Events / Products / Startups

From digital health fandom to a Jimmy Fallon roast, these Philly startups found success at CES 2023

Here's a firsthand look at how Stel Life, BLOK and PTZOptics made the most of this year's tech product show.

Stel Life at CES 2023. (Photo by Erica Moody)
Introverts, you might get worn out by CES.

The four-day networking and demo event is filled with the biggest names in tech, startups that would win big on “Shark Tank,” and some of the smartest people you’ll ever meet — such as the sustainable auto manufacturing founder I chit-chatted with as we shivered in line for over an hour waiting to see the new Android Auto displayed inside a BMW i7.

It was warmer inside the Las Vegas Convention Center, where 300 automotive exhibitors showed off wild concept cars and John Deere unveiled an award-winning fully autonomous tractor. LG had a stunning display of home gadgets including a color-changing refrigerator and high-performance gaming gear.

Attendees were wisely advised to wear comfortable shoes to trek the 2.1 million square feet of space spread across eight venues. Celeb spotters could hear from the likes of Paris Hilton (on brand marketing) and Seth Rogen (on Alzheimer’s tech) or stop by the booth of “Too Hot to Handle” star Creed McKinnon’s food tech startup, VersaWare. While some booths were underwhelmingly spare, those with the big bucks went all out. Free at-home COVID-19 tests were passed out across the convention floors and much appreciated, considering the crowds.

I spotted Philly-based startup Stel Life in a spacious area of the bustling Health Tech section, right after I’d tested the stress-relieving wearables from Touchpoint Solutions. They must have worked, because I felt uncharacteristically relaxed as I stepped over the impressively large Digital Health Studio center that Stel Life shared with Moderna.

“Our goal was to prove that digital health wasn’t a fad that would die out after the pandemic,” cofounder and CEO Sid Kandan told “We wanted to show that there are leaders actively engaging in care today on a scale of hundreds of thousands of patients, and I think we did prove that. There were a number of these leaders talking to clinicians, talking to leaders of other device companies and platform companies and helping them realize that healthcare can be delivered at home in a passive, secure and scalable way.”

Tony Frick. (Courtesy photo)

Malvern food tech startup BLOK reached their CES goals and then some.

“We went into CES with zero expectations as it was our first time attending. The show ended up far exceeding anything we could have imagined,” cofounder Tony Frick told me. “We encountered an incredibly diverse group of entrepreneurs exhibiting cutting-edge technologies from all over the world. It was such a collegial group, excited to be back in-person with attendance rivaling pre-pandemic numbers.”

BLOK unveiled its smart cutting board for the first time publicly, which Frick says drew attention from national and international publications including the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, the Daily Mail and The Spoon. “The most surreal moment was getting a shoutout from Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show.” (“A smart cutting board with a built-in screen … it’s an iPad,” the host quipped.)

Paul Richards, chief revenue officer of Downingtown-based live streaming camera manufacturer PTZOptics, shares a similar enthusiasm for the engagement he saw at this year’s CES.

“The CES audience was really excited for the show to come back in full swing,” he says. “We interacted with just about 500 people which is 0.5% of the total audience. We are often in the shadows of our large multi-national competitors such as Sony, Panasonic and Canon. But CES offers us the opportunity to compete on a global level even if our booth space is smaller and located further in the back. Overall, I noticed most people stopping by had already researched our company and had real intentions of doing business.”

Richards’ biggest takeaway from CES 2023?

“In-person trade shows are back. People like to do business with other people they know and trust,” he said. “If you consider all the positive benefits which include industry partnerships, PR opportunities, business opportunities and the gathering of customer feedback, trade shows like these offer an awesome ROI.”

Just make sure you take a day or two to unplug afterward.

Companies: BLOK

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