Comdex: Canadian companies look to network

LAS VEGAS – Canadian companies showcasing their wares at Comdex 2001 see the annual trade show more as an opportunity to network and to attract potential customers than as a chance to achieve sales, according to exhibitors at the Canadian Pavilion at the Fall exhibition, which started Monday in Las Vegas.

“We had initially wanted to sell our products and to find new customers, but it has turned out to be a networking kind of show,” said Bohdan (Bob) Figol, vice-president of Toronto-based Lava Computer MFG Inc.

Over 75 per cent of Lava’s customers who in mid-year said they would attend Comdex, ended up cancelling at the last minute. However, most Canadian exhibitors are still hopeful that being present at Comdex will reap positive results. For instance, although there are fewer buyers at this year’s show compared to previous years, there are more customer sales opportunities outside of North America, said Figol.

“From day one (of Comdex), we started seeing more interest from Europe and South America,” he said. “Many of these potential customers we’ve talked to tend to have technology that is about two years behind what we offer, so they are either looking to upgrade or to bring their current technology up to speed.”

According to Nathan Rudyk, vice-president of marketing at DataBeacon Inc., the opportunities at Comdex are unprecedented. “There are just so many of the right people here,” he said. “We set out to meet partners and resellers and the show has met those expectations.”

The credibility a company earns from being present at Comdex makes a significant difference, especially for a startup like DataBeacon when it wants to play with the “big boys.” The Ottawa-based company managed to set up a meeting with Electronic Data Systems Corp., which it hopes will become an integration partner. “It would just not have been the same setting up the meeting over the phone,” Rudyk said.

Like DataBeacon, Valt.X Technologies Inc., a hardware security company which launched its first product at Comdex, is seeing the show as a chance to break into the U.S. market as well as to make contacts. “This is huge,” said Bradley Foster, director of communications at the Toronto-based startup. “The quality of contacts you get here is something that you just don’t see in Canada,” adding that because Canadians tend to be more conservative, it would be more important to first break into the U.S. in order to succeed.

But the positive sentiments were reserved for Fall Comdex alone.

“Comdex Canada is held at the wrong time,” said Lava’s Figol. “For (Fall) Comdex, at least you get new products and announcements in time for the Christmas buying season… but Comdex Canada is held in July where a lot of people are on summer holidays… and it’s simply a nonissue for any sort of announcements or initiatives.”

Other exhibitors agree.

“Comdex Canada would be better for companies looking to target just the Canadian audience,” said Valt.X’s Foster. “It would just make more sense for companies who want to network in Canada to be at that show.”

“There’s no point going to the smaller shows, or ‘paint-peelers,’ because nobody’s there,” said DataBeacon’s Rudyk. “Our market is the world, particularly the U.S. and the European market, so we would much prefer to be at an international show.”

However, companies are seeing that the draw of trade shows is slowly, but surely, dwindling, even large ones like Comdex. Besides having the opportunity to network, Comdex will most likely become smaller, Rudyk said, adding that buyers and potential buyers could easily get the information they need from the Internet.

Lava, in Toronto, is at

DataBeacon, in Ottawa, is at

Valt.X in Toronto, is at

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