Vancouver Tech Journal reflects on four wild days at Collision Conference
Key takeaways from an event where Vancouver stole the show.
Like most tech professionals with a company willing to pay their flight and hotel costs, the Vancouver Tech Journal team was present and correct at Toronto’s Collision Conference. From an opening night stacked with star power – Vancouver’s Roham Gharegozlou took to the stage alongside heavy-hitters Margaret Atwood and Lupita Nyong’o – to multiple two-a.m. parties across the event’s four days, the conference was one of the first in-person gatherings for the national tech community. And it was clear from the energy how much it had been missed.
A week after the conference, our writers finally have recovered (read: caught up on their
emails sleep), and are ready to reflect on the experience.
Toronto is often viewed as the “centre of the universe” in Canada, but at Collision Conference, Vancouver was both well-represented and threw its weight around. The audacity of all these Vancouverites taking over Collision’s home turf in Toronto? But that’s exactly what they did.
Vancouver’s Frontier Collective, a coalition of leaders in tech, culture, and community driving forward the development and support of Vancouver’s tech scene, got the party started with a sold-out event in Toronto’s Distillery District. The event saw over 500 attendees keen to learn about the ecosystem. In addition, the audience was given a first look at a new eight-part documentary about the metaverse and Web3 for CBC, which features a number of Vancouver-based personalities.
As well as hosting events, Vancouver tech leaders were on the stage at Collison. Marlon Thompson, founder and CEO of Future Capital, spoke on a panel about making Canada a technology powerhouse and the best ways to maintain that momentum. Thompson told the audience that a major selling point of Canada as a place to build in the tech space is its diversity and the willingness of the ecosystem to be supportive and collaborative. This is evident in his work at Future Capital, as he seeks to create equity in startup investing, and was a broader theme of Collision, as governments from an array of jurisdictions sought to promote Canada as The Place To Be for tech companies and entrepreneurs, particularly due to our less strict immigration requirements. He pointed to the speed at which funding deals happen in Canada (compared to the U.S.) as a way to make gains to maintain our competitive edge.
Vancouver is viewed as the Web3 capital of the world, which makes the perfect argument for why Dan Burgar, co-founder Shape Immersive and CEO of Frontier Collective, spoke to conference-goers about whether the metaverse was all hype, or the future. While debates are ongoing about the broader utility of Web3, there is general consensus about the technology being beneficial for creators: a point that Burgar made on stage. “It's really the democratization of the creator economy, and really the ‘3D internet’ – that’s how I explain it to people who are really new into it,” he said. In his view, broader metaverse and Web3 adoption will begin to take place in three-to-five years, but will really thrive if creators are thoughtful and intentional with the items, personas, and worlds they’re creating in the metaverse, so as not to recreate the real world on the blockchain.
With its sell-out, 35,000-attendee crowd, Collision Conference might be North America’s largest technology gathering, but it’s not all about tech. And that’s a good thing.
Collision understands that the industry isn’t just building software and hardware. It’s about creating new worlds. As BC Tech Association president and CEO Jill Tipping likes to remind us, every company is a tech company – or, more specifically, tech touches all people and all industries. Executives, developers, and everyone in between must understand what worlds they’re building, and what the impacts of those designs are on the people who will live there. And that was Collision’s forte this year.
Alongside the Crypto, FullSTK, HealthConf, Growth Summit, and other stages, Collision hosted a series of Future Societies panels, exploring everything from whether AI can end employment discrimination to the path ahead for truth and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. The Fourth Estate stage, too – home base for a number of the 700 members of the media at Collision – talked how to fix toxic discourse and misinformation, censorship, and the future of storytelling.
That’s not to say that hard tech didn’t feature. Hardware, hard coding, and hard questions were ubiquitous across the shop floor, tackling everything from whether governments should break up big tech to how IOT can save the rainforest. Alpha and beta companies brought their prototypes, and beyond the usual trade-show swag, attendees played with products at the cutting edge of Canadian and international innovation. (I know I failed the cybersecurity booth’s lock-picking game an embarrassing number of times.)
Move from each location, and audiences experienced a different tranche of tech entrepreneurs. The MoneyConf stage? Think suits and jackets. Creatiff? Everyone at the event with blue hair. The Fourth Estate room? Kind eyes and crinkled blazers. And all across the conference, in the halls and lining up outside at the food trucks, the people from these different silos meeting, exchanging LinkedIns, and shaking hands.
It feels too easy to call the event a collision, so I won’t make that pun.
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