Collision cancels 2020 in-person conference over COVID-19 fears

Collision 2019

Collision, the major North American tech conference set to be held in Toronto for its second year, announced on Friday that it has decided to cancel the event over concerns for COVID-19.

Collision cited the “uncertainty facing a large number of public events around the world due to the progression of COVID-19” as the reason to cancel all in-person events and move online.

“We made the decision in an abundance of caution given the international nature of the tech industry.”

The annual tech conference that began its three-year stint in Toronto last year, was set to take place June 22 to 25. Collision had already announced the first 100 speakers, stages, and sold tickets for the event. The conference is currently offering refunds for anyone who had already bought tickets and offering to have tickets automatically transferred to Collision 2021.

“We have been liaising closely with our host city, Toronto, for many months, and have also followed advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC),” Collision said of its decision. “Last night, we made the decision in an abundance of caution given the international nature of the tech industry, and size and scope of the Collision conference. While disappointed, we determined the time to make this decision was now, rather than closer to our June in-person event.”

“While it is regrettable to share that Collision will be unable to physically take place this year, in parallel to making this tough decision, we were prompted to think about ways we can adapt, while still providing a valuable attendee experience,” Collision wrote in its public statement sent to attendees.

The tech conference, which brings in tens of thousands of attendees from across the globe, plans to host the event online, calling it Collision from Home. Ticket holders will be able to “attend” Collision at Home for free.

“Attendees have networked, connected and chatted using our apps, as well as watched all our talks live online,” Collision stated. “Though the software was originally built to enhance attendees’ offline experience, we believe we are in a good position to develop it to a point where we can host Collision from Home.”

The cancellation of Collision follows a string of other event cancellations in the tech world, including Google and Microsoft, which cancelled some of their biggest events of the year earlier this week. The cancellations have affected many in the business and tech world who are travelling to events, only to have them not take place.

In Canada, Shopify cancelled all “in-person elements” of Shopify Unite, its annual conference for partners and developers. Last week, Facebook cancelled its developer conference, which was set to take place on May 5 and 6. This follows the cancellation of Mobile World Congress, which was set to take place in February. While not a tech event, there have also been growing concerns that the Olympics, set to be held in Tokyo later this year, may have to be cancelled as well due to its global nature.

Fellow Toronto tech event Elevate is set to take place in September, three months after Collision. When reached for comment about whether or not COVID-19 had changed the organization’s plans for Elevate, an Elevate spokesperson told BetaKit that the annual tech festival was “moving ahead as planned,” given that the event is six and a half months away. “We will continue to monitor the situation and take our lead from officials at Toronto Public Health,” the spokesperson Elevate said.

The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a pneumonia of unknown cause that originated in China on December 31 and has now spread to almost 50 countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global public health emergency on January 30, but notes that “most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others.” According to the WHO, there are currently more than 95,000 cases globally. As of March 5, 45 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Canada.

Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Collision via Sportsfile

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Associate Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.