The Future: From the Writers Who Cover Innovation

CES 2020, Las Vegas

Over 200,000 people and 4500 exhibitors bombarded Las Vegas for CES this year, making it as challenging as ever to separate the wheat from the chaff. 5G enables us to stream premium content in our autonomous cars. Wearables measure our steps (or lack of them). But what data is being collected as we watch our seven-minute chapters by Steven Spielberg? I was fortunate to moderate a panel with three of the world’s most respected tech reporters to help us understand “what is next?” Here are the highlights to help corporate innovators stay ahead.

Data is The New Nuclear Waste

Rob Pegoraro believes the number one trend at CES is, and should be, data and consumer privacy. He pointed out that a number of the “smart” TVs being showcased were partially being paid for by the sale of data, and that a number of the iOT devices, social networks, and telecom companies are not only tracking and using our data, but also are storing it. For what? Because it may one day be useful to them? That isn’t an acceptable reason, nor is the value exchange equitable enough for the individual to justify the convenience of more accurate targeting. He suggested that a consumer reckoning is at hand as more people start to understand who is collecting data on them and what kind of data is being collected. Rob has written on this extensively in articles in Fast Company and USA Today.

5G is Under-Hyped

Eric Savitz argued that the impact of 5G on our lives and on big business is under-hyped. While mobile companies are bombarding us with messaging about their networks and availability, once this technology hits critical mass its impact will be far-reaching. The b2b implications of 5G will mean interconnectedness at scale that we can’t even fathom. These incredible opportunities in data will open up a host of avenues for learnings and efficiencies. 2021 will be the year that 5G phones and networks will start to impact consumers. By then, we may not think 5G is cool, but it will fundamentally change our ability to interact with each other and optimize business. See Eric’s top 5 take-aways from CES here in Barron’s.

Sports As a Hack to Discover Frontier Tech

Rick Limpert has been voted the No. 1 sports tech writer in the U.S. on two different occasions and enthusiastically told us that, “Many of the innovations we use in our everyday life got their start as a sports idea or product.”  Rick was certainly right when he pointed out that, “Sports tech and connected fitness are two of the hottest areas in tech as we move into a new decade.” In particular, Rick pointed to the mainstreaming of Fitbits and other exercise tech. In his excellent blog, Wireless Wednesday, he looks at emerging tech that’s tackling allergies as well as cardiovascular disease. 

CES is Replacing The Auto Show

Eric pointed out that CES is becoming the must-attend auto show, as cars are morphing into our tech hubs and living rooms. As autonomous vehicles continue to improve, there will be a battle for our attention now that our attention needn’t be on the road. Automakers and tech companies showcasing collaborations at CES has become as ubiquitous as the new TVs on display.   

Content Replaces Technology for Innovation

Rob pointed out that the content itself is more interesting than the hardware and technology innovations at this year’s CES. How do the streaming wars play out? Can Netflix, Peacock, Disney, and Apple continue to pay hefty sums for original and desirable content? When do consumers start to cut the cord on streaming and turn back to bundles that are easier to manage? There was also a fair amount of discussion on whether $400 million dollar Quibi could forge the gap between premium content creation in a user-generated format – and, oh yeah, there is a new TV for that vertical content.

Interestingly – these insights all intersect with one another. Hopefully someone is still tracking our steps, and those steps are going forward.

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XRC Labs: Retail Tech and Consumer Goods Rundown

XRC Labs Cohort 8 Demo Day, NYC

XRC Labs, based in NYC, is an accelerator focused on the next generation of retail technology and consumer brands. With support from the Parsons School of Design, the lab has uncovered breakout startups such as Billie.

We attended XRC’s Cohort 8 Demo Day and have curated the major takeaways and ventures to watch to keep you ahead of this rapidly accelerating space.

Key Takeaway 1: Personalization + Optimized Performance is driving health and wellness.  

Startup 1: Formula provides personalized nootropics (aka brain supplements) to fuel each individual’s daily activities and goals. Consumers take a 3-minute assessment which assigns them with a customized formula that is shipped monthly to their door. Boasting a 96% customer satisfaction rate.

Key Takeaway 2: White Space + Quality for DTC.

Startup 2: Stryx is tapping into the white space of male care by creating a corrective cosmetics brand that enables men to easily look their best. Their sleek and discreet concealer for men looks like a pen, fits easily into a pocket and clears skin instantly. With strong sales and proven success of their first product, they’re now exploring additional products to add to the portfolio.

Key Takeaway 3: The future is sustainable, comfortable, on-demand and smart (where you didn’t even know you needed it).

Startup 3: The founders from the upcoming Cohort 9 each had a minute on stage to provide a quick look at what is to come. Returnity’s reusable packaging, Trill’s on-demand localized shopping experience, Nuudii System’s revolutionary take on women’s underwear and Garbi’s smart trash can were just a few of the more interesting ventures we plan to keep an eye on.

