Vator Box


Vator Box highlights in 2008

Esther Dyson, Google's Marissa Mayer, Venrock Brian Ascher, Guy Kawasaki, and more

Innovation series by Bambi Francisco Roizen
December 24, 2008
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In 2008, we launched a show called Vator Box, our poor version of Siskel & Ebert meets American Idol. It's the show where we invite guest hosts to evaluate startups based on their Vator video pitch and company profile. We've provided analysis for over 50 companies since the start of this year.

At times, we even got the analysis just right. In one segment looking at news aggregators, Liquid Scenarios, sponsor of The Liquid Scenarios Minute segment in the Vator Box shows, accurately predicted that socialmedian could be bought for $7.5 million. That's exactly what happened.

And, we never missed a beat. After starting a bi-monthly segment, Vator Box became a weekly segment. In 2009, we may even make it a bi-weekly segment, given the popularity.

We've come a long way in the production quality, as you'll note.

But our guest hosts have always been top notch. From Esther Dyson, Guy Kawasaki, Google’s Marissa Mayer, to Venrock venture capitalist, Brian Ascher, Citibank analyst Mark Mahaney, Norwest venture capitalist, Tim Chang, and Brian Singerman, a VC at The Founders Fund, as they all helped provide analysis and feedback to the many startups who we put on the spot. Oh, and of course, what would Vator Box be without my consistent regular and co-host, Ezra Roizen

Here's a look back at some of the highlights, starting with the shows that we had a blast with.

The first show highlighted is the one with Paul Martino, CEO and founder of Aggregate Knowledge, as our guest host. Martino made a great Simon Cowell (as I like all my guest hosts to be). This time around we watched the beatboxing founders at Buzzd, the mobile social networking company that’s a bit like Loopt meets Rabble meets Yahoo Buzz meets Yelp.

See the entire show: Vator Box on beatboxing entrepreneurs and next-gen social networks 

We also had a black-and-white, smoking segment as we evaluated the news business. It's changed dramatically in the last 50 years, since the days of pioneer TV news broadcaster Edward Murrow, who delivered his segments with cigarette in hand and opened and closed his newscasts with his signature phrases: "This is CBS" and "Goodnight and good luck." In this smoking, black and white episode of Vator Box, we tried to bring you back to those days (well, at least we tried).  Chris Tolles, outspoken CEO of Topix, a local news site whose content is 85% user-generated with 125,000 comments posted daily, was our guest host.

See the entire show: The new news model (in black and white)

One of our themes on Vator Box was transparency. We took a look at two women-started social networking sites that reveal who we are at some core level. The first one was Zivity, a $7-million-funded company that founder Cyan Banister describes in her video pitch as a beauty site that "sits at the intersection of MySpace, Playboy and American Idol and Playboy." This is not your mother's iVillage. We also looked at 23andMe, a personal genomics company with $10 million in funding from Genentech and Google, that hopes to create social networks around a person's haplotype.

See the entire show: Vator Box opens the kimono

OK. We do take our analysis and evaluations seriously too.

In one segment, we looked at Disqus, which hosts comments across 15,000-plus blogs. There's no doubt that comments enhance articles. In many ways, they are even more important than the post themselves. For evaluating this startup in this new genre, we asked Mike Marquez to be our guest host. Marquez is the head of M&A for CBS Interactive. The way he saw it, “Comments in and of themselves are valuable… I like anything that helps enhance community and engagement."

See the entire show: A look at aggregated perspectives

We also evaluated search companies. At 10 years old, Google has defined the way people find information. Type in a keyword and receive a list of results. It's in those results that they try to convey as much information as they can, pixel by pixel. But will our children search differently? Will pictures speak louder than words? In one segment, we discussed Searchme, a startup trying to improve our search experience by creating a visual overlay. Who better to be our guest host, but Google's Marissa Mayer, VP of search experience and products. Searchme is a visual search engine that allows visitors to browse images of Web pages. The experience is like flipping through a magazine, and visually, it's similar to the scrolling interface of iTunes on an iPhone. 

See the entire show: Google vs visual search, Searchme

Well that's it for a look back at 2008. We already have a great line-up of guest hosts for 2009. But if you're interested in being a guest host, just contact If you'd like to be one of the highlighted startups we evaluate, you can also contact us at

Happy Holidays. And, we'll see you next year on VatorNews! 



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