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Freak’n Genius CEO Kyle Kesterson (right) and Community Manager Gil Pennington will meet hundreds of investors and industry professionals this week at their CES booth in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS — The Consumer Electronics Show is one of the most prominent technology conferences in the world. Tech giants from Samsung to Panasonic show off their latest gadgets, top executives deliver important keynotes and thousands of startups arrive in Vegas hoping to garner the attention of industry professionals and venture capitalists alike.

freakngeniuslogo1One of those young companies is Freak’n Genius, a small Seattle startup founded in 2011 and now set to debut a new app later this month.

Last May, Freak’n Genius released YAKiT, an app that lets you manipulate the mouths of your family, friends, cats, dogs, celebrities and really, just about anything.

Now, they’re preparing to launch an upgraded version of YAKiT, one that features a built-in social platform allowing for the consumption of YAKiT videos directly from the app.

Freak’n Genius CEO Kyle Kesterson and Community Manager Gil Pennington made the trip to Las Vegas and will spend the next five days in the startup-focused Eureka Park room meeting hundreds of people within the industry.

We caught up with Kesterson today at the company’s booth to learn why they decided to come to CES in the first place and what they’re hoping to get out of it.

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Kesterson is interviewed at CES about Freak’n Genius’ new app.

GeekWire: Great to see you here at CES, Kyle. Tell us how did you make it in here in the first place.

Kyle Kesterson: [Seattle-based] UpGlobal was gracious enough to reach out in November and offer us a booth space at CES if we had our product ready around this time. They like to take care of their own and Freak’n Genius came out of Startup Weekend.

GW: But what ultimately made you decide to actually travel down here and set up shop?

Kesterson: Being a startup, you’re always looking for ways to hack your own productivity and hard deadlines are a pretty good way to put that pressure on. I saw this as an opportunity to put pressure on the team and to say, this is what we want to have done by this time so that we can tell this story and get our product ready for launch. It just gets the wheels turning.

It also was just one of those things, like how many times do you have an opportunity like this? We just needed to cover our flight and get lodging. We ended up finding an AirBnb, and Vegas is actually a pretty cheap city to come kick it at. We saw this as an opportunity to come set up and get our messaging and product in order.

GW: How big of a deal is it for you guys to be at an event like CES?

IMG_4651 copyKesterson: It’s big. All of these things are just planting seeds. Being here, you’re having a conversation — no checks are being written, no product downloaded by mass dozens. But every single person that walks by, there’s potential for it to be a staple of your business in the next chapter. Before I knew it, there were very large global content providers coming to our booth today and telling us that our technology fit right into what they wanted to do.

It’s all about visibility, too. You can build a great product and if you don’t get it out there, there’s no serendipity, no audience.

GW: So this trip isn’t about getting more users on YAKiT?

Kesterson: No, this is about finding the hubs that have access to the users or that make it interesting at large. What’s interesting for us is that we’re really malleable and still trying to find our business — is this an enterprise play with licensing, or is it actually being crazy and audacious enough to build a consumer hit?

It’s all about what you can do to plant as many seeds as you can without deviating too much so that it’s not a complete distraction. In an environment like CES, you can tell your story to different people and see which one resonates.

GW: If you had advice for a startup thinking about going to CES, what would you tell them?

yakit2Kesterson: I would say do it. But, it’s all a matter of how far along you are in your process, how much technology you’ve built, are you at out the door yet — things like that. There are also minimum requirements as to where you have to be in that bubble. If you fit in that bubble, do it, because you’re always looking for that opportunity for that serendipity.

At any stage of any company you’re looking to be in a room with really smart people that paid a lot of money to come here and that are looking to get value out of that. They are coming here to see you, to find you. There is a mutual alignment here that’s not going to happen if you’re holed up just building a product that’s going to save the world. It’s about coming out here and developing relationships because relationships are going to lead to the business, to potential acquisitions, potential customers, potential sets of users, potential hires — you really don’t know where it’s going to go and you need those fires burning at all times.  

GW: Any other advice?

Kesterson: Wear comfortable shoes and have food at your booth for yourself. 

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