The founder of cinema tech start-up Kiné6, Sean Snyders, reflects on going from Lower Hutt to Las Vegas in two months.
The Consumer Electronics Show is simply enormous. Sitting on over 2m square feet of exhibiting space, the annual trade show for all things gadget attracts hundreds of thousands of exhibitors, company reps, reviewers and buyers.
Appropriately, the host city is Las Vegas, the city which has such a phenomenal appreciation of spectacle on a grand scale, it has its own replica models of the Eiffel Tower, Sphinx and Statue of Liberty.
CES is a compulsory calendar entry for serious tech gadget manufacturers, retailers and start-ups. Callaghan Innovation took nine companies, including Sean Snyders’ Kiné6, to CES 2016 and Silicon Valley to learn about technology developments, network, seek collaborators and develop channels to market.
“It’s a technology freak show,” says Snyders.
“It’s a showcase of what these people live and breathe. If you’re in the consumer electronics space you are expected to be there. If you’re not there, then there are questions why.”
Snyders’ time with Weta and the Sir Peter Jackson empire means he’s not daunted by scale, though.
The motion capture specialist chucked in the day-job in 2014 to concentrate fulltime on getting his smart sensor concept which takes motion capture technology developed for the giants of the film industry and adapts it to an auto-focus system for cinematography on any scale.
With Kiné6 just getting off the ground, Snyders was there mainly to network and learn. Off the back of completing the Lightning Lab Manufacturing accelerator in Lower Hutt in November, including some time at the Gracefield Innovation Quarter, Callaghan Innovation network manager for sensing technologies Andrew Dawson approached Snyders about joining the Callaghan mission to Las Vegas.
Adding to the allure, Andrew and Victoria Hallum, Callaghan Innovation’s International Policy and Partnerships Manager, had organised a side trip to Silicon Valley for companies to meet business mentors, facilities and potential partners.
“I thought ‘I can’t really afford the trip, I’m still trying to get this thing going,’ but the opportunity was too good to pass up.”
For the market, the proof is in the pudding; the end product sells the technology.
He got the most out of the visit.
“I walked 50 kilometres in four days visiting stalls and talking to businesses.”
Even downtime was spent making connections, with time waiting at airports and in transport used to talk shop with the other companies on the mission.
“There was a great deal of knowledge transfer amongst the New Zealand companies, and cross-pollination of ideas going on”.
Snyders said that the San Francisco part of the trip was excellent for understanding the start-up environment in the Bay Area and making connections to potential capital funding. A highlight was the free and frank discussion over dinner with two of KEA’s World Class New Zealander Network, Craig Elliot and Poojitha Preena.
The end result was confirmation of Snyders’ overall direction, with the need for a prototype of his cinematic auto-focus technology now top the agenda. Real footage using the technology will also be critical to selling the product.
“For the market, the proof is in the pudding; the end product sells the technology. Our market has a high threshold for acceptance – you have to progress things a lot further to get buy-in.”
And while CES 2016 was not targeted at the niche cinematography market, Snyders says some conversations with potential collaborators and component manufacturers have yielded good results.
“The trip lived up to what I thought it was going to be – I couldn’t have organised it as effectively on my own.”
Kiné6 is now a small step closer to releasing a product.
“I’ve got a couple of early adopters who’ve put down deposits, and some people who want to do collaborative filming projects to use the technology.”
Like the gaudy lights of the Las Vegas Strip, the future is bright.