Kevin Harrington: CES is the ‘Granddaddy of All Shows’ and It’s Why Pitching Is Still Relevant in 2020

Published on January 12, 2020

There’s a reason why CES is considered to be the “granddaddy of all shows,” as Kevin Harrington, the original ‘shark’ on Shark Tank pointed out to me last year. CES is the most wonderful time of the year for technology enthusiasts and nerds across the world. The electronics show brings together hundreds of thousands of consumers, entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, and celebrity personalities to share into the one product that unites our global economy—technology.

But for millennials such as myself, CES is attractive and worth the investment for an even bigger, overlooked reason—networking and brand visibility. We are all walking products, with our own personal branding that we are looking to expand.

It may come as a surprise to many, but networking is no easy task—it is a skill that is not easily taught nor one that everyone strongly possesses. I mean think about it, why wouldn’t you want to attend a conference of this magnitude?

Whether you are attending as an exhibitor, speaker, media, or just a consumer, if you aren’t walking away with a stack, and I mean a STACK of business cards, you’re not doing it right. Why?

This is the one time you get to network your ass off to individuals from all over the world, at just the cost of your plane, hotel, and CES ticket. Plus, I guarantee you that you will walk away with at least one business deal and/or partnership from that conference—whether it’s a few days out or even a few weeks.

Yet, you can’t really put a price on the value networking brings.

How to Pitch a ‘Shark’ at CES
Grit Daily speaking with (L-R) Steve Mandell, Brian Harrington, and Kevin Harrington at CES 2019 in Las Vegas.

Last year, I bumped into Kevin Harrington, Brian Harrington, and Steve Mandell of The Harrington Group and spoke with them on behalf of the Pitch Investors Live team about why they decided to stop by the world’s largest annual technology conference in Las Vegas.

Harrington, the original “shark” on ABC’s Shark Tank and the CEO/Founder of the “As Seen On TV” infomercial line, still believes pitching is relevant today.

This is one of the greatest tradeshows in all of America, with over 175,000 people here,” Harrington ecstatically shared. “But what brings me here—I love networking with the press, because we love to get publicity for the things we do and the products we have, but we are also here to look for products. At the end of the day, we are in the product business of taking products, selling them on TV and digital, launching them into retail, that kind of thing. This is granddaddy of all shows with people from all around the world.”

Harrington’s son, Brian added that he loves coming to “see the flying cars, virtual reality, and the drones.”

For Mandell, the owner of Gameplan Entertainment and instrumental to The Harrington Group, his focus is centered around “deal-making all day long.”

You know, you get to observe people trying to collaborate, and it’s energy!

One of Harrington’s endeavors includes his association with the Pitch Investors Live team, which allows entrepreneurs to pitch to investors from anywhere around the world—yes, that means you could pitch them from your bedroom, couch, and if you must—the bathroom, but I wouldn’t encourage that!

Harrington referenced his 2009 shooting of the original Shark Tank pilot during our conversation and emphasized why the concept of pitching isn’t outdated, even in today’s digital age:

It’s a crazy story—you have 50,000 plus entrepreneurs every year trying to get onto Shark Tank—but they only take 250. But what happens to the other 49,000 plus people? Well, they don’t get onto Shark Tank. So, they’re looking for other places to pitch investors. What Pitch Investors Live is, is an app that matches investors with people pitching. People come on and log in, and actually get a chance to pitch the actual investors—myself, Brian, and Steve. We have 100+ investors that are looking to invest in deals, and it’s a matching service. But here’s the beauty of it—when someone pitches on Shark Tank, a shark either does the deal or doesn’t—they’re either in or out. On Pitch Investors Live, you’re pitching to somebody, but there are other investors hearing it, who may end up investing. We’ve had this happen already.”

