Brace yourself: The Consumer Electronics Show is coming.
The show, which brings together more than 4,000 tech companies from across the globe, will invade Las Vegas beginning January 9, when an estimated 200,000 people will descend upon the city.
When it comes to its keynote speakers, though, the CES formula has grown a bit stale. For one, even in the age of disruption and rapid innovation, the conference tends to lean into legacy companies: Comcast, Ford, and Turner all appear in this year's top billing, with nary a startup or young disruptor to be found.
Even more glaring is the gender issue. When CES announced its initial slate of keynote speakers in November, the lineup consisted of six men and exactly zero women. That prompted sharp criticism from the worlds of tech, media, and beyond, including an alert from social justice group Gender Avenger.
Following the backlash, the Consumer Technology Association, which puts on CES, announced a keynote panel that includes several women, which it says had been in the works for months. Still, the lack of women in the top slots has been a pattern for CES, which featured an all-male keynote lineup just a year ago in January 2017. Couple that with the conference's rules on keynote speakers--they "must head (president/CEO level) a large entity"--and you have a recipe for dullness. It's clearly time for a shakeup.
So here are a few suggestions from Inc. for who should keynote CES in the future.
1. Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO. One of Google's earliest employees--she was employee No. 18 in 1999--Wojcicki oversaw the company's marketing efforts and helped invent its lucrative AdWords feature. She advised the company to buy YouTube for a then-controversial $1.65 billion in 2006 and is now that company's top exec. Wojcicki has previously written about the biases women face in the tech world and what CEOs need to do to combat them; after the infamous anti-diversity Google memo circulated this past summer, she published a deeply personal essay in which she described the slights she's experienced during her career and how she dealt with explaining the memo to her daughter.
2. Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder and CEO, Bumble; co-founder, Tinder. Your personal opinions of app-based speed-dating aside, there's no denying the phenomenon that Tinder and Bumble have become. Tinder became the top-grossing app in the App Store soon after rolling out new paid features in August, and reports indicate that 50 million people swipe daily. For its part, Bumble (like Tinder, but only women can initiate conversations in heterosexual matches) boasts 23 million registered users and a valuation of more than $1 billion. Earlier this year, Wolfe Herd settled a sexual harassment lawsuit against Tinder co-founders Justin Mateen and Sean Rad, the former CEO who has since resigned from the company, and has offered poignant advice for other women dealing with similar issues.
3. Evan Spiegel, co-founder and CEO, Snap. Snap's stock has been shaky since its IPO earlier this year, but the company's base continues to climb: 178 million people use the app every day. The company has had to fend off copycats like Instagram Stories and WhatsApp, and it's rolled out frequent redesigns and new features like Snap Map and Shows to try to stay ahead of the curve. How things go for Snap from here on out remains to be seen, but Spiegel has plenty of insights into what it takes to appeal to the Millennial generation--and the rate at which innovation needs to occur for a hot tech company to succeed in 2018.
4. Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO, Uber. Who wouldn't want to hear from Travis Kalanick's successor on how he's steering a $70 billion company out of one of the biggest PR crises in recent memory?
5. Mary Meeker, partner, Kleiner Perkins. The gender divide in venture capital has never been more obvious: women-led companies get around 3 percent of all VC funding. As partner at one of the most powerful VC firms in Silicon Valley, Meeker--who testified on behalf of the firm in the Ellen Pao trial--has a voice the tech industry needs to hear when it comes to how the VCs are, or should be, addressing the gender divide.
6. Carolyn Everson, VP of global marketing solutions, Facebook. Everson is an expert when it comes to branding and company culture, two things that a lot of tech companies could benefit from learning more about.
7. Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO Airbnb. The company is perhaps the biggest and most obvious example of a disruptor in recent memory--outside of only, perhaps, Uber. Airbnb has turned the hospitality world upside down; it pulled in $1 billion in revenue in the third quarter of 2017.
8. Tristan Walker, founder and CEO, Walker & Company. Walker knew that a huge segment of the population--people of color, who tend to have coarse or curly hair--was being underserved by the grooming industry. He launched a new line of razors and grooming products via an online subscription model in 2013 and has seen the brand gain a cult following.
9. Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO, Netflix. The media company continues to gain subscribers at an impressive rate--5.3 million last quarter--and add innovative content from a diverse cast of storytellers.
10. Katrina Lake, founder and CEO, Stitch Fix. Lake is the only woman to lead an IPO in 2017--a sad fact regarding the state of the business world, but a great accomplishment for her. Founded in 2011, the digital subscription-based clothing service has 5,000 employees and brought in $730 million in revenue in 2016.