Vator hosted Vator Splash September late Thursday to a crowd of 400 attendees.
Splash is a networking and learning event for entrepreneurs and startups. CEOs and founders of 10 seed- and early-stage startups came out to San Francisco's Cafe Du Nord for Vator Splash, to pitch their ideas to an audience of some 400 attendees, including entrepreneurs, press, and investors. These 10 startups had beat more than 100 other companies competing on the Vator Splash competition page over the past couple months, and, in the end, users had cast more than 2,000 individual votes to find the top 25 semi-finalists. After the popular vote, some 15 judges ranked the 25 startups on three critieria - novelty, team and commercial viability. The combined judges and popular vote determined the top 10 finalists, who went onto Vator Splash to pitch live.
At the end of the night, we held a text vote to decide the winning startup and Breakthrough.com took the gold!
Breakthrough is a provider of confidential online counseling and therapy. Clients, who can use their insurance to pay for the service, sign up to talk with a counselor through video, email, phone, or chat. Mental health providers can take advantage of Breakthrough to bolster their practice online for free.
CEO Mark Goldenson and Project Manager Sarah Seegal, representing Breakthrough, participated in a special live version of Vator Box, taking questions from Aydin Senkut of Felicis Ventures, Rob Hayes of First Round Capital, Rick Heitzmann of Firstmark Capital, and Gideon Yu of Khosla Ventures for Splash Box. Ezra Roizen of Ackrell Capital fielded questions.
--Asked what he thought of the obvious privacy issues involved in Breakthrough’s development and online health care, Senkut acknowledged that clients may indeed have initial reservations about the market in general. Even online money management services, in the early development years, faced criticisms that people would never put their credit cards online. These concerns can be overcome with smartly made software.
--Ezra next brought up the tricky problem of taking health care online--things move slow, it’s a tough market, there are tons of legal barriers. Hayes added to Ezra’s list the hard task of getting payers aligned, getting users aligned, and getting providers aligned--each an ambitious project in its own right. Nevertheless, whether it’s Breakthrough or not that successfully implements an online health care system, Hayes said “this is something that is going to happen.” In the end, raising enough capital is key.
--Heitzmann restated the above in these terms: Breakthrough has to get three people (payers, users, providers) to buy in, as opposed to just the usual one. It will also take longer than usual for this kind of service to take off. Sales cycles will be long and painful for at least the first couple years, but that’s to be expected from a company trying to do something as big as Breakthrough. Heitzmann encouraged the startup to use their traction right now to secure the capital they will most certainly need further down the road. Hit milestones and keep raising capital.
--The last panelist, Gideon, spoke five words every startup loves hearing: “This is an enormous market.” His biggest complaint about the Breakthrough Web site was the lack of a reputation system: “You guys have to spend a lot of money and time on a reputation system for rating providers. I found 120 providers if i searched for all fields and when they rated themselves it was impossible to tell the difference [between them].” Breakthrough CEO Goldenson responded that providers don’t like the idea of a reputation system where one can’t trust the accountability of users leaving ratings, but he acknowledged the problem and said they’re working on alternatives already.