Turning to Brian, technology that almost entirely reduces travel costs and expenses, while still allowing you to make money, is what separates this new concept of “pitching live”:

You’re not just pitching 1-1, you’re pitching to many. There’s Facebook Live and the Pitch Investors Live app, where you’re streaming to thousands, and potentially millions of people out there. The great thing for me and entrepreneurs—is I’ve taken pitches from ppl in London and people across the country. You don’t have to travel and do the roadshows you would usually need to do to raise capital—I’ve been in my car, office, bedroom—everywhere—not quite the shower yet, but maybe in the summertime! But that’s the great thing—you can be anywhere in the world and not spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get there.”

Innovation meets innovation,” Mandell interjected. “Pitch Investors Live is innovative in terms of the delivery. We’ve been coming to CES since the 1960s, and now we’re looking at new delivery systems to reach the masses.”

You can watch the full interview from last year’s CES here.

Is Pitching Still Relevant In 2020?

With CES 2020 just coming to a close on Friday, I still left wondering whether or not last year’s conversation with Kevin, Brian, and Steve was relevant to this year’s unraveling of technology—is pitching still relevant, even a year later?

Well, guess what, I met up with Kevin and Steve again for this year’s CES 2020 conference to see what products were captivating the attention of the two tech investors for the upcoming year.

We love CES. As you know, I attend a lot of tradeshows—houseware, hardware, business, gold, fishing, toy, etc. But why CES? Because it’s the biggest show in the world, with hundreds of thousands of people coming from 100+ countries. For me, a product guy, it’s like coming to heaven.

The Younger Generation Has Taken-Over…With “Entrepreneurial Spirit”

This year, I couldn’t help but notice a much larger array of demographics—with people of all ages and cultures, running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

I love the entrepreneurial spirit,” Mandell shared with us. “There’s so much energy and such a variety of products—you see so much in tech and with artificial intelligence. The energy here is amazing and you see just about everything.”

The demographic is getting a lot younger because the kids are doing everything a lot sooner,” Harrington followed up with. “I’m an old entrepreneur, and young entrepreneurs are filling the marketplace with new, innovative things, which is why I love getting in at the ground floor.”

GD: But why choose CES as the time to get in at the “ground floor” as you just shared?

KH: These are all startups that need capital, marketing, and basically all the things we can bring to the table. It’s really cool to see the vision a lot of people have and how we can help be part of their dream.

Mandell added:

Access to innovation. Everybody has it, it doesn’t matter what age you are right now or what generation you are. It’s amazing to me see sophistication right out here on the floor. We just got back from the floor, and we see access to innovation, because we need access to build. Right now, we are seeing 3D printing and artificial intelligence, and learning to talk about implementing that in schools and colleges.”

For Harrington, who spent a few days in product heaven, seeing lots of new products, especially in the areas of home automation, A.I., and tracking devices have piqued his interest.

Earlier we saw one where when you’re taking a shower, and you move out of the way of the shower, it will reduce the stream of the shower, which is monitoring the water flows. I just love it here.”

 How You Can Be Seen By Investors Like Harrington and Mandell at CES

Harrington’s time at CES was devoted to serving as one of three judges at LaunchIt, where he sat and took ten pitches. That’s right, he’s still taking pitches, even at CES—in person.

But why is it necessary? Visibility and relevance.

If you’re a startup and you need cash, you better have a good pitch,” Harrington advised. “Yesterday at LaunchIt, I took ten pitches, and we actually saw some really cool things.”

GD: Now, you were actually taking pitches here at CES? Why?

KH: I love taking a pitch, as long as it’s structured. And we had it structured—you have four minutes to pitch. At the end of four minutes, you’re done and we shut it off. It’s perfect.

As for what’s in store for The Harrington Group in 2020, Harrington is hoping for “some great investments and big product launches.

Since last year, we’ve had three or four products that have been in the market this past year in 2019,” Harrington said. “Last year, we had over $100 million in sales. I think 2020 is going to be even bigger. So, I think we are going to shoot for a couple hundred million this year.”

For my full interview with Kevin Harrington and Steve Mandell at CES 2020, please stay tuned.

Andrew "Drew" Rossow is a former contract editor at Grit Daily.

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