5 Takeaways from Collision, Toronto 2019
This year, the annual Collision Tech Conference was held in one of the fastest growing tech hubs in the world, Toronto, Canada. We’re so thankful that our city was chosen to host, and that it’s being recognized as the rapidly expanding industry space it has grown to become.
Over 25,000 people from 125 different countries attended, including 1,100 start-ups, 730 speakers, 921 media personnel, and 3,750+ CEOs. Not only was this the largest turnout yet, but it was the largest percentage of women the conference had ever seen, making up a whopping 45.7% of attendees.
If you happened to miss out, don’t fret; I’m here to list the top five takeaways from this year’s conference. These topics seemed to arise time and time again throughout the speeches and booths all three days, so they’re more than worth mentioning.
1. Your Brand Should Drive Positive Change
If you’ve ever seen an old sci-fi movie, you know that humans have been hesitant about the advancement of technology from the start.
With the explosion of massive tech corporations in the past decade, the pressure on CEOs to use their influence to implement positive change has grown exponentially. Similarly, actively combating the negative aspects of society has become equally as important.
Suffice to say, it was a popular topic of discussion at Collision this year. Many speakers were not hesitant to be blunt about why this idea is so important.
Ev Williams, Founder and CEO of Medium, spoke about life after he co-founded Twitter. Unsurprisingly, he spent a decent chunk of his allotted 25 minutes to highlight the need for big companies to move away from revenue, and move towards social change. He went on to point out that we have massive amounts of new technology, and it should be used to solve world issues and make our home an overall better place to live.
Even this year’s PITCH Competition winner, Loliware, is striving to improve the planet by making disposable straws out of seaweed. That means they’re clean, safe, and easily compostable.
So if you have a new or thriving tech company, ask yourself this: what am I doing to create positive societal change?
2. Start-Up Tips from Industry Leaders
We already know there were over 1,100 start-ups in attendance this year, so naturally many seasoned speakers were keen on passing on their knowledge to new founders. A lot of discussions focused on how to build your brand and make yourself heard amongst the sea of competing businesses.
David Meltzer, CEO of Entrepreneur.com, had a handful of incredibly useful tips. Firstly, positivity is essential and will come back to you if you put it out into the universe. More so, tell the truth in all things, hook on emotion, and don’t compare yourself to other brands. Saying things like “we’re the ______ of the tech world” causes consumers to make assumptions about your brand that may not necessarily be what you’re trying to express.
Some other common advice is don’t underestimate SEO, nail it before you scale it, network as much as you can, and above all, your consumers will determine how your brand develops. Be adaptable, because you may have a vision about what your product will do or how it will be used, but in the end, your customers will shape it however they see fit.
If you’re a start-up founder or even a future tech entrepreneur, you’ll definitely want to check out Collision 2020. The information is truly invaluable.
3. The Tech Industry Needs More Diversity
Diversity has become a significant word in the business world. More and more companies are making great strides to include people of all genders, physical abilities, sexual orientations, and religions.
This year’s ‘Women in Tech’ category of attendees was only the beginning of the diversity conversation. Several speakers spoke about the importance of an inclusive workspace, which provides equal opportunities and a safe space for people of colour, people with disabilities, and those who identify as LGBTQ+.
The HealthConf stage had a particularly in-depth talk about female fertility, and the advances modern technology is making to understand it better. This spurred on a discussion about the lack of research on the female reproductive system, and things like women-first healthcare and abortion rights.
In the accessibility sector, the Machine Demo stage hosted a variety of companies vying to get their product on people’s minds. Brands like Essential Accessibility and Novalte were explicitly designed to aid in making technology accessible for those with physical limitations.
Regardless of whether your company has 10 people or 10,000 people, it’s always a good idea to look around and consider whether your employees are diverse and whether your office space and tech are accessible.
4. Investors Want to Know You
A notable portion of every year’s conference is investors looking for new opportunities. It’s not always easy to know exactly how to woo a potential backer, but there was some valuable information about it throughout the event.
Brian Singerman, Partner at Founders Fund, explained very simply that investors don’t care where your company came from, only where it’s going. Even if you live in the backwoods of Vernon, Alabama, if you have a great idea and a passionate fire in your belly you’ll be just fine.
In terms of advice for investors themselves, Singerman urged them to step outside their comfort zone and not rely on what worked in the past, because it may not necessarily continue to work in the future. More than that, remember to take a close look at the company’s team to get a feel of how they work together.
Just remember that if you’re in search of a new investor, they’ll be focusing on you as much as the idea. Sell your product, but don’t forget to sell your ambition and determination, too.
5. Don’t Underestimate Meditation
The final takeaway from this year’s Collision conference is the importance of meditation. You may be wondering, what does meditation have to do with tech? The answer is simple: it’s how we unplug. Think of it as the human equivalent of, “have you tried turning it off, and turning it back on again?” Stepping away from the screen to reset your brain can be just as important as what you’re doing in front of it.
Hoame, a Toronto-based meditation studio, had a booth set up where twelve people at a time could sit comfortably on pillows with noise-cancelling headphones, and go through a guided meditation for 15 minutes. I sampled this experience myself, and I have to say, the feeling of being taken out of the crowded, bustling room was incredibly relaxing.
But it doesn’t stop there. Director X, Producer and Founder of Popp Rock, delivered a powerful monologue titled, “Message to the Man Who Shot Me.” In this, he expressed his anger, frustration, and resentment towards the man who brought a gun to a club, and ended up hitting him in the back. The surprising thesis, however, was that meditation can help mitigate the anger in individuals that causes public shootings. It helps promote calmness and cognition, reduces stress levels and violent behaviour, and has shown positive results in schools across the world.
Amongst all the meditation-focused events, some stages even held short meditations for the audience in-between speakers, led by the host. It became clear very quickly that, yes, this conference is about tech, but part of being in this industry is knowing when to step away from the screen for your own well-being.
So remember: your brand should drive positive change, take all the start-up advice you can, run a diverse business, sell your ambition to investors, and always take time to meditate.
If you were unable to attend Collision this year, I sincerely hope you got something from these top takeaways. And if you can make it next year, you can be sure that the BriefBid team will be there to welcome you with open arms.