These startups are hoping to break through the cluttered retail and consumer goods space by addressing very specific consumer needs. These niches, if conquered, make them very attractive for retailers, acquisitions and even collaborative partnerships given their proximity to a very specific consumer.

To learn more about how VentureFuel can build an always-on-innovation program to provide accelerated growth and disruption insurance, please reach out to


CES 2020 – Eureka Park Ventures to Watch

Eureka Park, CES 2020

Last week over 170,000 technologists, brand strategists, product developers and investors converged on Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Some of the major trends at this year’s show included foldable screens (both in your pocket and across an entire event space), smart home technology (from toilet paper robots to connected toothbrushes) and the future of the car experience (from safety to entertainment to flying taxis).

While all these new products and features are flashy and exciting, the true magic of CES lies in the thousands of startups exhibiting on the floor at Eureka Park. Many of these startups are hyper-focused on solving a specific business or consumer problem and are at the cutting edge of breakthrough technology. We’ve curated the most interesting, relevant and potentially scalable 5 startups from CES 2020.

Phiar – Phiar’s mission is to change the way consumers perceive and navigate the world, forever. Their state-of-the-art deep learning and cognitive science expertise combines artificial intelligence and augmented reality for clear, safe and precise navigation. Although not yet in beta phase, this is certainly a company worth keeping an eye on as the consumer applications and corporate integrations are endless.

The next two startups aim to attack the epidemic of stress and anxiety with their unique technologies…

Healium – Healium is a virtual and augmented reality platform powered by brainwaves and heart rate as measured by their brain sensing headband device. This self-awareness tool delivers story-driven escapes catered to the user’s feelings and has been proven to reduce moderate anxiety and increase feelings of positivity.

Apollo device and app

Apollo Neuro – Apollo’s sleek bracelet is the first clinically validated wearable and app experience that actively helps the body adapt to stress, facilitating focus, sleep, energy and calm. Developed by physicians and neuroscientists, the device delivers customized vibration patterns designed to restore the body’s natural equilibrium and can be worn all day and night for peak performance and recovery.

Resemble – is changing the audio and recording market by using AI to clone voice. With as little as 10 minutes of audio data, Resemble can construct hours of audio content in a variety of languages, tones and accents. Applications range from audio advertising to voice assistants, customer service, gaming and more.

VyB – This high-energy team of founders and engineers aims to bring real-time insight and social engagement to their new multi-platform rating system. VyB provides consumers with local, real-time and verified reviews in the form of social media so that friends can share their experiences and choose the best places to spend time. On the flip side, businesses and establishments receive real-time alerts and analytics to drive engagement, foot traffic and sales.

If you attended CES this year or have in the past, you know how easy it is to lose track of hours (or days). That’s why we comb through the chaos and select the startups with the most potential to drive your corporate growth, now or in the future.

If you’d like a deeper dive into CES or our broader startup ecosystem as part of our corporate innovation services, please email


Emerging Ventures From Retail’s Big Show

NRF 2020, NYC

We weaved our way through the 40,000 people and 800 exhibitors at the Javits Center in NYC this week for NRF 2020 to find emerging startups that can help accelerate our corporate partners. A few major trends emerged from the larger players including: Customer-Centric integrated AI, Experiential Retail, Autonomous Cashier-less Check-Out and Robot Planograms. But as usual, some of the most interesting opportunities were from the Innovation Lab and Startup Zone. Here are our favorites that you should know about:

Tastry – Utilizing AI that combines analytical chemistry, flavor preferences and machine learning, Tastry is tracking consumer preferences in sensory-based products. Think an on-demand sommelier in the grocery aisle providing recommendations with incredible accuracy as you pick a bottle of wine for the evening. The potential goes way beyond wine to allow for the pairing of snacks with drinks and vice versa based on flavor profile and preference.

Chatter Research – Chatter Research has created a real-time customer feedback solution for retail and hospitality. Chatter helps retailers and restaurants sell more and improve experiences through AI-powered conversations with customers. No more emailed feedback forms. That’s innovation we can all appreciate. This conversational AI via chat is quick, painless and somehow feels less sterile.

Observa – Observa uses image recognition to deliver dynamic and efficient real-time, real-world information and analysis. Think Google Analytics for every product on a shelf, in any store. Observa is taking the best elements of on-line shopping and applying it to the offline store environment.

As with any conference or any group of startups, the presented solutions start with the gaps that the corporation or industry is facing. With this in mind, VentureFuel identifies growth areas, mitigates risks and looks for areas to provide consumer learning as well as enhanced efficiencies of operation. When paired properly, these startups and new technologies can accelerate growth as well as deliver savings that impact your bottom line.

If you’d like to find out how VentureFuel can help your corporation harness the power of innovation, reach out to us at