Culture & Lifestyle / Collision 2019: 5 Things We’ve Learned From Attending The Impressive Gathering Of Tech Titans

Collision 2019: 5 Things We’ve Learned From Attending The Impressive Gathering Of Tech Titans

Culture & Lifestyle Sep 09, 2019

The globally renowned tech conference recognized the increasing strength of the Canadian tech startup scene by setting up shop for their multi-day conference earlier this year. Now that we are getting ready for 2020, here is what we discovered having attended our very first Collision 2019 conference this past spring! 

The Collision Conference recently held in Toronto brought together the good and the great of the tech startup industry as well as some high profile political luminaries such as President Justin Trudeau.

Over a whopping 25,000 people from over 125 countries attended the week-long event, all designed to celebrate innovation in the tech start-up industry and discuss what’s on the horizon.

Now seen as one of the fastest-growing and most popular conferences on the annual calendar, we thought we’d take a look at what was on show at Collision 2019 and why you should look forward to 2020 (yes, it’s coming back!) .

What Justin Trudeau Had to Say

The first keynote speaker at the 4-day conference was Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who spoke passionately about accessing the best talent when supporting Canada’s thriving tech sector. While many other countries, including our American neighbours next-door are struggling with immigration, Trudeau said that he believed that it had benefited tech development in particular.

Collision 2019
Collision 2019: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau being interviewed by Shahrzad Rafati, Founder & CEO, BroadbandTV. Photo Credit: Sam Barnes/Collision via Sportsfile

Speaking to several hundred conference delegates, the PM Trudeau:

“As we see anxieties and worries around the world, Canadians know that we get more resilient communities, we get better solutions, we get better innovations when we bring in people from all around the world.”

Investment in education and training has also played a major role but that doesn’t mean there aren’t also plenty of challenges to face. Finding ways to make online platforms accountable and combatting hate speech are just a few of the other things that Trudeau discussed during his talk.

Who Else Was Speaking at Collision 2019?

Collision 2019 hosted a wide range of speakers (a total of over 750!) all with varying stakes and connections to tech development.

Two notable ones from the music industry were artist and producer Timbaland, giving advice to new entrepreneurs and discussing how AI is going to impact the music industry. At a separate panel, singer-songwriter Akon (who has a special place in our hearts due to his “Chamak Challoo” collab with SRK for Ra One) who was talking all things African and his new cryptocurrency Akoin.

Collision 2019: Akon, Global artist & Akoin chairman & co-founder, Akoin, on the Q+A stage during day one of Collision 2019. Photo Credit: Stephen McCarthy/Collision via Sportsfile

Other high profile speakers included comedian and Houseplant co-founder Seth Rogan, executive vice president for business development at Microsoft, Peggy Johnson, and Hootsuite founder Ryan Holmes.

 

5 Big Takeaways From Collision 2019

What were the big talking points in this year’s Collision 2019? As you might expect, there were some high ideas and plenty of discussion on show. Here’s our quick snapshot:

1. Tech For Good

Tech companies make a big thing about driving forward for the good of the people but haven’t always delivered over the years. Facebook’s troubles where user data is concerned have been much talked about over the 18 months.

Uber’s win at all costs mentality was also a subject of discussion at Collision when Lyft president and co-founder John Zimmer took to the stage.

Lyft Relief Rides has been introduced by the company to provide transportation during disasters, giving lifts to veterans coming back from war zones and providing transportation for those on low incomes who need to get to job interviews.

Collision 2019
Collision 2019: Lyft president and co-founder John Zimmer. Photo Credit: www.cake.co

At a time when we’re beginning to question the high minded altruism of tech companies, those giving back to the community are at least going some way to restoring the balance.

We also know that there are some big issues where tech needs to come to the table. Minister Catherine Mckenna was at Collision looking at how tech is essential in tackling climate change and the threat to wildlife:

“I’m super excited to see Collision focus on the planet because it’s all hands on deck now and it’s literally burning and we need to find solutions. And we need to start people thinking about using the technology out there with the challenges we have to find the solutions we need.”

2. Online Privacy Challenges

Privacy is a hugely contentious issue and tech companies have struggled with it more so recently. This is the sort of conversation that permeates most tech conferences nowadays and it’s never far from a passionate discussion among delegates or a main stage talk.

It’s particularly pertinent with Europe’s new privacy laws and the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR. Any company that does business with European partners needs to adhere to the new rules and have processes in place to handle user data. It’s also likely to be just the beginning for countries putting in regulations that protect the general public as well as businesses and organizations.

