Collision Conference Toronto Round-Up

Last week, Toronto was overtaken with tech. More than 25 thousand participants from 125 countries ascended on the city for Collision Conference, North America’s fastest-growing technology conference. For its Toronto debut, the conference’s communication team celebrated a number of wins, including 730 speakers across 15 tracks, and 45.7% female attendance— a ratio unlikely for tech conferences.

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Collision’s success underlines what we’re already seeing across Canada—that is, a boom of interest and investment in technological innovation. In fact, according to IT World Canada, as the tech industry expands, Canada is predicted to have 216,000 tech positions filled by 2021. With so much activity surrounding the Toronto-Waterloo corridor, it’s no wonder that the area has quickly been dubbed Silicon Valley North.

There was so much to do and see at Collision, but at Electric Runway we’re focused on fashion, retail, and consumer product innovation, so those are the stories we’re bringing to you from this inaugural event. But first, an overview of the conference experience ….

GENERAL OVERVIEW: A FIRST-OF-ITS-KIND FOR TORONTO

Collision Conference was a highly promoted and well-organized event. Leading up to the 19th of May, there were paid ads all over social media. Once you purchased your ticket, there was a pretty comprehensive app available for download. The app allowed you to view the conference schedule, personalize your itinerary, and connect with speakers and attendees.

Once you picked up your badge and arrived on the scene, the show floor at the Enercare Centre was easy to navigate. The event was impressive in size, with a number of politicians and celebrities in attendance, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Toronto Mayor John Tory, actor/entrepreneur Joseph Gordon Levitt, and musician Christopher Leacock, AKA Jillionaire, one of the members of Major Lazer. Some of the larger companies with substantail exhibits included Amazon Web Services, Mailchimp, Cisco, Interac, and The Bank of Montreal (who hosted a Women in Tech lounge).

The vibe was friendly, there were lots of familiar faces in attendance, and the only complaint most attendees had was about the spotty Wifi. Personally, having attended tech conferences all over the world, I never expect the Wifi to work. Collision Conference did go to efforts in advance to make sure the facility had a strong connection, but with more than 25,000 people concentrated in one building, you’re bound to have connectivity issues—which I realize is ironic for a tech conference.

Overall, I would highly recommend this conference if you’re a startup looking to connect with potential clients and investors or if you’re a more established tech company aiming to grow your network and reach. Most of the people I interviewed said it was a really worthwhile event for them. With that said, I’d now like to get in to the top three attractions for me:

1. SETH ROGEN’S HOUSEPLANT & THE HOLLYWOODIFICATION OF EVERYTHING

The first highlight from Collision Conference took place on opening night and has to do with consumer product innovation. Following opening remarks from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, actor, writer, and producer Seth Rogen took the stage alongside his creative collaborator Evan Goldberg. Rogen and Goldberg, who are both originally from Vancouver, British Columbia 🇨🇦, are most known for writing and producing movies like Pineapple Express, Superbad, and the Green Hornet, to name a few. Now they’re starting a cannabis business. Together in conversation with Karan Wadhera of Casa Verde Capital,  Rogen and Goldberg shared more about their company, Houseplant. If you’re not already familiar, Houseplant is an elevated cannabis company. With pot now legal across Canada, there’s a bit of a gold green rush.

You may be thinking, why do we at Electric Runway care about cannabis? The answer is simple: Cannabis is an interesting consumer product to watch right now; It will reshape retail, from e-commerce to brick-and-mortar. Further, Houseplant crystallizes an important trend in consumer products, which is the “Hollywoodification” of everything. We’ve seen this in recent past with cosmetics, as major celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, and Rihanna cash in on their influence while rewriting the rules of the beauty industry. Now, we’re seeing the same thing in the cannabis space.

Other than its celebrity founder, Houseplant is an intriguing company in its mission to destigmatize marijuana use and to educate the public about cannabis. Part of their digital marketing strategy includes clearly labeled products along with retro-style educational videos. The company is also on a mission to advocate on behalf of those who have been negatively impacted or convicted by minor, non-harmful cannabis acts. Read more about their advocacy work here. 

2. STOCKX: A MARKETPLACE FOR THINGS

My second most memorable moment from Collision Conference was listening to Josh Luber on stage. Luber is the co-founder and CEO of StockX, the first ever stock market for things. It sounds complicated, but it’s actually very simple: StockX is an online marketplace where you can buy and sell sneakers, streetwear, handbags, and collectibles. It connects buyers and sellers with one another to make selling a pair of Nike sneakers as easy as selling a share of Nike.

