Everyone at Collision is talking about Web Summit Vancouver

Feds, province, City of Vancouver pledge up to $14.8 million over three years to Collision’s successor.

As the last Collision kicked off in Toronto this week, the successor to the major North American technology conference, and its new host city, has been the talk of the town.

BetaKit has been tracking Vancouver as a possible Collision destination for over a year since reporting on the myriad issues casting doubt on the conference’s long-term viability in Toronto. Last week, following prodding from BetaKit, Web Summit confirmed that Vancouver reached a three-year deal to host a rebranded event dubbed Web Summit Vancouver, funded by up to $14.8 million CAD combined from the federal, provincial, and municipal governments. The first Web Summit Vancouver will be held at the Vancouver Convention Centre from May 27 to 30, 2025.

“Knowing that we have this incredible tech scene that doesn’t seem to be really known in some corners of the world, this was a perfect opportunity to marry what we do in terms of building the visitor economy and Web Summit, which is truly an experience,” Destination Vancouver president and CEO Royce Chwin said during a June 14 event hosted by KPMG celebrating the successful bid.

“Vancouver is literally taking Collision from Toronto to the West Coast.”

Ali Clarke, MC at the Vancouver Takeover event

The celebration carried into Collision’s opening night on June 17 at the Frontier Collective “Vancouver Takeover” event, which featured Web Summit head of Asia Pacific Casey Lau, Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim, tech leaders from across the country, including the people behind the winning bid. “Vancouver is literally taking Collision from Toronto to the West Coast,” said Ali Clarke, the event’s MC.

“The cool thing about Collision is most people outside of tech—in fact, almost everyone outside of tech—don’t have a fucking clue as to what’s going on, but they will because we have three years to wave the flag,” Sim said on stage. That flag, he said, represents that Vancouver is “open for business,” understands tech, and has a strong and growing innovation ecosystem.

Speaking on stage alongside Sim at the Vancouver Takeover, Lau said, “It’s just a fantastic city and I think that it’s a great backdrop for a conference, and what is going on in Vancouver is great for people to see.”

“We’re just really happy that we’re able to keep [the event] in Canada because it was leaving the country,” Sim told BetaKit in an interview following his remarks, pointing out that Vancouver beat other possible host cities, including international candidates like Mexico City. Sim previously told BetaKit that the priority was keeping the conference in Canada, a sentiment that Chwin echoed in his own comments to BetaKit.

In an interview with BetaKit, Lau singled out Vancouver’s growing tech ecosystem, beautiful natural landscape, proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area, and Sim’s support for the tech sector as some of the factors that brought the tech conference west.

“That’s an important part, I found, with all the Web Summits,” said Lau. “The mayor has to be a champion and has to love tech.”

For his part, Sim expects Web Summit Vancouver to raise the profile of Vancouver’s tech ecosystem on a global stage. “When the world comes to Vancouver over the next three years, they’re going to see amazing things, and it’s going to take Vancouver and the country to a whole new level, so we’re super stoked about it,” he said.

RELATED: Vancouver will host rebranded Collision in 2025 and beyond

“It is an event and a spectacle that will increase the profile of the city, and I think that’s a good thing,” Vancouver Tech Journal founder and Startup TNT BC lead William Johnson told BetaKit in an interview. 

The sentiment was echoed by Sim and other Vancouver tech ecosystem members BetaKit spoke with at Collision. “Vancouver’s innovation ecosystem is going through an inflection point and on a path to become a global leader … The investment, access and platform building will give our ecosystem the energy it needs to thrive on global stage,” Frontier Collective co-founder and CEO Dan Burgar told BetaKit.

“I hope you are all as excited as I am about meeting together next year in the beautiful and innovation-driven West Coast of Canada at Web Summit,” BC minister of jobs, economic development, and innovation Brenda Bailey said during a June 18 press conference at Collision.

Vancouver previously pushed for Collision before 2019, competing alongside Toronto to bring the tech event to Canada. The city began exploring the possibility of luring Collision to Vancouver once more last year before the conference inked a one-year Toronto extension.

