Collision 2016

By Charisse Bennett

While the entire Focus Lab team was hard at work finalizing the new website and getting it ready for launch, I was out of town at a conference.


I felt a little guilty knowing I was enjoying the sights, sounds, and deliciousness of New Orleans while they were all very focused—probably working late into the night. But it was totally worth it; the Collision Conference was a much needed break from the day-to-day, and an inspirational chance to expand my understanding of what is happening in the startup tech and design world.

I had never heard of the Collision Conference before a couple of friends from grad school asked if I wanted to go and make a girls’ vacation out of it. None of us knew what we were getting into. Collision Conference has been dubbed as “The anti-CES” by USA Today, not that any of us had been to CES (Consumer Electronics Show) either. While it was a little frustrating not having a full schedule to look at until the week of the event, we did know they would have presentations from startups, investors, next-gen business, technology, and influential leaders. Once I learned about the app (at the event, since I wasn’t paying attention to all the emails they sent out ahead of time), it was super easy to narrow down all the presentation choices by selecting favorites and then reviewing.

We arrived the first morning to pick up our badges and were amazed at how large it was. We asked one of the staff members how many people had registered and he said around 10,000. Ten. Thousand. People. Whoa. That’s a lot of people, but they knew what they were doing and it was very well organized, structured, and scheduled (something my personality thrives on). I was in awe, actually, knowing from past event planning experiences how difficult it is to keep speakers on schedule.

Collision Conference claims their event is “Where the tech world meets.” Technology was the primary thread connecting all the presentations, speakers, and startups. There were presentations on everything from robot ethics, to cannabis, to nutrition, to music, to artificial intelligence, to startup how-tos. Everything you could think of was covered in some fashion, connected in surprising ways now thanks to technology. I have a FitBit so I’m familiar with how that has connected my activities with technology to make it trackable and recordable, but now there are even apps to help manage your nutrition through a water bottle that delivers nutrients and vitamins and tracks it all automatically for you (LifeFuels). Crazy. It was overwhelming and eye-opening.

There were over 600 startups exhibiting and participating—that’s a lot of new apps, products, and services to explore and discover. Some of those I found most interesting involved travel and community. Here are a few that I found interesting enough to want to learn more about: Firefly Exp, Taylored Wines, Cityflag, TripCreator, LETumEAT, Triggi, ISeeChange,, WhereFor, Shuflix, and Wiivv Wearables.

My key takeaways and favorites…

  • Robots will need regulation and legislation, and probably limitations on their similarities to humans.

  • Online harassment is a serious problem, and an interesting social development that seems to be greatly increased and affected by each new technological system.

  • Algorithms are strange and powerful things I have yet to understand and probably never will.

  • Technology can take over our lives and cause problems, or be a source of great positive influence. All depends on how it is used and what you allow it to affect.

  • Virtual Reality is growing in popularity, ease of development, and affordability for more to enjoy and experiment with.

On New Orleans…

What an amazing city. This was my first visit and honestly, I had never really had a huge interest in visiting, but I’m so glad to finally have made it there. As a recovering architectural designer, this city had a lot for me to take in: from all the marvelous, unique houses to the dense French Quarter. It has a similar feel to Savannah but clearly MUCH larger and a little dirtier.

We stayed in an Airbnb near Magazine Street and Jackson Street. This turned out to be a great location; it was close enough to the convention center so we could walk without too much trouble, and there were so many great shops, cafes, and restaurants on Magazine Street. In fact, right at the corner of Magazine and Jackson there is this amazing cafe that sells insane donuts: District Donuts. And yes, I ate a donut every single morning we were there, but it’s okay because I walked it off. We ate at Shaya (also on Magazine Street) which just won the James Beard award. It was amazing. I’m glad we didn’t discover it until the last day, because I might have just said ‘screw eating anywhere else.’

New Orleans has interesting surprises at every turn. One morning while exploring on my own, I happened upon a Banksy mural on the side of a house. We walked a lot, took an occasional Uber, and rode the streetcar one night (fun experience, but a little slow for everyday travel). I expect I will visit again!

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