So why is this important? On Electric Runway, We’ve discussed the concept of recommerce before—that is, selling gently used goods secondhand online—but StockX is different in that it’s essentially determining the value of items based on how much people are willing to pay for them. It’s basic supply vs. demand economics. It’s also making it easier than ever for people to trade their commodities for cash.

Further, with StockX opening its first physical location in New York on Lafayette Street as well as a series of pop-ups in London and the United States, we’re witnessing the blurring of the online/offline retail experience. Since StockX determines the value of deadstock items, they’re able to offer on-site authentication and payment processing to sellers, while curating an eclectic environment for shoppers.

3. MAGIC LEAP X H&M: DESIGNING THE FUTURE

Last but not least, my third highlight from Collison Conference when it comes to fashion and retail was Magic Leap’s experience in collaboration with Swedish retailer H&M. Here, attendees were invited to sign up for a limited number of appointments at the Magic Leap booth where they could create their own t-shirt in mixed reality. The experience was powered by Warpin Media, who also worked with H&M on their H&Moschino mixed reality campaign in November 2018. At Collision, using the Magic Leap One, guests would create a custom design by selecting from a number of elements to place on a black t-shirt. Once a guest completed their design, their t-shirt was then screen printed IRL by a team working on-site.

STARTUPS FROM THE SHOW FLOOR

In addition to the above highlights, there were a number of startups that caught my attention.  This week on the Electric Runway podcast, we take you through the show floor at Collision Conference to meet the most innovative startups reshaping the consumer experience:

WIVV WEARABLES X DR. SCHOLLS

Remember that time I had a pair of flip flops 3D printed just for me? Wiivv is a Vancouver-based startup that’s leveraging the power of foot scanning and 3D printing to create custom footwear and inserts. At Collision, they were exhibiting in partnership with Dr. Scholls. Attendees were invited to step up for a custom foot scan to see just how easy it is to order a pair of personalized orthopedic inserts. Learn more about this Canadian startup here.

BOOZER = THE UBER EATS FOR ALCOHOL

From footwear to beverages, the next company we spoke with wants to make it as easy to order alcohol as it is to order food. Describing themselves as “the Uber Eats for Booze,” Boozer is an IoS and Android app that connects consumers of legal drinking age with their favorite beverages for a fee. The company also adds a surcharge and leverages existing delivery services like Foodora to keep their costs low. Right now, Boozer is only operating in the downtown core of Toronto, but Founder and CEO Michael Kniazeff told me they’ll soon be servicing downtown Vancouver, too. Cheers to that! Get the details on Boozer here. 

IMIRROR: INTERACTIVE IN-STORE INTERFACES

While iMirror may seem like just another startup, the company already has deals in the works with big-name fashion brands, including Tommy Hilfiger and Puma. So just what is it, you ask? It’s an interactive mirror that aims to transform your changeroom mirror into a sales tool. Features can include a personal stylist, full catalog integration, and a checkout. Watch the video below for more info and visit the company’s website here. 

SPECSY: 3D PRINTED EYEWEAR

Another Toronto-based startup gaining traction is Specsy. This cloud-based platform enables opticians to design frames for customers in-store. Specsy provides the hardware necessary to capture a quick 3D-scan of clients as well as the software to create custom, medical-grade glasses. Once clients are ready to order, Specsy works with opticians to finalize the frame design and fit before putting the order through a seven-day production process. Frames are 3D-printed to order from their Mississauga facility. Get the scoop on Specsy here.

TRYON: AUGMENTED REALITY JEWELRY FOR E-COMMERCE

Last but not least, I spoke with a startup aiming to solve the challenge of ordering jewelry online. Tryon is an augmented reality try-before-you-buy service that lets you see what rings and bracelets will look like before you order them. Computer vision software lets customers see what ring size they are in advance to reduce the risk of an improper fit. As an increasing number of people shop online, it’s more important than ever to have tools that help consumers navigate sizing, especially when it comes to big-ticket items like engagement rings.

Check out Tryon for yourself here. 

What were your highlights from Collision Conference 2019? Share your thoughts in the comments or find us on socials, we’re @Electric_Runway.

Amanda Cosco
Amanda is a freelance journalist and consultant focused on the intersection of fashion and technology and the founder of Electric Runway.

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