Last summer, investigative reporting from BetaKit revealing the extent of municipal support for the original Collsion Toronto bid, as well as the ask to renew for another three years at a much higher price, kickstarted a national debate on government support of international ventures versus home-grown alternatives. This time, the supporting governments have been proactive in disclosing how much has been committed to bringing the conference to Vancouver, as well as its value proposition relative to local events like INNOVATEwest.

RELATED: With Collision nearing a one-year Toronto extension, efforts are mounting for a West Coast alternative

In an interview with BetaKit, Chwin attributed this transparency to an “ethos in the partnership,” adding, “We will be transparent where we can about sharing of the dollars and how they’re coming in and who they’re coming from.”

Unlike the Collision bid in Toronto, other levels of government have stepped in to lend a hand. BetaKit confirmed that the Government of BC also gave $200,000 to Destination Vancouver to support bid development efforts from a team comprising Bill Tam, David Gratton, Lisa Payne, and Kassandra Linklater.

The City of Vancouver is providing Web Summit Vancouver with up to $1.6 million over three years, including a $250,000 first-year cash grant via Destination Vancouver, waiving permits worth up to $355,000 annually to host events in city-owned outdoor areas, and up to $75,000 in-kind annually to offset safety and running costs incurred for providing those venues.

Through PacifiCan, the Government of Canada is providing Web Summit Vancouver with up to $6.6 million over three years. The Government of BC has also pledged $6.6 million over three years to the event.

These federal, provincial, and municipal commitments total up to $14.8 million over three years, less per year than the $6.5 million BetaKit previously reported Collision was receiving annually in Toronto and a far cry from the north of $40 million over three years that BetaKit previously reported that Collision had once sought to stay in Toronto.

Web Summit Vancouver press conference at Collision 2024.

Web Summit Vancouver 2025 is expected to be much smaller than Collision 2024. While the parties involved are not yet willing to share attendance expectations, the event will need to contend with the same issues that undermined Vancouver’s original push for Collision—namely, the city’s lack of hotel space.

As to how Vancouver plans to navigate those infrastructure constraints, including the city’s hotel capacity and recent Airbnb ban, Sim said, “We’re entrepreneurial. We’ll figure it out.”

Despite the existence of INNOVATEwest and other local events, Chwin said Destination Vancouver heard from industry players that there was a desire to have a major, global-scale event in the city, and ultimately determined that Web Summit Vancouver was additive.

Nearly six months after resigning following his controversial statements about the Israel-Hamas war on social media, Web Summit co-founder Paddy Cosgrave returned as CEO this April. Asked how Cosgrave’s behaviour and association factored into the process, Chwin indicated that the economic and socioeconomic impact of an event like Web Summit Vancouver “outweighed” the controversy associated with Cosgrave.

“We’re entrepreneurial. We’ll figure it out.”

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim

For his part, during a press conference today at Collision, Sim said, “I do want to thank Paddy, you, Casey, [and] your entire Web Summit team for giving us the opportunity to host Web Summit and to show the world why Vancouver is the best city on the planet.”

Asked what tangible impact he expects Web Summit Vancouver to have, Sim told BetaKit that the numbers are evolving but noted he anticipates “hundreds of millions of dollars” of investment into the local economy and more tech organizations to set up shop in the city, among other benefits.

In its official announcement, Web Summit said that Destination Vancouver anticipates Web Summit Vancouver will generate $172 million in direct spending and $279 million in overall economic impact for the province. Destination Vancouver confirmed to BetaKit that those figures were Destination Vancouver’s projections for the first year, tripled by Web Summit.

“Some people will argue about whether or not it’s a good investment from the government to fund it, what will the impact be on [Vancouver]—good or bad—or does the city have the capacity to execute a large-scale event like this?” noted Johnson. “I think that’s irrelevant now. It’s coming to the city, so the big question for founders and investors and organizations and sponsors is how do you take advantage of it? How do you make the most of the opportunity that’s been put in front of you?”

With files from Douglas Soltys and Aaron Anandji.

Feature image courtesy Web Summit.

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh Scott is a BetaKit reporter focused on telling in-depth Canadian tech stories and breaking news. His coverage is more complete than his moustache. He was also the winner of SABEW Canada’s 2023 Jeff Sanford Best Young Journalist award.

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