By Steve Winter

Fifteen startup companies – all selected by a panel of judges from among a group of more than 50 applicants – gathered at the Gold Spike in Old Downtown Las Vegas Wednesday night to compete for two coveted spots in the Tech Co. Startup of the Year Competition which will take place later this year in San Francisco.

For three hours, these 15 companies – all of whom are exhibiting at the Eureka Park startup marketplace this week at CES – fought off massive crowd noise and complimentary food and drink to showcase their companies and their products to more than 600 individuals who milled about the room experiencing innovative concepts and ideas that range from robotic tennis ball retrievers and motorcycle safety enhancement products to a smart collar that analyzes and understands canine behavior.

Each company put its best foot forward as the crowd – heavily laden with analysts, marketers and potential investors – packed the room, squeezing from table-to-table trying to determine which among these companies had most legitimate shots at success.

“This event showcased some of the major trends you will see all week long at CES, such as Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics,“ said Frank Gruber, CEO and Founder of event co-host Tech.Co.   “While Startup Night formally launches CES, it will also kick off our annual Innovate and Celebrate competition in which 100 of the top companies from all around the globe will compete to earn the ultimate title of Startup of the Year.  Tonight, we will pick two of those companies that will move on to the next round.”

After presenting in front of a panel of tech-savvy adjudicators, two companies advanced to the next stage.

Cujo is a next-generation firewall designed to protect smart homes and businesses against cyber threats while In&motion has created a smart wearable protection system that reduces injuries in case of falls.  “There were several great companies out here, all of which could have easily qualified” Gruber said; adding however, that participants could potentially take advantage of other opportunities down the road.

CES Startup night is one of more than a dozen events created and hosted by Tech.Co, a media and events organization focusing on startups, entrepreneurs, and technology enthusiasts.   The company also hosts their next major competition – which will attract two other Startup of the Year finalist wannabes — at SXSW in Austin in March.

Steve Winter is president of Brotman|Winter|Fried, a Sage Communications Company, which is a Capitol Communicator sponsor.

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