Collision Conference 2022: Where Innovation and Entrepreneurship Collide

Highlights from Collision Conf 2022



Image credits: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile


On June 20-23, 2022, another edition of Collision Conference, the fastest-growing annual tech conference in North America, was held in Toronto, Canada. After two years of being organized entirely online, this edition was structured in a hybrid format. There was an offline event in Toronto, and live streaming was available for those who could not make it in person.


The conference has been regarded as “the Olympics of tech,” and its more than 35,000 attendees could see the reasons for such a definition. Expert talks, interactive Q&As, masterclasses, lively roundtables and startup pitches spanned a variety of topics from more than 20 content tracks across nine stages.


This setup made it challenging for visitors to choose which talks they wished to join from the plethora happening simultaneously, amplifying the Fear Of Missing Out. For virtual visitors, technological solutions such as a mobile app and streaming platforms delivered a smooth digital experience, allowing them to enjoy the event.


Panel discussions and keynotes


Industry leaders and experts shared their opinions on different topics — from digital health to cryptocurrencies. By listening to the panel discussions and keynotes, attendees could learn about the latest technological inventions, and by visiting companies' booths on the exhibition floor, they could touch some innovative gadgets.


On top of that, those interested could also observe the creation of some technological works in progress. For example, one could witness an NFT being minted on stage, live, on the third day of the conference.


One of the first and most awaited panel discussions was an interview with Catherine Powell, Global Head of Hosting for Airbnb. Catherine joined the company in January 2020, before the start of the pandemic. She had to manage several unexpected consequences facing Airbnb as a result of lockdowns and travel restrictions.


During her interview with Amy Bernstein, Editor at Harvard Business Review, she talked about her experience of navigating the challenges that arose. She mentioned a tough decision to suspend a new business that Airbnb had planned to develop, the importance of focusing only on core businesses, and the identification of new trends in local travel.



Image credits: Sam Barnes/Collision via Sportsfile


Catherine Powell, Global Head of Hosting, Airbnb, left, and Amy Bernstein, Editor, Harvard Business Review.


Given the current state of the cryptocurrency market, it was enlightening to hear expert opinions from the panel discussion “Can global adoption of cryptocurrency ever happen given the volatility in recent months?” Kyle Samani, Co-founder and Managing Partner at Multicoin Capital, Kathleen Breitman, Co-founder at Tezos and Simon Robinson, Global Managing Editor at Reuters, shed light on the potential of crypto.

Image credits: Sam Barnes/Collision via Sportsfile


Speakers, from left, Kyle Samani, Co-founder & Managing Partner, Multicoin Capital, Kathleen Breitman, Co-founder & CEO, Tezos and Simon Robinson, Glovan Managing Editor, Reuters.

With a popular topic like community building, there is bound to be a talk about it. In “Exploring the outer limits of fan loyalty,” the invited experts, Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia; Perkins Miller, CEO at Fandom; and Connie Guglielmo, Editor-in-chief at CNET, examined online communities and their evolution.



Image credits: Sam Barnes/Collision via Sportsfile


Speakers, from left, Jimmy Wales, Founder, Wikipedia, Perkins Miller, CEO, Fandom, and Connie Guglielmo, Editor-in-chief, CNET.


One of the most memorable keynotes was delivered by Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics, who talked about robotics and the possible options to use robots in the present and future. By the way, a dancing robot, which went viral on social media last year, had been produced by this very company.


One insightful observation Robert Playter shared was about two common perceptions of robots by humans. Some people fear robots might bring in a robot apocalypse, while others have a more common reaction. They experience joy because there are many useful or fun things a robot can help a human with.


Image credits: Sam Barnes/Collision via Sportsfile Robert Playter, CEO, Boston Dynamics.


The much-anticipated panel discussion was “Marketing in 2023” with Deborah Wahl, Global CMO at General Motors; Alicia Tillman, CMO at Capitolis; Gonzalo Brujó, Global President at Interbrand Group and Nora Ali, Host of Business Casual at Morning Brew. Senior marketing leaders talked about rising trends in marketing and changes in consumer behavior, hinting at what to look out for in the future.



Image credits: Sam Barnes/Collision via Sportsfile


Speakers, from left, Deborah Wahl, Global CMO, General Motors, Alicia Tillman, CMO, Capitolis, Gonzalo Brujó, Global President, Interbrand Group and Nora Ali, Host of Business Casual, Morning Brew.


Many startup founders put another panel discussion on their event agenda. “Hard truths: the fundraising landscape in 2022” included speakers such as Villi Iltchev, Partner at Two Sigma Ventures; Beth Ferreira, General Partner at FirstMark Capital; Logan Bartlett, Managing Director at Redpoint Ventures and Matt Garratt, General Partner at CRV. It was moderated by Katie Roof, a reporter at Bloomberg.


Questions that interested entrepreneurs, especially those who were going to raise or were in the active process of raising investments, revolved around fundraising and business valuation. Considering the current economic uncertainty, they wondered if now was a good time to fundraise. Would a venture capital investor advise a company to go out and raise, or would it be wise to wait for better times?


Investors said they were not sure whether there might be a better time for fundraising in six months. Beth Ferreira added that “Some companies have to raise. If you, as a founder, can figure out a way to hold on and not to raise, do that.” General advice was, “If a founder can, they should postpone fundraising as long as they can.”

Image credits: Sam Barnes/Collision via Sportsfile


Speakers, from left, Villi Iltchev, Partner, Two Sigma Ventures, Beth Ferreira, General Partner, FirstMark Capital, Logan Bartlett, Managing Director, Redpoint Ventures, Matt Garratt, General Partner, CRV, and Katie Roof, VC Reporter, Bloomberg.


In an interview about the entertainment industry, Johanna Faries, Head of Activision Blizzard's Call of Duty franchise, talked with David Ewalt, Editor-in-Chief at Gizmodo, about the impact the games industry is having on entertainment, pop culture and society – and future plans for Call Of Duty.



Image credits: Lukas Schulze/Collision via Sportsfile


Johanna Faries, (l) Head of Call of Duty, Activision Blizzard, with David Ewalt, (r) Editor-in-chief, Gizmodo.


Startup competitions


Collision Conf 2022 has become the place to attend for more than 700 investors and over 1550 startups, representing dozens of industries from multiple countries.


As often happens at large-scale tech conferences, there was a pitch competition for startups from a diverse range of industries — PITCH. It consisted of a series of live, onstage pitching battles among early-stage startups. Fifty-six exhibiting startups from all over the world took part in this competition over three days in Toronto’s Enercare Centre.



Image credits:Carlos Osorio/Collision via Sportsfile


After overcoming competitive group stages and the semi-final cut, medtech Dot Mind Unlocked, media augmentation platform Modu and fintech Xare came to the final, which took place on Centre Stage on the final day of Collision Conf 2022.

Looking to write its own piece of history, Dot Mind Unlocked claimed the winning title. Its core product The Dot headset, paired with a mobile app, can read brainwaves and use artificial intelligence technology to personalize courses of therapy for individual users.

Besides intensive startup pitches, founders of early-stage companies were invited to join networking meetings and showcase their products in the exhibition area. It was a great opportunity to get noticed by investors, build new business partnerships and receive a wave of entrepreneurial energy, which was felt throughout all conference days.


About the Author:


Svetlana Stotskaya is a marketing consultant with deep expertise in strategic marketing and brand management.