I wrote yesterday that if anyone showed up at DSE this year it would be a ‘success’ – that is why we are forever in trouble BUT the truth is that the DSE show is a success.
This comes against long odds both in terms of the state of the US economy, the state of the trade show business and the state of the Digital Sign Industry itself.
The “unofficial do not quote us” wink wink…numbers coming from unnamed people not in any way associated with the show is that exhibitors are up around 33%. But more amazing is the fact that foot traffic is up possibly in the double digits.
Many are asking if the foot traffic is up due to “industry types” looking for a job (and there is a lot of that going on) as opposed to people who are here to actually buying digital signs. But, the consensus seems to be there are a good number of clients and potential clients here.
One of the most important trends here is what I am calling “the return to our roots.” What is meant by this is that the digital sign industry seems to be moving from the relatively easy money days in the US economy to become better grounded and be more focused on innovation and real business.
The evidence of this are several people who were instrumental in the start of the industry who have (after selling their companies) decided to return. First among these innovators is John Eisenhower and John Kirkpatrick (aka JK)
When someone says, “no one has made real money in this industry” there two guys are the exception. They teamed up and had a good run with Mercury Online which was sold to 3M for what is rumored to be “a lot of money.” As someone said…”these guys are my heroes…they built the company and exited and made a lot of money.”
Unfortunately, 3M did to their company what big companies do. They totally messed it up. While 3M had a great opportunity in this business they did not have a clue and it has gone from being a potential giant to well…3M who?
These two people could, let’s face it, take the money and day trade. Instead they are both involved in new start ups. JK has a new company which he is not talking a lot about. What it will do is all closely guarded. But, one thing to say..he is not with 3M anymore which is their loss.
John Eisenhauer is something like a combination of a night club act and a serious business person is more forth coming. His new project is software that will combine elements of the digital sign industry with mobile marketing and social networks. Certainly if he has what he says he has (and he says it’s ready to ship) may have found an app that short circuits the need to invest large amounts of capital to get some of the great results of digital signs.
Finally, Lou Giacalone once of Coolsign fame, then of Clarity and then of Titan Outdoor …and now…President of Coolsign again. Lou cannot likely claim the financial success of the other two BUT he is a visionary and important innovator. His move to Titan is controversial (and will be covered in more depth). He said, “this is my passion and what I have been talking about and doing since 1998.” While a private equity firm is part of the picture and you have to wonder about that…it is another data point which indicates to me that key people in the industry are getting back to what they like to do.
The real story at this year’s DSE is that entrepreneurs and positive cash are back in vogue. I say it’s about time!