Our 2021 Collision Roundup


Our 2021 Collision Roundup

By Joe Canavan (CEO, NEXT Canada)

Wow, what a week! Last week, Collision, one of the world’s biggest tech conferences, overtook the internet with their virtual conference. While we miss the buzz and excitement of a live conference, the great thing about being virtual is that we’re able to connect with people we otherwise would not have met. 

This year, Collision hosted over 38,000 attendees from over 141 countries. With over 600 events and speakers ranging from entrepreneurs, to sports stars, to world leaders, there was a little something for everyone. The diversity of events was well reflected within our team, with these talks being some of our top picks.

With this being the second year Collision is fully virtual, there’s no denying that COVID has had an impact on the tech industry. It has accelerated some trends, shifted some behaviours, and has even made some items obsolete. Here are some of the key themes that I saw with the events our team attended:

1. Listening to and understanding your customer is key to being successful

This was true before COVID, and it’s still true now. If anything, it’s even more important as COVID has brought on a rapid migration to digital technology, causing customers’ expectations to be higher than ever before. 

Alex Wang, CEO and Founder of Scale AI, said it best during his talk, “if you don’t collect data today, you’re stealing from the future”. With the shift to digital, customers are giving companies more data than before, and making less excuses when things go wrong. Customers expect you to know them and to give them what they need, otherwise, they’re gone in a blink of an eye.

Snapcommerce co-founder and NEXT alum, Henry Shi, also witnessed this during their journey to getting profitability back in a snap. Similar to many other companies, Snapcommerce saw a sharp drop in their revenues at the start of COVID. Throughout Henry’s talk, it was apparent that their decisions always came back to the question, “is this what our customers want?”. By knowing their customer and making pivots based on user data, Snapcommerce was able to make a comeback stronger than before.

2. Scaling a startup is a team effort, and let’s be honest, it’s more fun with people by your side

At NEXT, we’ve witnessed many different ways to start a company. Some go down the single founder path while others go down the co-founder path, but when it comes to scaling, it can be compared to a team sport.

A founder or co-founding team is equivalent to a sports team’s captain, and similar to a sports game, a few people can’t do it all. A team needs people with different strengths to fill different roles. For example, a goalie’s role is different from those playing forward positions. While a goalie can play other roles when needed, their skills are best suited for defending.

A startup is no different. As a company grows, it will have different needs and will naturally require more people to complete different tasks. Team members can wear different hats, though they will have specialities that they really excel at.

While having a team means that there’s support during the hard times, it also means that there’s people to celebrate with during the good times. One of the things that COVID has shown us, is that humans are social beings and we need people in our lives. As Eva Wong, Co-founder and COO of Borrowell, so simply phrased it in her talk, “it’s more fun when others are along for the ride”. 

3. Self-care and mental health should be everyone’s top priority

One of the most resounding messages at Collision this year was the importance of mental health. The themes of empathy, self-care and time management were recurring in all talks, regardless of the talk’s main focus.

Judith McKenna, President and CEO of Walmart International, shared some words of wisdom in her talk, which strongly resonated with our team; “you’ve got to manage your energy, not your time.” I’ve been constantly encouraging our team members to take breaks, and I hope Judith’s words help reframe what ‘time management’ means for them.

Overall, Collision this year was fascinating and I’m grateful that so many of our team members were able to attend. If you want to watch any of the events I mentioned, Collision has archived all their talks this year, so you’re able to watch them on demand. 

Even though Collision 2021 just ended, we’re already planning for Collision 2022! If you missed it this year, they’ll be back in Toronto next year and we’ll hopefully get to see you there!