Highlights from Collision Conference

by
Mona Csada
Published:
July 5, 2022

The Virtual Gurus team was thrilled to attend Collision Conference last month; our first large-scale live event since before the pandemic. It was such a welcome change to greet our partners, clients and investors in person, and to forge new connections with tech leaders from across Canada and beyond. 

Walking into Toronto’s Enercare Centre (Canada’s largest conference venue) to join 37,000 other delegates was overwhelming at first, but the atmosphere was electric once we got over the initial shock.  Here are some of our favourite moments and takeaways from the event.

1. Indigenous innovation

It was a proud and heartwarming moment when our Founder/CEO, Bobbie, and her all-Indigenous, all-female co-panelists took the stage in front of an enthusiastic, packed house on National Indigenous People’s Day. They shared stories of how Canada’s First Nations peoples have long been drivers of innovation and change, and how they are continuing to do so. Bobbie pointed out that there were over 20 Indigenous tech companies present at the conference, up from only one or two a few years ago. 

The panel also agreed that our society has much more to gain from indigenous innovators, but that we first need to break down barriers that are preventing many of the brightest Indigenous voices from being heard. “Our people have been shut out of our economy for many generations, “ said Sheila North, Former MKO Grand Chief of Bunibonibee Cree Nation. “We’re playing catchup.” 

The panel called for organizations to look at their policies and hiring practices, and for investors to re-evaluate the definition of a good founder to make it a more inclusive space. “If every company here hired one Indigenous folk, it would create a massive change,” Bobbie said. 

Watch the full 20-minute discussion here

2. Diverse perspectives

Bobbie and her fellow panelists weren’t the only ones talking about inclusion and representation at Collision. A number of sessions explored themes around diversity, including one focused on venture capital and the investor community, and this power panel of change-makers working to bring an end to discrimination. However, Collision’s organizers stopped short of devoting a whole track to DEI topics; something we’re hoping will change next year. 

Our team gained a greater appreciation for multiple perspectives, simply by working together in our booth. In telling the Virtual Gurus story to visitors, our Sales, Marketing and Client Success teams were able to paint a much clearer picture when we involved each other in the discussions. Visitors could easily comprehend the full VG experience, and we all learned from each other in the process. Organizations (including ours) often talk about cross-functional alignment, but working so closely together at the event really underscored the concept for us.

3. Creative tactics 

I love seeing the creativity of our community come alive at events. A few efforts that stood out:

"Sandwich board” guy

One creative startup took the concept of “walking billboard” to a whole new level. Who needs an expensive booth when you can just walk around wearing a sign with your company name, QR code, and even a call-to-action? That’s what I call “hacking the trade show!”

QR codes everywhere

Speaking of QR codes, you might have noticed that the pandemic has given this humble, scannable code new life as an easy way to enable connections and brand interactions. Not only did we see the codes on collateral and booth walls, but also on staff t-shirts, and even on roving mascots. 

Social influence

Both social media companies and influencers were out in full force  at Collision. For example, Tiktok created a popular immersive experience where visitors could create unique team videos, so of course the Virtual Gurus team had to partake. Our team also met the well-known influencer “Dude with Sign”, who had been hired by a sponsoring company to draw attention to their booth.

4. Celebrity sightings

From bestselling authors and tech superstars to superheroes  and dancing robots, there was no shortage of star power at Collision.  While our team sadly did not arrive in time to see esteemed author Margaret Atwood’s appearance at the opening reception, we did manage to get a selfie with a famous crimefighter. Batman was happy to pose for the cameras with us at the Brampton Innovation District booth (well played, Brampton!). And, the iconic Boston Dynamics robot, Spot, demonstrated its latest capabilities live at centre stage.

5. Community connections

Calgary startups at Goodlawyer's Collision cruise

Collision created one huge “popup” tech startup community for three days, but we also saw the coming together of smaller sub-communities. Our favourite (of course)  was the “Calgary takes on Collision” event created by our fellow Calgary startup, Goodlawyer. In a bold move, they booked a yacht and invited the entire Calgary contingent (including our Mayor and the President/CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce) to cruise Toronto Harbour with them on the evening of Day 1. 

The evening was memorable, not just for the sunset views of Lake Ontario and the Toronto skyline, but for reconnecting with our industry colleagues post-pandemic, and for making new connections that we can continue to nurture now that we’re back home. It was also an inspiring celebration of how much innovation our city is driving. 

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View our events page to see where else you might catch members of the Virtual Gurus crew, and drop us a line if you'd like to meet up.

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Mona Csada

Mona is the Director of Marketing and Communications for Virtual Gurus. She has over 20 years of experience bring brand stories to life and driving sales and marketing results for organizations large and small.

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