ESOMAR attending Collision - Part 1.

And off to Toronto, Canada we go...
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Date 21 June
Author Xabier Palacio

Collision, the fourth largest tech event in Northern America, according to the organisers, opened its doors on 20 June to welcome more than 35,000 techies, IT developers, data analysts, AI coders, SaaS start-ups, and all sorts of companies protecting, understanding, serving, or enhancing humans. Once in the arena, among this eclectic group of professionals, it is not hard to see the opportunity that lies in front of ESOMAR to guide and influence the behaviour of these disparate sectors, while utilising the solid foundation that the organisation, and the industry it serves, has built over the past 70 years. As Roham Gharegozlou, CEO at Dapper Labs, noted in his presentation, “those who build the future have the power to shape that future.” Nothing could be more applicable to ESOMAR.

Those who build the future have the power to shape that future.

Roham Gharegozlou, CEO at Dapper Labs

The event started with a quick round of start-ups, reminiscent in my mind of the PechaKucha presentations that ESOMAR offers at Congress to elect the winner of the best Young ESOMAR Society (YES) pitch. And, just like the YES ideas, the variety of entrepreneurial proposals at Collision was astonishing. Businesses ranged from visually identifying the needs of crops through biological tints easily observed from afar (from drones to planes to satellites), to a SaaS solution to simplify and streamline the creation of financial reports for start-ups, to ideas about protection and monitoring of the natural landscape that indigenous communities call home, or to professionally teach, train and enrol these communities, or a set of unassuming sensors to improve posture and prevent injuries through monitoring the body when practising sports, an ethically-primed conversational software taught through AI, or a platform to create private-label credit cards for small businesses. A river of ideas that gives a glimpse of what the future is to become.

As Margareth Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, expressed in her intervention, even though the younger generations feel that they are dealing with difficult times (armed conflicts, pandemics, financial instability, followed by a long list of other grievances), the world is living in a time where we have at least two out of the four elements to solve any difficult situation: means, knowledge, willpower, and luck. Today, we know what means we need to have to succeed and we are developing this knowledge at a huge speed. All that is missing is the willpower, particularly amongst politicians, she said, and a bit of luck. Life was way more difficult back in 1939, the year she was born, than it is today. Optimism, thus, is not faltering.

The introductory session ended with Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o giving yet another example of Yung Wu, the CEO of North America's largest incubator, MaRS Discovery District, taking a lot of time to explain that diversity of lives experiences drives diversity of thought. This sentence is sure to remain in my mind throughout the duration of Collision, as I see cutting-edge professionals from all over the world explain how they deal with data and information. Lupita explained how loving innocent cartoons like Scooby Doo as a child in Kenya allowed her to easily understand the humanity behind the characters. However, she would have liked as well to have had a role model that looked more like herself, not only to understand this human element, but also to learn sooner how to love herself. She believes that the future of storytelling is much more interactive than “presentational.” But the core lessons on kindness and compassion will most likely remain.

The more we discover about the ground-breaking work of start-ups and the more we learn about the path data analysis will take in the next decade, the more ESOMAR can play that crucial role in participating in and shaping that future. I look forward to expanding my views in the next few days!

Xabier Palacio
ESOMAR Staff, Senior Industry Analyst at ESOMAR