May 30, 2019

A Tech Newbie’s Thoughts on Collision 2019

By Idan Dor

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A lot has happened in the last four weeks.

I changed jobs going from a traditional corporate company located in the heart of the Financial District to a fast-moving tech innovation firm that is young, creative, and, most importantly, open to new and fresh ideas. I transitioned from a marketing and communications role to a business development role which has me meeting new people, learning new things, and challenging myself on a daily basis.

However, I do not want to discount my previous experience.

Working for a large company whose operations were strategic, patient, and well thought out helped give me the foundation and understanding as to what other large companies require and need to better their operations. As we enter into an era where going digital is the only way to survive, big businesses are no longer benefiting from being “Goliath” as it means they sometimes miss out on the innovation which today is being harboured by “David” who is represented by the number of start-ups popping up across the city. They innovate, move quickly and often develop the newest trends leaving large companies forced to become reactive rather than proactive. This means that our large institutional services, the ones we rely on for important things like our banking, real estate transactions and insurance are wavering as smaller more agile companies are entering the marketplace with services that become more and more competitive as the larger companies fail to adapt. Bridging the gap between large businesses and innovation is where Intersect comes into play and something that has always interested me since working within a large company myself. By creating meaningful digital products and enacting short and long-term plans to help create the digital infrastructure in the wake of the growing competitive and challenging digital landscape we help big businesses improve their services, ultimately navigating the digital market and providing products that we want to use.   

But my shameless plug is not why you visited this article.

You came here to read my thoughts on North America’s largest tech conference, Collision.

Photo by Éoin Noonan

Spanning three days and four nights, my first impression was “sensory overload.”

I put that in quotes because I think I said that aloud from the moment I stepped inside the venue to when I left.

To put it in perspective, here are some fast facts about the conference from their website.

  • 25,000+ Attendees
  • 125 Countries Represented
  • 68% Senior Management
  • 900+ Journalists
  • 45.7% female attendees
  • 3750+ CEO’s

There is a lot going on, and one look at the map shows you just that. Tech demos, lightning talks, start-up pitches, the Enercare Centre was buzzing with excitement. Although, with 17 “tracks” (stages) which covered different topics such as health, auto, startups, and all things related to VC it was next to impossible to absorb the content discussed in each 15-25 minute talk. With at least ten talks going on at once the event became more of a window shopping experience than an opportunity to genuinely learn something new.

Did I mention the three dollar apples, six dollar pizzas, and twenty dollar lunches? Clearly, they got the memo that Toronto was an expensive city to dine in but wow. I was in shock.

From what I gathered the conference did have a theme.

Shattering boundaries and getting comfortable with uncomfortable.

What do I mean by that vague and quite cliche statement?

The tech industry is shattering boundaries in a multitude of ways:

Gender

Femtech, female founders, CEO’s, and a variety of both male and female advocates who are leading the way in diversifying the industry through innovation, leadership, and a general distaste for the tech market’s status quo for how women are supposed to be was the common theme.

Photo by Vaughn Ridley

Globally Sustainable Initiatives

Start-ups, big businesses CSR’s, a full stage dedicated to the cause. Our planet has become a hot topic – pun intended, and it was amazing to see how many people are thinking about it actively from a technological standpoint to help keep our problems cool as a cucumber (sorry). The winner of the PITCH competition which crowns the best start-up of the conference through a public pitch format went to Loliware a start-up that creates and distributes seaweed straws aiming to disrupt the plastic and paper straw industry,

AI

When AI comes to mind, everyone’s mind jumps to two problems, the first is robots that will take over the world and leave us powerless (RE: iRobot or Hal 9000) or automating every industry leaving us jobless and sad. However, I think the conference speakers who were responsible for discussing AI and the deep mind did a very convincing job to break both stigmas. AI is a tool being used to speed up processes and yes, create intelligent robots to do really cool things. My highlights were the product demonstrations of the new prosthetic limbs by Carbon Robotics and Waymo’s lightning talk about how millennials will use self-driving car sharing services in the future (woah).

Photo by Paul Crowe

Silicon Valley North

Being entirely new to the tech scene here in Toronto, I have been fortunate enough to have my first impression working in the industry during a time where Toronto is experiencing a rise in overseas venture funding, global praise, and local innovation that chooses to remain local as a result of the abundance of resources available. Many of the speakers were brought in from across the world, and they all had the same things to say about Toronto; beautiful, multicultural, and innovative. Although us Canadians already knew that, it’s great to see those same individuals put their “money where their mouth is” and actually invest in Toronto, with a start-up even being acquired on the show floor on the second day.

Photo by Sam Barnes

Final thoughts

I genuinely enjoyed myself at the Collision conference. Sure it was a lot to take in and I probably wasn’t able to absorb nor experience every little nuance of the conference, but the change of pace in my week was refreshing. Meeting new individuals, learning about their companies and how they contribute to the tech ecosystem was interesting resulting in me learning slowly about how everyone fits in this never-ending puzzle that is the tech industry. I am excited for how the event will adapt and change for its second official year. Hosting it in June is already a step forward as the weather will be (most likely I hope) better than it was this year in May. The night summits are fun and are a great way for newcomers to experience the Toronto nightlife in a variety of locations near the conference. Overall, I would recommend the conference as there is most definitely something to find for anyone looking to connect, learn, or see something new.

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