Key takeaways from the Frontier Summit

The two-day, intimate event took attendees all over the Lower Mainland to showcase the best of B.C.

Frontier Summit attendees at the top of the Sea to Sky gondola. Photo: Frontier Collective / Jason Vaughn

It’s not every day that executives from SoftBank, the Venture Reality Fund, Endeavor VR, Mitsubishi, Snap, Unity, and more land in Vancouver – especially not at the same time. But the growing local Web3 ecosystem, the Frontier Collective proved, is a big enough pull to attract some of the world’s preeminent companies to the Lower Mainland.

All these businesses and more were represented at the Frontier Summit: a two-day event that saw the organizers showcase the best of B.C. As well as panels in the iconic Hotel Georgia and Bentall towers, attendees had the opportunity to ride up the Sea to Sky gondola to share knowledge in a beautiful natural setting, network on a sunset yacht cruise around the Burrard Inlet, eat freshly-caught west coast seafood, and learn more about what makes the city a hub for frontier technologies.

The Frontier Collective is a coalition of leaders working towards promoting the region’s bleeding-edge tech industry on the world stage, growing investment and infrastructure for early-stage companies, and attracting diverse talent to Vancouver. At the Frontier Summit, the organization accomplished all three.

Here are our key takeaways from the conference.

Intimate events built connections

In contrast to the enormous Siggraph conference happening on the same date – which packed the Vancouver Convention Centre – the Frontier Summit was deliberately intimate. Less than 60 attendees were invited to the two days, with only some of the events featuring a longer guestlist, such as government officials. While most events by the Frontier Collective are designed to be inclusive for the entire Vancouver startup community, the Summit focused on matching companies who would benefit most from meetings with investors. The payoffs were twofold. First, by bringing international capital and talent to the city and showcasing Vancouver’s top lifestyle, food, culture, and more, the event helped create positive interactions the organization hopes will attract investors back to the region in the future, and help to close the city’s gap in early-stage funding for all. Second, seeing the same faces each day and for each activity at the conference helped local companies build meaningful connections, and discuss their businesses and ideas beyond surface-level pitches.

Diversity was a strength

Look around a typical tech conference, and it’s overwhelming white and male. The Frontier Summit built a different room. The organization highlights in its marketing materials how it aims to create a diverse future for all; with this conference, the team lived its values. The attendees were not just gender-balanced and from many backgrounds, but the speakers on every topic represented a wealth of different perspectives. That distinction is refreshing: often at conferences, the “diversity panel” is the only opportunity to hear from non-white voices. At the Frontier Summit, all identities felt valued.

What to include in a new universe

Many of the panels spoke to developing the metaverse, and how to build a future in Web3 that can unlock economic potential in communities. The most important thing? How not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Web2 is rooted in third-party data acquisition and selling, profits over all, and software and hardware designed by the hands of predominantly white men. Building a new universe – as well as a new economic system – requires more imagination. The metaverse, panelists agreed over the two days, shouldn’t attempt to be a faithful reproduction of our reality. Instead, it should embrace creativity to make environments and designs that entertain and delight, while offering tangible alternatives to our current economic systems.

Top companies are founded in Vancouver

Much of the conference’s first day was spent spotlighting why the city is a hotbed for talent in frontier technologies. As well as a panel discussion with Bryan Pellegrino – CEO of Vancouver’s most recent unicorn, LayerZero – who laid out why he chose to root his business here after auditioning 11 others, attendees heard from government execs and leaders who spoke about why the city has produced the second largest VR/AR cluster globally, as well as a massive gaming, VFX, and animation hub. Expertise in these industries and beyond has been growing quietly for more than two decades. Now, the Frontier Summit argued, is the time to support the startups in early-stage technologies that have spun out of local anchor companies like EA, Animal Logic, Bardel, Dapper Labs — whose Sam Gharegozlou also featured at the Summit — and more.

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