Collision from Home: Reflections from Across Canada

Rebecca McDonell, Advisor, Partnerships and Strategy, Invest in Canada

Collision technology talent
person watching video conference on laptop computer

When Canada attracted Collision Conference, North America's fastest-growing tech event, the world took notice of a progressive northern neighbour, accelerating start-ups and fueling tech giants with global expertise at an astonishing pace. In 2019, this colossal event occurred outside of the United States for the first time. With great success in Toronto, many of the 25,000+ attendees from across 125 countries began immediately planning their return to Canada in 2020.

As news broke of the global pandemic earlier this year, Canada saw even more reason to open our doors to the global community, bringing together a world adapting to rapid change amidst the largest economic challenge of recent history. Additionally, what better platform to showcase Canada’s resilience, adaptability, innovation and accelerated digital transformation. In March 2020, Collision announced that the conference would go forward virtually in Toronto.

When the world thinks of Canada, a few impressions may come to mind: safe, diverse, inclusive, innovative, collaborative. For these reasons, and many more, Canada’s tech sector thrives. Did you know Canada experienced ten years of unprecedented growth in its technology ecosystem, most recently setting a record with C$6.2 billion invested across 539 deals in 2019? Additionally, tech jobs have grown at an unprecedented rate across Canadian cities. The need for talent is supported through Canada’s streamlined immigration process for skilled workers, allowing global companies the flexibility to rapidly scale-up.

As Canada’s national investment promotion agency, Collision provided a significant platform for Invest in Canada and its partners to showcase a world-class investment promotion community, including our diverse global advantages.

Invest in Canada’s Regional Partner Network

To help navigate all levels of government when expanding business operations, Invest in Canada connects investors with our regional partner network. Spanning three territories, ten provinces and a multitude of cities, each investment attraction partner supports and nurtures investment interests in their region.

In 2019, Collision provided an excellent opportunity to bring these partners together under one roof to showcase Canada’s tech sector and create meaningful relationships. As such, we corralled the investment community at the Collision 2019 Canada Pavilion to provide attendees with access to partners, government departments, industry experts, international delegates, and more.

canada's presence at collision conference 2019

Is the Future of Business Virtual?

Pivoting to a virtual Collision Conference in 2020 presented initial challenges. Although we were unable to provide an in-person experience at a Canada Pavilion, Invest in Canada doubled participation from our regional partner network (30 Canadian investment promotion organizations encompassing 60 representatives) in 2020 to engage, learn and connect with global companies interested in Canadian expansion opportunities through the Collision from Home app.

logos of economic development agencies in canada

As Collision speakers from across industries and the world reflected on business transformation being accelerated by the pandemic, we asked a few of our regional partners to share their thoughts and Canadian tech insights.

Reflections on Collision from Home 2020

Following Collision from Home, what is your prediction of the future of business?

  • I was very impressed with Collision’s virtual platform, in some ways it was better than networking in person. I really see the future being a hybrid model of "traditional" face to face and connecting virtually. –Mark Maclean, Montreal International
  • I was pleasantly surprised as I was able to network more, learn more and experience more than last year! I didn't get 20,000 steps, but I think there will always be a place for virtual connections like these. –Holly Bond, Halifax Partnership
  • Connecting to businesses through a virtual platform has been an incredible experience. This goes on to show that business efficiency can be achieved through an inexpensive solution and more time saving options. –Shuiab Tahir, Government of Saskatchewan
  • This was a very different way of working the room. Embracing this new reality, we were surprised to experience a high level of B2B meetings. Adapting on the fly is always critical, pivoting when necessary even more so. –Michael Rublack & Joel DeWolfe, Opportunities New Brunswick (ONB)

Canadian Tech Facts

  • Waterloo is home to Google's Engineering HQ for Canada. –Catharine Gerhard, Waterloo EDC
  • Montreal is ranked the best student city in North America and sixth worldwide by QS Best Student Cities Index. –Mark Maclean, Montreal International
  • Québec City was ranked among Top 5 North American Ecosystem for Affordable Talent and among Top 10 North American Ecosystem "Bang for Buck" in the Startup Genome Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2020. –Mélanie Abdel-Malak, Québec International
  • We're not San Francisco, New York, London or Tokyo but a local St. John's company, Verafin is the world's largest financial crime management software company. Last fall, Verafin secured the largest growth financings of a Canadian software business—C$515 million in equity and debt recapitalization. In the world of tech, no city or town, no matter how small, can be underestimated! –Ross Houlihan, City of St. John’s
  • Halifax’s Innovation District is home to 2,000+ companies, numerous incubators and innovation hubs—including Volta, a 60,000 sq.ft. space to better serve Atlantic Canada’s startup community. With 40 tech-based ventures, co-working space and access to community partners, Volta is Canada’s largest innovation hub outside of the Kitchener-Waterloo-Toronto corridor. –Hector Fraser, Halifax Partnership
  • Our technology and financial sectors are one of the biggest draws and the largest sectors for international conferences and events to Canada. –Virginie De Visscher, Destination Canada

Investors consistently ask, “What is Canada’s talent retention and availability, quality of skills and how do we compare to tech hubs like Silicon Valley?” How do you respond?

  • Over 70% of Halifax residents have a post-secondary degree. With 10 universities and 13 community college campuses across the province, there is a constant stream of skilled, educated, and diverse graduates ready to support knowledge-based industries. In addition, there are several programs to hire internationally trained workers and international graduates. Companies also have access to our city award-winning Connector Program which matches businesses with new immigrants and graduates. –Hector Fraser and Holly Bond, Halifax Partnership
  • Canadians are natural innovators with strong R&D capabilities, which stem from incredible educational institutes. This translates into high quality talent & ability to attract skilled labor force from around the world. Ease of doing business paired with great investment policies, regulatory and IP protection along with financial incentives draw immense amount of capital into Canada's vibrant technology sector each year. –Shuiab Tahir, Government of Saskatchewan
  • The province of New Brunswick is home to excellent universities and colleges for a highly skilled talent pipeline. To scale, ONB has a Workforce Strategy Team that partners with companies to support talent acquisition locally, regionally and internationally. We beat global jurisdictions on costs which has prompted numerous tech companies set up their development, delivery, and R&D centers here. –Michael Rublack & Joel DeWolfe, Opportunities New Brunswick
  • As a country with the highest educated population in the OECD, Canada offers a hub for attracting, retaining, and nurturing local and global talent. Quebec’s network of research centers includes seven prestigious universities that play an active role in university and industry cooperation. –Archit Dhir, Investissement Quebec

It Doesn’t End Here: Connect with Us

In 2019, Invest in Canada was excited to attend Collision alongside our partners from across Canada, and we were pleased with the opportunity to do so again in 2020 at Collision from Home.

In 2021 and 2022, Toronto will remain the anchor city of this global event and Canada will once again attract top players in the tech sector. In the meantime, Canada’s investment promotion community from coast to coast to coast is agile and maintains support for global companies through virtual platforms—webinars, video calls, virtual events, and social media. Invest in Canada remains steadfast in facilitating investor connections to the right partner anywhere in Canada.

Contact us to connect with our partner network and discuss your tech investment project in Canada.