Collision Conference, Toronto: Fueling Inclusivity and Pioneering AI Innovation

**Collision: The Growing Technology Event that is Making Waves**

**Unveiling the Genesis of Collision**

Collision, the renowned tech and deal-making event, recently concluded its three-day conference in Toronto. With over 36,000 attendees from more than 118 countries, this massive event has garnered international acclaim. I had the opportunity to interview Paddy Cosgrave, the visionary behind Collision, to gain insights into the origins, impact, and future of this dynamic gathering of tech enthusiasts and innovators.

Collision, which Forbes has declared as the fastest-growing technology event in North America, is a product of a dedicated team of over 300 individuals. It emerged as a sibling to the highly successful Web Summit, which started in Europe over a decade ago. The first Collision event took place in Las Vegas in 2014 and attracted 5,000 attendees, including Tony Hawk and Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress. Over the years, Collision expanded its reach, moving to New Orleans in 2016 and experiencing exponential growth from 11,000 to 25,000 attendees in just four years. Encouraged by the City of Toronto and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Collision found its current home in Toronto in 2019.

**Championing Diversity and Inclusion**

One of the standout aspects of Collision 2023 was its strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. Cosgrave proudly highlighted the increased participation of women-founded startups, with around 30% of the 1,500 exhibiting startups being led by women. Moreover, more than 30% of the speakers and over 40% of the attendees were women, a remarkable improvement from figures that were closer to 10% in the past. Cosgrave’s dedication to diversity extended beyond gender representation, as he championed initiatives like Amplify, which showcased startups from underrepresented communities. Additionally, the Indigenous Attendee Program provided complimentary full access passes to attendees from Indigenous groups, aiming to increase opportunities and representation.

**Themes and Trends at Collision 2023**

Collision 2023 showcased the evolving trends and themes in the tech industry. One of the most prominent shifts was the transition from the dominance of cryptocurrency to the resurgence of artificial intelligence (AI). Generative AI took center stage, sparking discussions about its potential impact. While the conference aimed to present diverse perspectives on AI, including viewpoints from experts like Geoffrey Hinton, who spoke about the existential risk associated with AI, there remained a contradiction within the context of a tech disruption conference. Cosgrave acknowledged the importance of considering expert opinions while personally remaining skeptical about the existential threat of AI.

**Collision’s Future and Role in Toronto**

Amidst speculation about potential relocations, Cosgrave confirmed that Collision would remain in Toronto for 2024. Two key individuals played a vital role in this decision – Sunil Sharma, who had been urging the Collision team to consider Canada, and former Mayor of Toronto, John Tory. Tory’s efforts to understand the success of Web Summit in Portugal and his encouragement ultimately convinced Cosgrave to choose Toronto as the event’s ongoing location.

Initially, San Francisco was a strong contender for Collision, but the idea faced resistance. Toronto, on the other hand, proved to be a surprising yet fitting choice. Many Silicon Valley professionals had never been to Toronto and failed to see its appeal. However, after the first year of Collision in the city, people began to recognize Toronto’s potential. The city became a welcoming environment for tech companies, with an ever-growing tech sector and favorable conditions for relocation and expansion. Cosgrave praised Toronto’s positive qualities, contrasting it with the significant problems faced by the United States.

**Collision’s Impact Beyond the Conference**

It is evident that Collision’s impact extends far beyond its three-day event. It has become a platform for promoting equity and recognition for startup founders, especially women and underrepresented groups. Cosgrave and his team are change agents, aiming to spark vital conversations about the opportunities and ethics of technology and addressing the societal issues prevalent within the tech industry.

**Celebrating Collaboration and Forward-Thinking**

Paddy Cosgrave’s vision for Collision has established a legacy celebrating the power of collaboration and forward-thinking. Through this event, the tech industry has a platform for progress and positive change on a global scale. Stay tuned for the Collision article series, featuring interviews with new and emerging tech founders who participated in Collision 2023.

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