5 Takeaways for Entrepreneurs from Collision Conference

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Innovators, investors and entrepreneurs from around the world descended on Toronto for Collision, the fastest-growing North American tech conference and sister conference of Web Summit and Rise.

Celebrity keynotes from the likes of Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Timbaland and Akon drew big crowds. And with an absolutely jam-packed schedule, the 3-day conference focused on everything from fintech and healthtech innovation to marketing insight to data science to corporate innovation to, well, everything else in between.

So what can entrepreneurs learn from this giant of a tech conference that will help them scale their companies and achieve their vision? Here are 5 tangible takeaways from Collision 2019:


 1. Investors don’t necessarily care about the stage and sector of your company, they care about your idea

According to Brian Singerman, partner at the San Francisco-based venture capital firm Founders Fund, investing is about finding the best companies possible, which is why he is a self-described sector and stage agnostic. “You never know where the best companies are going to come from,” said Singerman during his discussion “Capitalism 2.0."



Singerman also posited that just because something worked in the past doesn’t mean it should work in the future so he doesn’t rely on past success when looking at future investment opportunities.

At the end of the day, he said his decision comes down to a belief in the team he’s investing in and whether they can execute the vision of their product. According to the Harvard Business Review, more CEOs should be sharing their long-term plan with their investors.

Singerman also encouraged fellow investors to work with people who are different from them and find founders who can challenge their assumptions and bring fresh ideas.


2. Data is important — but collecting the right data is paramount

At the panel discussion “Data garbage and data gold: A guide for brands”, Rebecca Kaden a general partner at Union Square Ventures said that for a long time, companies didn’t really care about data, but now all that has changed.

She said companies should go through the following stages when it comes to figuring out proper data collection: 1. How to care about data, 2. How to collect it, 3. How to sort it, and 4. How to use it.

Jaya Kolhatkar, Hulu's chief data officer, said that it’s important to question the value of collecting certain data. The reality is that data collection for companies has evolved from more straight forward uses like risk management to a combination of structured and unstructured data that is used to pick up signals that are meaningful to a business.

That also means learning how to “discern signal from noise” and prevent bias in data by making sure it’s properly analyzed by data scientists in order to create real insights, said Sairah Ashman, global CEO at Wolff Olins.

Ashman also pointed out that the 5th stage of data is for companies to ask: Who owns data?


Read more about data and the newest face of corporate trust and responsibility


According to Kaden, transparency with consumers about how their data is being used is the key. Entrepreneurs must that remember that they are not just collecting data for the sake of it, but are using it to identify what pieces are relevant so that they can deliver on their promise to the customer.

As a data company, Hockeystick is committed to the security of our customers’ data. Every entity on Hockeystick owns their own data and has full control over who the data is shared with. We are also focused on delivering the highest-quality, most organized data on the tech and innovation ecosystem with Hockeystick Database. You can read more about Hockeystick Database here.


3. Your company doesn’t need to be in Silicon Valley or New York to get investor attention

Investors at the panel discussion “Where I’m putting my money in 2019” were asked whether a company’s location matters to them when they’re considering investing.

Jeff Clavier, managing partner at Uncork Capitalsaid that the cost of cities like Silicon Valley and New York is increasingly becoming a barrier for early-stage companies when setting up shop. Clavier says geography simply doesn’t matter to him if it’s a founder he can’t say no to.

He also said that the anti-immigration stance of the U.S. Government has made it harder for founders who have been trained in the U.S. to stay and work and that investors should find ways to support these founders if they have to leave and work in other tech hubs like Tel Aviv, Berlin and Shanghai.

Trae Vassallo, co-founder and managing director at said her focus is on finding people who are thought leaders and are willing to take a risk. She acknowledged that it’s become more common for teams within a company to be distributed across countries because the advancement of coworking tools have made geography practically a non-issue.


4. Consumers have short attention spans — don’t waste their time

Alex Chung, founder of Giphy, the search engine for GIFs, gave some advertising advice to entrepreneurs in his presentation “The big business of small things.”

Chung pointed out that advertising must be short in order to capture an audience’s attention. In fact, the average attention span is 12 seconds, so the best ads are half that time.



He also said that interruption-based advertising should always be avoided and that the smartest brands turn their ads into content. For Chung, anything that connects people is the advertising of the future and if you can make what you’re selling entertaining, people will pay undoubtedly attention.


5. Avoid building a “vampire company”




During his main stage discussion “Is entrepreneurship in crisis?” Shopify founder and CEO Tobias Lütke was asked by The Globe and Mail’s Sean Silcoff whether he sees the next phase of his career — post-Shopify — as a Rockefeller-type character who focuses on philanthropy.

While Lütke acknowledged the incredible philanthropic achievements of John D.Rockefeller in the later stage of his life, he offered a different path that entrepreneurs can take.

He cautioned against building “vampire companies” that only focus on growth and don’t take into account how they might be harmful and how they can give back.

“If you are aware of those possibilities, you can make changes as you build your company so that you don’t have to spend the rest of your time making up for it,” said Lütke.


Deals and discounts from the exhibit floor

Collision also featured an expansive exhibit floor with booths featuring some of the biggest companies in North America. Here’s what some of them were offering early-stage entrepreneurs:

  • Ownr from RBC — Offers a simple way to register and incorporate your business online and build your brand. Get $60 off with the code “COLLISION60”.
  • Air Canada for BusinessGet 15% off one round-trip booking when your company joins. Use the promo code “Collision2019”. Use the same code to get 15% off Flex fares through Air Canada Meetings and Events for a group of 10 or more.
  • Critical Stack from Capital One — An enterprise-focused secure container orchestration platform. The first five nodes launched using Critical Stack are free, with additional nodes $5 per month.
  • Cisco Toronto Innovation Center — A centre to help businesses experiment, test and co-create solutions to solve real-world business challenges. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to submit their ideas.

Collision officially wrapped on Thursday evening, but don't worry, there's always next year. Collision will be returning to Toronto in 2020 and 2021.