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At Collision, Networking is King


At the Collision Conference, it's all about seeing and being seen.

Unlike a typical developer conference -- with its keynotes, breakout sessions, and hands-on labs -- Collision's focus is on getting start-ups, investors, and technologists in the same room to see what happens. And it's literally one room. A large hall at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans was split up into different areas, centered around a mass of start-ups in the middle.

Those start-ups were divided into three groups: Alpha, Beta, and Start. Each day, a new set of companies held court at a booth where they can interact with investors and other start-ups. But there's a cost. For example, one Alpha start-up paid $1,700 for their space which provided them with four event tickets and access to office hours and mentor hours.

On the outskirts of the room are three stages, two of which have changing themes. One stage, for example, focused on sports on day one, building things on day two, and turned into "Start-up University" on day three. Each "session" is actually a 20 minute talk. Sometimes it's a traditional talk where a single person teaches, but more often these sessions took the form of a panel discussion.

There's also PITCH stages where start-ups quickly present their ideas and face a gauntlet of questions about those ideas. One is ultimately declared the winner.

But it's all about the networking.

After the stages are closed for the day, the focus is on the Night Summits and the Pub Crawls. Fanning out in bars and restaurants around the city, it gives attendees another avenue to network in a less formal environment.

In a post by Collision founder Paddy Cosgrove, he says that "networking is king".

We "engineer serendipity" at the scale of thousands of attendees. Put another way, the people at your table or on your pub crawl at Collision are neither a random collection of attendees nor a manually curated group of attendees, but rather the product of algorithms.

Ernesto Larios, Executive Vice President of VeepWorks thinks the after hours events give attendees a chance to see a different side of the people they're doing business with:

The night events were really nice. I think, more than anything, [the events] provided a different state of mind for people to do business in. When we're at the conference center, some folks are in their 'present mode' and their 'hustle mode'. When they get outside of that, they find themselves in a more relaxed way. They're able to interact and dialog as human beings. You can fix financials, you can grow an idea, but you can't change the people.

For investors, there's more than one reason to check out the start-up scene. One investor told InfoQ that they look at start-ups, not necessarily because of what they do, but because of their data:

Most companies that are evolving today generate a lot of data as an integral part of their business. We try to find companies whose data might be an asset that we could leverage to help understand the world a little better and make more well-informed investment decisions.

This year, Collision had over 11,000 attendees, 630 startups, 510 media, and 407 investors. To boost the number of women attendees, conference organizers gave out 10,000 free tickets to women across the four events they put on. Sarah Mohamed Ahmed Aly, CEO of YourGate and an attendee from Egypt was one of the recipients of a free Women in Technology ticket and said she was excited about meeting others and learning:

I think the Start-up University would be great to see how I can develop myself and have a good impact on my start-up. In Egypt, we're a little bit behind in technology and I thought [Collision] would be a great opportunity to come and see what other people in other countries are up to.

For next year's event, free Women in Technology ticket nominations are now available.

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