Top 10 Vator event panels and keynotes in 2011

Kristin Karaoglu · December 30, 2011 · Short URL:

Early-stage strategies, ReachLocal, ngmoco, Peter Thiel, Pandora lead the top 10

Did your panel or keynote make the top 10 most-viewed panel or keynote at Vator events in 2011? Here are the top 10 popular segments in 2011.

 Which early-stage startup strategy is the best?

The average venture return over the last 10 years has been a negative 4%, said Michael Kim, founder of Cendana Capital, a venture fund that invests in early-stage VC funds. With that encouraging backdrop, what is the best investment strategy early-stage investors should pursue? 

That was the late-night panel topic discussed at Venture Shift SF at Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco. The panelists discussing that topic were AngelPad's Thomas KorteDave McClure of 500 Startups, Manu Kumar from K9 Ventures, and Jed Katz from Javelin Ventures. Michael acted as moderator. Read more

Next phase of local is more Amazon than Google

Zorik Gordon, CEO and co-founder of ReachLocal, gave one of the keynote speeches at Splash LA. Zorik started ReachLocal with three other partners in Encino seven years ago. Today, it is a publicly-traded entity with 1500 employees. In its most recent quarter, ReachLocal, which helps local businesses with their marketing and advertising, generated $84 million in sales, up 32% from a year ago.

In his keynote, Zorik gave a glimpse of the future of local: "We're in the midst of another huge inflection point for local," said Zorik. "This phase that was dominated by Google and Yelp and is disrupting offline directories is now being disrupted by this next-generation of players, the Groupon's and the Living Social's of the world." Read more

ngmoco's Neil Young's advice: Burn your boats

Most entrepreneurs who've had success under their belt know what it feels like to question their purpose and to ponder "what-if" scenarios. But it's in those times of equivocation that purpose, direction and determination are lost. What do you do to avoid this? "Burn your boats!"

That's the No. 1 lesson first-time CEO Neil Young, founder and chief executive of ngmoco, shared with the 400 attendees at Vator Splash February in San Francisco. "Burn your boats" has become a popular expression to represent commitment. It originated from the story of Captain Cortez, who, in the early 16th century set out to conquer Central America. Upon arriving, he told his soldiers to burn their boats, giving them no choice but to fight and win, or die.  Read more

 How Pandora survived on 12 maxed credit cards

When people, or I should say, when I, talk about successful pivots, I typically refer to Pandora as a great example. As you can imagine, therefore, it was an honor to have Tim Westergren, founder and CSO of Pandora, share his story and hear this inspiring tale of sheer determination, straight from the founder.

When I asked Tim at the end of his speech, what kept him going, he said: "I had a dream." After watching Tim, you'll probably agree: Dreams are powerful. And, Tim is a quintessential example of someone who has the bullheadedness to crash through walls and not give up - a quality, many venture capitalists look for.  Read more

Peter Thiel: To be contrarian... is just to think

Here's the video of Peter Thiel, founder of Clarium Capital and Founders Fund. Thiel, well known as the first investor in Facebook, took the stage at the first-ever VentureShift, delivering yet another one of his thought-provoking keynote speeches.

"The contrarian thing is not to be with the crowd, or fashionably against the crowd, but to think,” said Thiel. 

For a good overview of Thiel's keynote, read Faith Merino's "Peter Thiel: Don't think of companies as statistics." Read more


The bubble: It's all the super angels' fault

At Splash LA, the late-night entertainment was the venture capital panel, with Bruce Taragin, a partner at Blumberg Capital, moderating more like a late-night talk show host. His performance had one of the panelists ask Bruce what he was drinking. At which Bruce replied, "Water."

The panelists included Neal Hansch of Rustic Canyon, Larry Marcus of Walden Capital, Brian Garrett of CrossCut Ventures, and David Cremin of DFJ Frontier. Through his questions, Bruce led an entertaining discussion about the difference between LA startups and Northern California startups to the value that VCs bring over angels and visa versa.  Read more

HomeAway's Brian Sharples on building a startup

Vator Splash is one of the few events entrepreneurs can hear from seasoned and veteran entrepreneurs who've built successful businesses. In our September event, we were lucky enough to have Brian Sharples, CEO and founder of HomeAway, give a keynote. Watch Brian for his motivating and inspirational speech on fundraising, leadership, management and building companies to last. Woody Marshall, partner at Technology Crossover Ventures, made the introduction. 

HomeAway is an online vacation rental marketplace, with properties such as VRBO and It's backed by Redpoint Ventures, IVP and Austin Ventures. Brian founded the company in 2005, raised $400 million, went on a buying spree, and went public earlier this year. The company currently trades on the Nasdaq under the symbol AWAY, and is valued at nearly $3 billion. Read more


Mike Hudack on how got its start

Mike Hudack is CEO and co-founder of, a next-generation TV network with 140 million  monthly video views and 30 million viewers. During his keynote at Vator Splash NY, he shared his experience building and raising the initial funds.

One of the more unique stories Mike shared is the time he was raising's initial $500,000 in seed funding back in 2005. One investor was very hard to convince. It took Mike some 25 meetings with this person before he opened up his wallet. Finally, after one meeting, the men both went to the urinals. The investor looked over the divider and asked, "Are you really serious about this?" Mike said, "Yes." They shook hands and the deal was sealed. As Mike explained, the new investor like Mike's handshake and the fact that he looked the investor in the eye. Read more

Shawn Colo, Demand Media co-founder, at Splash LA

Shawn Colo had an idea six years ago and decided to leave his private equity job, partner with Richard Rosenblatt and raise several hundred million dollars to prove it out. It worked. Demand Media, the company Shawn co-founded, went public this year at a $1 billion valuation. At Splash LA, Shawn joined us as one of our keynotes, sharing his lessons and advice and his thoughts on the future of media. Read more 



Has the traditional VC been forced to pivot?

Here's the video of the Venture Shift panel: "Has the traditional VC industry been forced to pivot by the rise of angels, super angels, incubators, etc?"

On this panel, we had Randy Komisar from  Kleiner Perkins Caufields & Byers, Phil Black from True Ventures, Raj Kapoor from Mayfield, Rob Hayes from First Round Capital, Howard Hartenbaum from August Capital and Rich Melmon from Bullpen, who moderated. For a great overview of the panel, read Faith Merino's "Angels meet a need the VC industry couldn't." Read more

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Kristin Karaoglu

Woman of many skills: Database System Engineer; SplashX event producer; Author of Startup Teams

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