At Vator Splash: Will VCs open their wallets?

Bambi Francisco Roizen · January 25, 2011 · Short URL:

Learn what top VCs think is hot in early-stage investing; Mark your calendars for Vator Splash Feb 3

In about 10 days, we'll be holding our fifth Vator Splash, an evening event that will be held on February 3rd, at Cafe du Nord in San Francisco. As always, at the event, we will feature 10 promising young high-tech startups to present onstage in front of prominent investors and corp development officers.

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 nearly 100 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. 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 won't be generous with their funds, they've been very generous with their time. In fact, our judges are currently judging the 20 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.

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 Tim Chang, partner at Norwest. Tim has also been a consistent presence at Vator Splash. Unlike other VCs at our events, Tim is typically holding a guitar as one of the musicians during our afterparties. This will be Tim's fourth time playing at the Splash afterparty. Like the other judges, he's also taken and is currently taking the time to give the semi-finalist startups some feedback. A little backgroud on Tim - he was the lead investor on both ngmoco and Playdom investments. Transactions which resulted in in a combined transaction value in excess of $1 billion. Ngmoco, an iOS game developer raised $40 million in venture financing and was sold to DeNA in October for $400 million. This past July, Disney bought Playdom, a maker of popular social games on Facebook and MySpace, for $563.2 million.

We also want to thank Dara Bazzano, a partner at KPMG, who will also be helping us find the most promising startups to present onstage. Dara’s representative tech clients (past and present) include ON24, Gazillion, Keynetics, Cradlepoint Technologies, AFC and CNet. KPMG has been a consistent supporter of Vator Splash for the past couple events.

Raj Kapoor, partner at Mayfield, is back not only sporting his gold jacket onstage (as lead singer of Coverflow), but as one of the VC judges. This upcoming Splash Feb will be the third time Raj and Tim's band Coverflow will be performing. Raj is not only an investor, his roots are in entrepreneurship. Prior to Mayfiled, Raj was the co-founder and CEO of Snapfish, an online photo service that was sold to HP in 2005. Raj recently invested in Redbeacon, a semi-finalist startup at Vator Splash Feb, and one of our current sponsors.

We also want to thank Duncan Davidson, formerly of VantagePoint Ventures and now co-founder and managing director of Bullpen, a newly-formed VC firm focused primarily on second rounds of super-angel-funded startups. Prior to VantagePoint Ventures, Duncan also spent his time as an entrepreneur, having founded Covad Communications back in 1996, when DSL services (high-speed Net access over phone lines) were all the rage. It wasn't always the case that high-speed Internet was taken for granted. Covad went public in 1998.

Tod Francis of Shasta Ventures also joins us as a judge. Since joining Shasta in 2004, Tod has invested in  Mint, Turn, Logoworks, Uptake, Recurve, Plastic Jungle, Pixazza and companies still operating in stealth mode. Tod also spent time at Trinity Ventures, where he was involved in companies like Blue Nile and BabyCenter, to name a couple.

Ex-Googler Thomas Korte recently became an investor through AngelPad, a newly-formed incubator Thomas started with six other ex-Googlers. AngelPad invests anywhere between $25,000 and $40,000 in startups. They take somewhere around a 5% ownerhips in the startup. For that ownership stake, the partners also provide mentorship and office space for 10 weeks. Thomas joins us as an online and onstage judge.

Then there's Jay Jamison of BlueRun Ventures. Like a couple of our other VC/judges, Jay was an entrepreneur before becoming a VC. Jay founded Moonshot, a startup that tried to teach English to children around the world. He also founded Bema Studios.

Joe Kraus also joins us at this Vator Splash. Joe is an investor at Google Ventures, where his primary focus is gaming and mobile and local services. Joe started his entrepreneur career as a co-founder of Excite, a pioneering search engine that went public in 1996. Then in 2004, he founded JotSpot, a wiki-software product for the enterprise. He eventually sold that startup to Google. 

David Thacker of Greylock is another VC/judge you'll see onstage at Vator Splash who is helpiing to vet the semi-finalists in the current round. David had the foresight to bring Gowalla into the Greylock fold as well as Pandora. Gowalla is one of the leading location-based services startups and Pandora is the leading personalized radio station.

We're also happy to have David Hornik of August Capital join us. David started his career as an attorney, but moved into investing when he joined August Capital in 2000. Among the companies he's currently on the board of are StumbleUpon and SAY Media. His current investments include PayNearMe and Technorati, to name a couple. 

We also have John O'Farrell, partner at Andreessen Horowitz, joining us. Andreessen Horowitz, founded by Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, has emerged as one of the Valley's most reputable firms, since being founded in 2009. In a couple years, the firm has already attracted a billion dollars to invest in startups. Prior to this new position as an investor, John worked with Marc and Ben at Opsware.

Also helping us to help vet the startups is Mark Goldenson, founder and CEO of Breakthrough, a provider of online counseling and therapy and the winner of Vator Splash September. As a winner of a Splash event, Mark won the opportunity to join us as an online judge. We're very grateful for his commitment to help other entrepreneurs succeed.

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 several consumer Internet deals that closed last year.

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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