource for good angel investment
opportunities. I've invested in companies
that came out of accelerator programs and
have seen companies that were looking for
money either accept or reject investments
by accelerators. There are many factors to
consider, but generally I would discourage early stage companies from going the
accelerator route unless they feel that the
contacts and mentoring they get from the
accelerator are not available elsewhere.
Can you talk about some of the CE
companies that you have helped?
I've advised countless companies on
a variety of subjects. One successful
company, in which I've both invested and
advised, is goTenna out of Brooklyn, NY.
They are an IoT company that enables
off-grid communications utilizing smartphones and their proprietary antenna and
Chair Emeritus and Founding
Chair of the CTA Foundation and
VOXX International Chairman John
Shalam shared his thoughts on the
importance of the CTA Foundation.
Why did CTA create a foundation?
The CTA Foundation (CTAF) was created by CTA to enhance its image as an
active and caring member of our community, and to share CTA's accomplishments
with those who are less fortunate. CTAF's
mission is to help seniors with disabilities
to achieve a better life with the help of
technology developed by our industry.
Why should members of our industry
support the foundation and match CTA's
Presently, the CTAF is supported by
financial grants from CTA, but it is
critical to broaden resources beyond
CTA's generous contributions. Achieving
this important goal can only be realized
through contributions from industry
members and other supporters, in order
to fulfill the objectives and important
mission of the CTAF.
This is a great opportunity for those of
us who have been successful to make a
contribution back to society and to create
products to help seniors and those with
disabilities to enjoy a better lifestyle.
I T I S I N N O VAT I O N
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