Collision 2017: The Anti-CES?

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  • May 4, 2017
  • Mya Wilkes

I’m spending this week at Collision 2017, a tech conference held annually in New Orleans. Collision is a (relatively) small tech conference, and is not quite as well known as its counterparts like SXSW or Mobile World Congress. However, it’s only the second day and I can already see why USA Today calls it “the anti-CES.” Both shows boast an exhibition floor filled with cutting-edge technology companies, but the similarities end there.

Collision is way smaller, for one. Twenty-thousand attendees walked the show floor this year, while CES is known to attract around five times that. As a result, Collision feels frenetic, but manageable. Unlike the opulent, flashy booths for which CES exhibitors are known, Collision booths are simple displays made of plywood. This means that each exhibitor gets equal weight, and an equal chance to distinguish themselves no matter the size of their company. Since the majority of Collision exhibitors are start-ups, the place feels full of potential. It’s an entrepreneurial atmosphere that’s hopeful and disruptive, more akin to a conference like SXSW. My verdict? “The anti-CES” is a really fitting epithet for this tech conference. (No offense intended to CES. We at INK love CES.)

If you’re thinking of attending next year’s conference, I can’t recommend it enough. Collision is perfect if you’re like me, i.e. someone who wants to stay up-to-date on what direction(s) the tech industry is headed. The set-up of the conference space is designed to allow “collisions” between companies, investors, and partners. The conference organizers call this “engineered serendipity.” Additionally, the organizers have made a point to make it as easy as possible for companies to get their name out. For example, the pitch competition takes place front and center on the the exhibtion floor, with a view of the presenting companies from almost every vantage point. And no show would be complete without a mobile app: the Collision app helps companies to find interested investors, and lets you store contact info and chat directly with conference attendees with similar interests.

While the real focus of the conference is networking on the exhibition floor, I spent most of my time in the speaking halls. The halls feature groups of speakers within specific areas, like ad tech or robotics, with rotating presentations every 15-30 minutes. The speeches are partially geared towards educating and informing the entrepreneurs in attendance, but also discuss some of the boundary pushing, “what’s next?” work going on in the industry. I’ve been glued to Planet:Tech (focused on green tech and sustainability), as well as Panda Conf/Creatiff (focused on topics in marketing and advertising). In contrast to the exhibition floor, these speakers generally represent more established companies, like HP and Patagonia. There’s also a bit of star power on the Center Stage. Heavy media presence is another feature of the speaking hall that I loved. A majority of the panels and talks are moderated by journalists, and the first row of the speaking halls is reserved for journalists in attendance.

In the end, I would say Collision is a refreshing mix of the best aspects of both SXSW and CES. I’m walking away from it with a phone full of new contacts, and a renewed passion for the technology industry. Collision is one to check out, if you can make it down to New Orleans in 2018.

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