Subscriber Survey

Collision the most valuable tech conference in Canada by far, say The Logic subscribers

Al Gore, the former U.S. vice-president, speaks at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans during the first day of Collision’s 2018 conference. Collision/Instagram

The Logic’s subscribers are anticipating that Collision will be the most valuable conference for attendees this year.

Fifty per cent of those who responded to the March survey chose the Toronto-based conference, which bills itself as the fastest-growing tech conference in North America and is coming to Canada for the first time in May.

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The results are from The Logic’s March 2019 subscriber survey. A private link was sent to subscribers by email and the survey was conducted online. All respondents were kept anonymous and duplicates were removed as needed. Our subscribers were asked to provide responses to a series of questions. For this question, subscribers were asked to choose up to three conferences they found the most valuable. The question was “Which conference(s) do you think will prove to be most valuable for attendees this year? (You can pick up to three)”

A growing number of tech conferences take place in Canada each year. To identify the most valuable of those events, subscribers were asked to pick up to three conferences from a list of 17, or suggest one not on the list. Toronto-based Elevate came in second place with 30 per cent, followed by Waterloo’s True North at 27 per cent.

One subscriber said they chose the latter conference because it had the “best insight into an ecosystem.”

None of the other conferences received over 20 per cent. Three got no votes.

The top three conferences all bring in influential and high-profile speakers. Speakers at Collision this year include Jean-François Gagné, co-founder and CEO of Element AI; Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former chief security officer; and the singer-turned-cryptocurrency founder Akon. Elevate and True North have had speakers like former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Pando founder Sarah Lacy between them.

Collision differentiates itself through the number of well-known speakers it features. It has over 400 this year, many of whom are known internationally. True North had just under 60. Elevate had around 330.

Collision also has far more attendees than the other conferences—it had 25,000 attendees in 2018. The second-largest, Elevate, hosted 10,000 people in 2018.

True North was the outlier. Although it came in third place in terms of subscribers’ favourite, it had just 2,500 attendees in 2018. Other conferences with larger audiences ranked lower. Montreal-based Startupfest had 7,000 attendees in 2018 and came in sixth place. #BCTech Summit, which had 3,000, came in fifth. True North features timely, general-interest programming—2018’s event discussed issues like ethics in artificial intelligence—and popular speakers, like Charlie Brooker, creator of the show “Black Mirror.” True North is also one of the newest conferences, having launched in 2018.

Tech conferences are an opportunity for startups and investors to scope potential partnership and funding opportunities that they might not have access to otherwise. It’s one of the reasons why Web Summit—Collision’s European sister conference—is one of the largest tech conferences in the world; it had 70,000 attendees at its Lisbon event in 2018.

The Logic has been, or is currently a media partner, for several tech events, including Collision, Elevate, True North, Venture Out and CIX Summit.

Collision will take place from May 20 to 23; it will remain in Toronto for at least the next three years. The next three years of conferences will bring over 90,000 attendees to the city, with an economic impact of $147 million, according to Collision. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed the event’s arrival in a video in 2018.

The rest of the conferences tended to be smaller and have less of a general focus. Toronto-based FinTech Canada Conference, which focuses on innovation in financial services,  received 17 per cent of the votes. Vancouver-based #BCTech Summit, which showcases the province’s tech industry, had 13 per cent. Toronto’s Venture Out Conference, which connects the LGBTQ+ tech community and also encourages workplace inclusivity, got 10 per cent. They also tend to have fewer attendees than the other larger conferences—FinTech Canada, for example, brought in 500 people in 2018; Venture Out had 550.

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Neither Drive nor TakeOver Conference received any votes, but both are relatively new. The former had its first conference this year. The latter was founded in 2017, and 2019’s iteration is invitation-only. However, CIX Summit also didn’t receive any votes. That’s despite having launched in 2007 and featuring high-profile industry figures, like Barbara Dirks, head of Silicon Valley Bank’s Canada division, and John Ruffolo, former OMERS Ventures CEO.

Other conferences subscribers mentioned that weren’t included in the survey were #movethedial Global Summit and the Banff Venture Forum. The former was held for the first time in November 2018, focusing on advancing women into leadership roles in tech. The latter bills itself as “Canada’s premier company financing event,” and, in 2018, brought in more than 40 venture capital firms and over 50 presenting companies to 350 delegates. It discusses industry-specific issues—like leveraging venture capital and current investment trends—and offers networking opportunities.