At #SplashLA: Will VCs open their wallets?

Past Splash finalists and winners have been funded soon after being onstage

Financial trends and news by Bambi Francisco Roizen
May 16, 2011
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In about 10 days, we'll be holding our inaugural Splash LA, an evening event that will be held on May 26, Thursday, at The Highlands Hollywood.  At the event, we will feature 10 promising young high-tech startups to present onstage in front of prominent investors and corp development officers.

As always, there will be an open bar, and an afterparty performance with a venture capital band.

There's still time to get early-bird tickets. Go to the registration page to reserve your tickets and see the agenda. These prices are good until next Monday!

We had almost 150 applicants for this event. Only 10 can present onstage and only one can bring home the gold.

Since holding these Splash events, some of our winners and finalists have made significant progress, from a fundraising standpoint. Bump, with more than 500 followers on Vator and one of the finalists at Splash Sept 2010, raised $1.2 million in recent months. Cohuman, a productivity app, raised $600,000, months after being a finalist at Splash Sept. 2010, and has 804 followers on Vator. Grovo, an online training platform that was the winner of Splash NY, went on to raise funding from angels as well. 

Udemy, the winner of Vator Splash May, went on to raise $1 million in funding a few months after presenting at Vator Splash. Dave McClure, one of the Vator judges at that even, ended up investing in Udemy. And, LawPivot, which was a semi-finalist and demo table presenter at our Splash event in September, recently raised $600,000 from Google Ventures, and high-profile angels.

This time around, we have a new crop of startups, who will try to impress our new group of venture capitalist judges. Who knows? Maybe one or two will open up their wallets.

But even if these VCs, angels and executives won't be generous with their funds, they've been very generous with their time. In fact, our judges are currently judging the 18 semi-finalists. Their votes will help us determine the top 10 finalists.

For their time and feedback, we're very appreciative. And, we'd like to take a moment to introduce you to them.

Neal Hansch and David Travers, two partners at Rustic Canyon, are two of the online and onstage VC judges who've been spending the past couple days and the next two to vet on the 18 semi-finalists. Prior to becoming a VC in 2005, Neal handled M&A at Macromedia and was an entrepreneur. David is an investor in Docstoc, ThermaSource, Navigating Cancer, Leads360, and Serious Materials. Without Rustic Canyon, Splash would not be held in LA. It was Neal Hansch who drove the vision and support to launch the inaugural Splash LA event.

One of our online judges and onstage judges is Jed Katz, a VC at Javelin Venture Partners, an early-stage venture firm based in San Francisco, with $75 million under management. Jed and his partner Noah Doyle have been consistent supporters of Vator with their participation throughout the past year. Javelin Venture Partners has also been a key sponsor of our Splash events. A little background on Jed - he's not only an investor, but an experienced entrepreneur.  Jed was the COO and Founder of Rent Net, the Internet's first rental and relocation guide, which was acquired by Cendant. Three years later, Jed created, one of the largest online real estate sites, which was eventually sold to Homestore for more than $900 million.

Also helping to vet these startups is Larry Marcus, a partner at Walden Venture Capital. Larry is one of the visionary VCs who spotted the value in Pandora back in 2004 and helped Tim Westergren, Pandora's founder, make some of Pandora's most important strategic decisions. Larry, who currently serves on Pandora's board, is also an avid drummer. He'll be playing with the band Darwin5 during the afterpary. This will be Larry's first time performing at Splash. 

Joining Larry onstage during the afterparty is David Cremin, a partner at DFJ Frontier, and lead guitarist for Darwin5. When he's not sporting a guitar, David is a VC. He is founder and Managing Director of DFJ Frontier, a Draper Fisher Jurvetson venture capital fund focused on seed and early stage technology companies on the west coast. At Frontier, he leads fund management, fundraising and portfolio management efforts. He currently serves as a Director for uSamp, Mogreet, JanRain, AppleTree, MyWinesDirect, and Prolacta Bioscience.

A big thanks to Ron Bloom, founder and CEO of Mevio. Like the others, Ron took time out of his very busy schedule to help us determine the top 10. Mevio, backed by Crosslink, Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins, is one of the largest video entertainment networks, generating some 300 million video streams a month.

Also thanks to Brian Garrett, a partner at CrossCut Ventures. Brian is very active in the Southern California start-up community and currently works with the Boards of GumGum, Verve Wireless, Pulpo Media, Shoedazzle, AffordIt and Circle Street. He is also an advisory board member for the following digital media companies: Jacked, Zannel and 

We also want to thank Sami Varma, a partner at Anthem Venture Partners. Samit currently serves on the board of JanRain, Audyssey and BeachMint and is a board observer at Cynvenio and Wavestream. Samit also works closely with Zag and and TrueCar.

Another judge is Dana Settle, partner at Greycroft. Dana currently serves or observes on the boards of Greycroft’s investments in K2 Networks, MoVoxx, Sometrics, Sportgenic, United Sample, Vuze and WideOrbit. She also managed the firm’s investments in Digisynd (sold to Disney) and ContentNext (sold to Guardian Media).

Jeff Lee joined Mission Ventures in 2007. Prior to his position as a venture capitalist, Jeff was at Cisco Systems, where he held technical responsibility for the company’s $1B+ Catalyst 2900 series of Ethernet switches.  He also was part of the founding design team for Cisco’s successful Commercial Switching and VDSL product lines.

Thanks also to Kara Nortman, Senior Vice President of Publishing for CityGrid Media, an IAC owned online media company that connects Web and mobile publishers with local advertising organizations, Kara is responsible for overseeing the publisher side of the CityGrid Media’s owned properties, which include consumer sites, Citysearch, Insider Pages and Urbanspoon. 

Bruce Taragin is a partner at Blumberg Capital. Bruce serves as a member or observer on the Board of Directors of DoubleVerify, CaseStack, Insightix, LiteScape, Correlix, Nolio, Revionics,, BringIt, NearbyAd, Mertado, and Offertarget.

Also helping us out is avid angel investor and entrepreneur, Zao Yang, of Betterworks. Previously, he co-created Farmville, and was the CEO/co-founder of MyMiniLife, Inc. (sold to Zynga Game Networks, Inc.). He is also an active investor with stakes in companies like Hipmunk, GroupMe, Facebook, Zynga (acquisition stock), and SV Angels.

Behind-the-scenes judges who have been most gracious with their time include, Michelle Wroan, a partner at KPMG, based in Los Angeles. Michelles has extensive experience with media and entertainment businesses.  Michelle currently serves as an engagement partner on a number of media clients including NBC/Universal, The Anschutz Entertainment Group, Ascent Media Group, and Game Show Network. We thank Michelle and KPMG, a longstanding sponsor of Splash events.

Francisco Ramos founder of the Southern California chapter of HBS Angels, a growing group of angel investors affiliated with the Harvard Business School, is another online judge.

Manu Rekhi is another online judge helping us whittle the semi-finalist field down to 10! Manu is a seasoned internet executive and Venture Partner at Inventus since 2008.  Manu is currently VP of Products at Myspace. He also worked at Google, where he worked on the launch of Gmail, Calendar, OpenSocial, and Orkut and spent over a year with Google in India. 

Finally, Ezra Roizen, digital media investment banker at Ackrell Capital, will join us once again as a judge and emcee of the top 10 finalists. Ezra has been the lead banker in seven consumer Internet deals that closed in the past year.

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