(Trade) Mission accomplished – now what?
Participating in a virtual mission to one of the biggest tech conferences in North America sounds promising for a Dutch tech startup. But what do you actually get out of it?
In April, nearly 40,000 people attended Collision Conference, the fastest-growing tech conference in North America. The City of Toronto has hosted the conference since 2019. This year’s edition was completely virtual, with more than 1,500 sessions and 600 speakers, speaking about the latest trends and developments in the tech scene.
The Consulate General in Toronto organized a virtual trade mission to Collision for the Dutch tech community, in cooperation with the Netherlands Entreprise Agency (RVO) and Handelsroute. The mission paid special attention to startups: 14 startups were selected to take part in a dedicated mission to kick start their entry into the North American market.
We asked four startups to share their experiences of Collision Conference: Sanneke Mulderink (Tranzer), Peter Engel (Actuals.io), Silke Geerts (COMPO software / PeopleFlows) and Wouter Maagdenberg (TXTOmedia).
To start, why did you want to be part of the startup mission to Collision Conference in the first place?
Peter: We knew that Collision Conference is one of the biggest and best organized events for tech companies. Because of COVID-19 it was an online edition, which gave us the opportunity to join sooner than we normally would have done. Collision Conference offers the possibility to learn about potential roads to enter the Greater Toronto Area and the North Americas, while also offering extensive network opportunities. Our company Actuals.io provides reconciliation and assurance solutions for CFO’s and this was a great way to explore the appetite for our product in this market.
Wouter: TXTOmedia is currently researching how and where to land in North America to expand our activities. Our prime goal to was to meet potential partners and learn from other entrepreneurs.
Sanneke: My company Tranzer, a public transport digital ticketing platform, wanted to join the virtual mission because of the potential to meet a large international network, as we are operating worldwide as well.
Silke: The developments of our spin-out PeopleFlows have made us focus on international trade fairs. Via our contacts at various Dutch embassies, we learned about Collision Conference. We were already enthusiastic before Collision started, because of the way the conference positioned itself and the enthusiasm of the organizers of the Dutch mission.
How did you experience the conference and mission?
Peter: The lineup was great and we really enjoyed being able to watch some of the most successful entrepreneurs and investors in tech. Handelsroute, RVO and the Consulate General made the most out of it in these digital times: we had a Whatsapp group, multiple online Zoom calls with startup founders that allowed us to prepare for the event. For example by providing a pitch training plus tips and tricks provided by local entrepreneurs and the Consulate General. Being part of the Dutch startup delegation left a very positive impression towards other Collision participants but also impressed our clients and our local network.
Wouter: Collision is huge! It is quite a challenge to navigate your way through this online event. You learn about what other companies and people do, how they present themselves, and there is the ability to mingle. For us, it is about learning about the latest tech-trends and specific players. It is not so much a ‘sales event.’ Also, it is always good to bond and present ourselves as a joint Dutch delegation. The organizational support and PR we got this way worked out positively. Additionally, it also helped to get familiar with the support that the Dutch government abroad provides to Dutch companies.
Silke: I agree with Wouter, I found that the conference was more focused on learning, experiencing, discovering and expanding the network, instead of a real 'sales conference'.
Sanneke: Collision is a very interesting and high-quality conference with high-profile speakers. The various themes that were touched upon made it very inspiring. And we were quite proud to be selected as a promising startup!
What did you find the most remarkable about the conference and mission?
Peter: We did not expect to receive more than 3,500 views of our video pitch. Our company Actuals.io received a lot of positive reactions by participants, but also from existing clients and our extended network. Many of them congratulated us for being a part of a select delegation of Dutch startups. Besides that, we had some great conversations with various entrepreneurs.
Sanneke: There were many ways to pitch your company during Collision – the pitch training we received beforehand was very helpful to prepare us for that. I was very pleased that our 40 words pitch was selected to be presented at the conference!
Silke: For me, it was surprising that I ended up participating as a speaker in a round table conversation without knowing beforehand! I was literally sitting at the table and a hundred ‘participants’ heard my input. This gave me a lot of energy and it enabled me to expand my network.
Wouter: It was not our intention to specifically meet with VCs or to raise capital, but the number of investors reaching out to us was interesting to see. We have taken home three things: First of all: new contacts. Secondly, the realization that VCs currently have money to spend. And lastly: Collision is a great online event, but it made us wondering: how much better would the real thing in Toronto be like?
Collision Conference already announced it will hold its conference in June 2022 in the City of Toronto again. So hopefully we’ll have a chance to participate in real life next year!
Interested in doing business in Canada?
Please take a look at the Netherlands Entreprise Agency’s website on Canada here (in Dutch). Or do you want to know more specifically what the Consulate General in Toronto can do for you? Don’t hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, we would love to hear from you!