I had the honour of spending last week at the Collision 2018 conference in the beautiful city of New Orleans. Collision is one North America’s largest tech conferences. This year it boasted 600 start-ups, 500 investors, 400 speakers and 25,000 attendees! The lineup was stellar and there was so much I wanted to take in. I wanted to support the start-ups who took the stage to convince a panel of judges and a large audience why the product and company they worked so hard to build should be the one they invest in. I saw experts come together to talk about subjects ranging from growing user adoption, to the security of data, to the collision of our physical and digital self. We were reminded that everything begins and ends with the customer, that behind the data there is a human being listening to the stories we tell, that gathering customer feedback means truly listening to the good, the bad, and the ugly, and that we should experiment boldly but stay true to our brand. I feverishly wrote notes as companies like Walmart, Uber, Marriott, BlackRock, and even a former US Vice President took the stage.
How do you follow a truly inspiring keynote to a packed house with Al Gore? At the close of Day 1, Collision CEO Paddy Cosgrave announced that Collision will be coming to Toronto in 2019 – the first non-US city to host the conference. As a proud Torontonian, I couldn’t be happier with the way the day ended! As the video of Justin Trudeau welcoming Collision to Toronto played on the main stage, I thought about how relevant and befitting it is for Toronto to host the fastest growing tech conference.
I believe that Canada and Toronto have lived to some extent in the technology shadow of America, but that’s changing and changing fast.
– Paddy Cosgrave, Collision CEO
I bet you most folks, whether American or Canadian, don’t realize that Toronto is one of the fastest growing tech markets in North America1. And we are going to keep growing! The Federal government is supporting growth – even making it a key component of Canada’s 2017 Budget plan. A new Strategic Innovation Fund was designed to develop and commercialize products and services, and to encourage investment in tech businesses. Many skilled graduates, tech start-ups, and thriving entrepreneurs call Toronto home.
Cosgrave said that “Right now feels like a special moment for Canada, and for Toronto. There is such energy in the city, such an open, cosmopolitan and global atmosphere.” I couldn’t agree with him more. Canada, and Toronto especially, is a vibrant and diverse, multicultural community. Part of what makes this city so special is our culture, our food, and our spirit that is built on a coming together of people from all walks of life with history in all parts of the world. We are not a perfect society and there is definitely room for improvement, but we celebrate our differences and strive to be inclusive in everything we do. Recognizing and eliminating biases and prejudices in our technology, our marketing, and our storytelling was an important topic at Collision this year. What better place to continue that discourse than in a city whose people are a great example of coming together to break down the walls of biases and prejudices.
So why is Toronto hosting Collision such a big deal for me? As an avid basketball fan, I equate it to the 2016 NBA All-Star event. The All-Star weekend was a major event bringing together celebrities, entertainers, experts and basketball fans to spend a couple of days celebrating the sport. Besides the obvious benefits of having an influx of tourists and; therefore, revenue into the city and its businesses, having the All-Star games here really did put Toronto on the map on a global scale. I can remember scrolling through my Twitter feed that chilly February weekend and seeing how much love there was for the city!
I truly believe Collision will bring together the celebrities, entertainers, experts and fans of the tech world. We’ll celebrate all the knowledge and thought-provoking conversation this conference brings while enjoying all the wonderful things this city has to offer. It’s time to get out of the technology shadows of America and put Toronto on the technology map. I, for one, can’t wait to scroll through my Twitter feed in May 2019 and see how many more people fall in love with this city.
(1) CBRE Research: 2017 Scoring Tech Talent