To give you an idea of how old I am, I’m part of the generation that has memories of my parents getting mad at me for tying up the phone line because I was constantly on the internet. Oh, dial-up internet.
I went to quite a few startup meetups in Toronto when I was trying to figure out what the next steps would be after the government. I remember feeling quite lost and confused. The only way I knew how to start a conversation at that time was that I worked for the government and was looking to get out of it. Needless to say, I did not make a lot of connections back then.
My Reason For Attending The Collision Conference
All I knew then and from what I know now, is that I am still fascinated by the creation of ideas and the execution of ideas. Not only that, I am amazed by the number of ideas that are being created and executed around the world.
Which was why I applied as media for the Collision Conference. To backtrack a bit: Collision is the tech conference that is held in Toronto the company known as Web Summit. They host a couple of other conferences around the world – Web Summit in Lisbon and RISE in Hong Kong.
So why Toronto and not San Francisco or New York?
Consider these facts/numbers:
- Toronto houses the 3rd largest tech sector in North America
- Toronto is home to over 18,000 tech companies
- There are over 400,000 people working in the tech industry
Toronto is a growing, thriving tech hub. Just like it has been nicknamed “Hollywood North”, people have been giving it another nickname – “Silicon Valley of the North”.
Check out these numbers about the Collision 2019 Conference
- 125 Countries
- 25, 000 + attendees
- 45.7% Female Attendees
- 3750 + CEOs
There was a lot of ground to cover and information to absorb over three days. They held an opening night ceremony held on the Monday holiday. I had thought about attending but made the decision to take some off-screen time and go for a hike instead, knowing that I would be logging in some serious screen time over the next few days.
The schedule was separated into various tracks – health, money, venture, startups and content marketing just to name a few. It just goes to show you how technology is making a significant impact across all industries.
Given my science background (fun fact: I have a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry), maybe I would have drawn to the health track. Or given that I teach social media and blogging to small business owners and students at Sheridan College, I would have made an effort to attend Panda Conference (which was the content marketing track).
Instead, I found myself drawn to panel discussions that were taking place in Startup University and Venture Stage, where panelists discussed various topics such as what to look for in a Venture Capitalist (i.e. find one that can complement your business) or how they pushed past what seemed like a continuous string of failures.
I also attended the talk with Joseph Gordon Levitt and his company HitRecord – an online community that focuses on creative collaboration. On the last day, I sat in on a Q& A session with Damon Wayans Jr. and his co-founder Kris Jones where they talked about the Special Guest app – an app that enables people to hire live entertainment on demand and in turn, enables entertainers more access to paid gigs. It was really fascinating to hear each of them speak about their companies and learn how involved they were.
Being media definitely had its advantages It was nice having a separate area for breakfast, lunch, being able to answer emails and take quick breaks from everything that was happening at the conference.
Additional Highlights of the Conference
Those who were in media had access to press conferences with some of the speakers. I sat in on a mini-press conference with The Honourable Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
Just last week, Minister Bains announced the introduction of the New Digital Charter. This Digital Charter states 10 principles. The charter will be used for measuring future government policies, programs, and legislation. Check out this article by McCarthy Tetrault for more information.
If you were an investor or a startup, you could connect with other investors or startups in the investors lounge. There was also a small women in tech lounge, which in my opinion could have been a bit bigger, given the number of female attendees. I’m sure they would have appreciated a larger space to relax and network. The lounge had an ongoing schedule of talks and panel discussions. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t part of the app. I didn’t realize this until after the fact. I should have made a mental note to have taken a picture of the schedule each time I passed by it but I assumed it would be on the app.
There was quite a bit of information to soak up and there were quite a few talks I wanted to attend, but the downside was that many of them overlapped, so if I wanted to attend a talk from a different track, I had to leave early from the current talk I was attending. I thought the amount of time for each talk was perfect given our attention spans these days. It was great that they incorporated questions from the audience using the sli.do app.
I wandered through the sections of startups at different stages and was blown away by all these amazing ideas that came to life. Unique solutions were created to bring people together and to solve problems.
One particular interesting startup I came across was BooknBrunch – a company that brought people together through book clubs and brunch. The platform is a way for book club organizers to connect with venues where they can host their events. I loved how they even had a term for people who enjoyed those two things – brookies!
On their site, you can find interviews with authors, book reviews and a brookstore where you can purchase books for an event or if you’re looking for some inspiration for your BooknBrunch event.
If you wanted to participate in more Collision fun, the conference included a night summit component (held each night afterward) that provided networking opportunities. Since I was taking the train into Toronto every day, nor am I that much of a social butterfly, I made the decision to forgo the nocturnal festivities.
Final Thoughts On the Conference:
It’s appropriately named. The whole event felt like a collision of ideas, conversations, people and technology.
While there was some female representation and diversity on stage, I feel there’s always room for improvement. Not only is Toronto a tech hub, but it’s a large multi-cultural hub.
Since the conference is massive and there’s so much to see and do, I would seriously look into reviewing the schedule well in advance to make a short list of which talks to attend. I would also look into putting it out there on social media to see who is attending and using the Collision App to connect with people – before, during and perhaps even after the conference.
One of my biggest regrets was not making time to check out the pitch competitions- It was quite difficult to decide between 2-3 talks that were happening concurrently. Just an FYI, The 2019 PITCH winner at Collision was a cleantech startup company called LOLIWARE ( I love the name). The company uses seaweed technology to replace single-use plastics. They have launched a seaweed-based straw and have partnered with several companies to make the switch.
If you’re feeling some serious FOMO, save the date and plan for the event. Next year’s conference is taking place from June 22nd – 25th.