Corp Comm Connects

Coronavirus pushes huge tech conference York Region part of to go virtual

Collision is a great opportunity for York Region to boost its international exposure
March 12, 2020
Dina Al-Shibeeb

Last year was a big one for Toronto! The city hosted -- for the first time -- Collision, a huge conference for technology enthusiasts that 3,750 CEOs from around the world attended.

Collision drew about 25,000 participants from more than 120 countries in May 2019. Big names from Microsoft, Samsung and other venture capital executives, as well as entrepreneurs, showcased their latest innovative ideas amid fierce international competition -- especially when it comes to attracting talent and countries trying to run faster in the artificial intelligence race.

There is still enthusiasm for Collision to make its second appearance in Toronto. But, after the World Health Organization declared March 11 that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was a pandemic, conference organizers have decided to go online.

“While it is regrettable to share that Collision will be unable to physically take place this year, in parallel to making this tough decision, we were prompted to think about ways we can adapt, while still providing a valuable attendee experience,” wrote Collision organizers.

“We want to make a commitment: Collision will still take place, but online, as Collision from Home,” they added. “While disappointed, we determined the time to make this decision was now, rather than closer to our June in-person event.”

Those who purchased tickets to Collision 2020 will gain admittance to Collision 2021, and may attend this year’s virtual event, free of charge.

They added, “Given the uncertainty facing a large number of public events around the world due to the progression of COVID-19, we have made the very difficult decision to postpone Collision from taking place until June 2021.”

Collision organizers acknowledged that months they had spent liaising with the host city, Toronto, but had chosen to defer to “advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).”

Collision, which was expecting 30,000 attendees (about 5,000 more than last year), is deemed as a great opportunity not only for Toronto, but for York Region’s tech companies to showcase their products to the world.

In 2016, York Region unleashed its marketing strategy to further boost brand recognition of “Made in York.”

“The goal of York Region’s collaborative technology showcase at Collision Conference 2020 was to build on the success of our presence at Collision 2019 and further solidify brand recognition of York Region and its municipalities as a key location for tech sector business, innovation and talent in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada and internationally,” Stephanie Crowley, a corporate communications advisor at York Region, said in an email.

“The 2020 #YRtech experience pavilion was to include nine leading tech sector companies/organizations as well as three municipalities as exhibiting sponsoring partners,” Crowley added. “Other tech businesses and municipalities were to participate through various marketing activations as well.”

Last year, York Region, which has the “second largest” tech cluster in Canada, saw the participation of nine “early stage” startup companies, mainly from Markham and Vaughan.

At its pavilion, the region showcased its local innovators, such as York University, Seneca, Venture Lab, and local tech companies, which included Bluewrist, Book4time, CI@Net, ClearBridge, Daisy Intelligence, Laipac, Mircom and Unx.

“With the move to a virtual conference, we will be working with each partner individually to determine appropriate next steps, including the possibility of transferring the in-person activation to 2021,” Crowley added.

For its 2019 participation, Crowley said, “We received very positive feedback from our exhibiting partners regarding the level of business connections, talent attraction, visibility and media exposure.”

“As a leading corporation in the GTA’s booming tech sector, York Region made the decision to continue this partnered marketing activity for another year.”