At the conference we talked to Minister for Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains who told us where Canada currently is on complying with issues such GDPR and when we can expect changes to localized privacy legislation:

Collision 2019
Minister for Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains (seated far left). Photo Credit: www.wifihifi.ca

 

Collision 2019
Collision 2019: Myself with Minister Bains. Photo Credit: Karthikey Bhargava

“We believe that certainty for businesses and consumers is very important and right now PIPEDA, our privacy legislation is interoperable and adequate with GDPR…We want to focus on the principles-based approach that we currently have with PIPEDA and we think that will also protect individuals, their privacy, but at the same time continue to support innovation.”

3. The Future of AgTech

While blockchain and fintech talk seems to be still taking up most of the air in the room, agricultural tech is beginning to gain ground in tech circles. Driven by cheaper indoor growing processes, the improvement in software to monitor plant growth and advances in machine learning and AI, more AgTech businesses are gaining prominence and making a difference.

The challenges of being able to produce crops to feed a growing global population has been bubbling under the surface for some years now.  Investment manager David Cheng was on stage to give his insight into the sector and why he put money into Plenty, a San Francisco start-up focused on vertical growing.

4. Cryptocurrency and the Blockchain Dichotomy

We’re still in the early days of blockchain but the signs are good if you talk to the right people. Executive Director of Hyperledger, Brian Behiendorf likened it to the early stages of the internet where not everyone is on board yet but that it will soon become as indispensable as being online. Blockchain’s relationship to cryptocurrency, however, is less clear and there weren’t many places in the Collision conference where this didn’t come up and cause an argument or two.

One recent innovation is Akoin which is intended to give young entrepreneurs and artists in Africa access to a fast, reliable and affordable cryptocurrency to stimulate innovation and growth in the world’s biggest growing economy. At Collision, Akon was on hand to explain that it’s more than just cryptocurrency, however:

“The innovations added to the new platform that we’ve got coming on board, which will be prepaid energy to all rural areas in Africa…how that will benefit towards the new system in which they will be able to use Akoin to pay off, not only energy bills but all the other bills they accumulate in the neighbourhood and all their loan systems.”

 

Collision 2019
Collision 2019: Myself with Akon. Photo Credit: Karthikey Bhargava

 

5. AR/VR Finally Surging Forward

Both Augmented and Virtual Reality have been around for some years now without really having that big breakout moment. Yes, many businesses are using it up but uptake by the public as a whole has been more patchy than many tech gurus would like to admit.

A lot of this has to do with creating more improved content that people can easily access. How to take things to the next level was certainly an issue on the stage and on the floor of Collision. The good news is that most delegates are expecting the tech and it’s uptake to surge ahead over the next few months.

Tech For Change

The underlying theme of Collision 2019 conference was tech for change. It was nice to see that, for example, nearly half of the participants who attended were female. That’s a significant change when you consider that tech has been a male-dominated environment for many years.

Issues such as urban development and smart cities aren’t just about clever tech but making it inclusive and working for the general good. Many investors who attended the conference were also quick to point out that they would be putting money into tech ideas that are designed to solve social problems not just make them money.

One major focus of the conference was the number of tech companies that are bringing innovation to the marketplace for many sectors. Among these, is Major Lazar who developed Wisk Ai, an inventory and management system for bars and restaurants which is set to revolutionize the way we order food and drinks.

 

Collision 2019
Collision 2019: It was great to hear Major Lazer speak at Collision 2019. Photo Credit: Karthikey Bhargava

Much of their development is focused on looking outside the box. They’ve even been looking at weather patterns and how these affect business. According to Jillionaire from Major Lazer:

“We had a chain we were working with and we noticed that when it rained more they actually sold more Stella beer. Although Stella wasn’t their primary beer, it was important to know so that we could better forecast so we wouldn’t miss out on sales opportunities.”

Collision Pitch Finalists 2019

There have been some pretty inspiring startups this year and three companies took to the stage for the Collision Pitch Final 2019. Spero Foods are a tech company that is reimagining dairy in a big way, creating plant-based alternatives to eggs and cheese. Korapay sees Africa as the new tech frontier and have developed a brand new fintech platform for affordable and fast money transfers similar to Akoin.

The winner was, however, Loliware which feeds into the growing issue of planet pollution, in particular, plastics that are destroying marine life. 100% plant-based straws may not sound groundbreaking but they are a major step on the way to #plasticfreeoceans.

Collision 2019
Collision 2019: The winner of Collision 2019 Pitch Final was Loliware. Photo Credit: www.thebridge.jp

Over four days, Collision 2019 managed to deliver the best and brightest in tech innovation. While there are many challenges to face, including climate change and sustainability, the future really does look bright.

 

Main Image Photo Credit: Collision Conference 

 

Kartikey Bhargava

Kartikey Bhargava

Author

Kartikey (@kartikey1) is a marketing professional with over 10 years’ experience spanning three continents. He specializes in digital marketing and emerging technology solutions. Kartikey currently works with a Canadian not for profit and is the digital marketing consultant for ANOKHI LIFE.

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