Thousands of new products will be launched at the sprawling CES technology conference in Las Vegas this week.
Less noticeable, but arguably more important, will be deal-making on the sidelines that may lead to many of the tech mergers, acquisitions, financing rounds and strategic partnerships to be announced in 2014.
CES brings together tech executives, start-ups and investors in numbers only rivaled by the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. That makes it a great place to negotiate new strategic or product partnerships, or begin talks on a new investment or acquisition.
"There are few, if any, other shows with the right people, in the right place, with the right attitude," says Jake Sigal, CEO of Livio Connect, which is developing a platform for connecting mobile devices and applications in cars.
Sigal started Livio at CES in 2008 by handing out freshly printed business cards. He had a standing meeting in a public hallway with Pandora business development executives Ian Geller and Jessica Steel and struck a "handshake" deal for the development of a Wi-Fi Livio Radio that featured Pandora's music-streaming service.
In 2009, Livio showed the finished product at CES and got large orders from Sears and Target. By 2010, Livio had its first automotive product and this September Ford Motor acquired the company.
This year, CES deal-making may be more active than usual because the tech industry is riding a wave of investor enthusiasm fueled by strong trends such as the boom in mobile devices and the steady expansion of the Internet into more parts of everyday life.
In the U.S., venture capital firms invested $5.4 billion in technology start-ups during the third quarter of 2013, the highest level since the fourth quarter of 2001, according to Thomson Reuters data.
There were $126 billion worth of tech mergers and acquisitions in the U.S. last year, the most since 2007. Meanwhile, there were 230 U.S. tech IPOs with a total value of $62 billion, also the highest since 2007, according to Dealogic, which tracks such data.
Large Internet companies have more than $100 billion in cash, which may lead to more acquisitions in 2014. The tech stock surge last year and a jump in private company valuations have given acquirers a more powerful currency while enticing some smaller companies to sell.
"There seems to be more of the mating dance occurring this year at CES," says David Liu, a tech banker at Jefferies. "A lot more senior people are going and there are a lot more private dinners planned by companies and investors. That's more conducive to something leading to a transaction."
Cisco CEO John Chambers, new Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Qualcomm Chairman Paul Jacobs, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai are all attending CES this year.
Research firm ISI Group is hosting about 20 meetings, bringing investor clients together with companies including Dell and Hewlett-Packard.
Liu is heading to CES this year and attended in 2013. But before that, he had not made the trip for a decade.
"This year should be a huge year for M&A," Liu says. "Last year was about building up cash and balance sheets and this year companies need to fuel growth to keep up with high valuations. There are a lot of innovative companies out there that are receptive to being scooped up. The ingredients are there. You just need the cooks to cook it."
Dan Niles, a former tech banker who now runs hedge fund firm AlphaOne Capital Partners, says CES is a popular deal-making venue because it happens at the start of the year when company executives are setting new strategies.
This year may see a lot of new strategies set because there have been major executive changes at some of the largest tech companies recently, including Microsoft, Intel and Qualcomm.
The shift from a PC-centric tech industry to a more mobile, connected world will also force big tech companies to change strategy -- sometimes through acquisitions.
"This past year, stock prices went up a lot in the U.S. so it did not matter as much if companies missed their numbers," Niles says. "This year, CEOs will probably have to figure out how to drive growth. A lot of companies will be either selling themselves or big companies will be looking to acquire to get themselves into hotter growth areas."