Startup Competition Guide


Vator Splash alumni: where are they now?

Startup competition cohort: Turo, Apartment List, Udemy and Thumbtack

Innovation series by Steven Loeb
July 3, 2017
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Startup competitions have become a popular way for startups to get noticed and for organizations to find them.

Vator has been hosting its startup competitions since all the way back to end of 2009. In that time, it has put over 200 startups on stage, many of which have gone on to great success, having collectively raised nearly $1 billion in follow-on capital. Some Vator winners have gone on to raise $100 million in follow-on capital, while some have been acquired, or pivoted and rebranded since then. Of course, we don't have a perfect track record. Some invariably have shut down.

Let's take a look at some the companies that have made it on stage to see where they are now:



RelayRides was one of the top 10 finalists of Vator's first startup competition all the way back in October 2009, back when the competition was called Juice Pitcher.

Originally focused on hourly, on-demand rentals, the company eventually began pivoting away from that model and toward longer duration rentals, including weekly and monthly. The company also began to put emphasis airport travel, in which users can rent cars directly at the airport.

In late 2015, the company officially changed its name to Turo, and raised $47 million, bringing its total funding to over $80 million. Investors in the company include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, August Capital, Canaan Partners, Google Ventures, Shasta Ventures, and Trinity Ventures.

Turo is now available in over 4,500 cities and over 300 airports. It provides its users with more than 800 makes and models to choose from. 


The winner of Splash in 2010, the online learning company provides an open platform for users to teach or learn from one another online. When the company pitched, it was hosting around 400 courses; there are now more than 55,000. It currently has 17 milion students. 

The company has also gone on to raise $173 million, most recently a $65 million round in 2015. Investors have included 500 Startups, Insight Venture Partners, Jeremy Stoppelman, Keith Rabois, Naspers, Norwest Venture Partners, Paul Martino and Signia Venture Partners.



Thumbtack was the winner of the very first Vator startup competition, and has gone on to become one of the most successful as well. 

The company, which matches customers with local professionals, went on to raise over $273 million in funding, most recently a $125 million round in late 2015, which turned it into a unicorn, valuing it at $1.3 billion. Investors have included Google Capital, Tiger Global Management, Sequoia Capital, and Javelin Venture Partners.

Thumbtack now offers over 1,000 types of services, and has over 250,000 active professionals who generate more than $1 billion in annual revenue from the platform. 



The winner of Vator Splash SF in 2013, PokitDok is a company that once described itself as a healthcare marketplace, and a way for consumers to shop directly from providers for high value health services. It has since evolved, broadening its business by introducing a new platform made up of APIs that are meant to help businesses streamline their health transactions. Over 1,000 third party enterprise applications now run on PokitDok.

The company has raised over $48 million in funding, including a $5 million round in March of this year, from investors that have included McKesson Ventures, Subtraction Capital, Lemhi Ventures, New Atlantic Ventures, Rogers Venture Partners, Charles River Ventures, George Zachary, Jonathan Sposato, Geoff Entress, Albert Prast, and Zac Zeitlin.



While many of our Splash alumni have gone on raise a lot of money, there are other ways to describe success, including big exits. That includes DogVacy, winner of the 2012 Vator Splash LA competition.

The company, which is basically an AirBnB for dogs, was acquired in March of this year by rival pet sitting service Rover. DogVacay operates independently from Rover. The two companies combine for more than 100,000 5-star sitters. To date, millions of services have been booked through Rover and DogVacay combined, generating over $150 million in combined bookings in 2016.

Before being acquired, DogVacay had raised $47 million in funding, most recently taking in a $25 million round from OMERS Ventures, GSV Capital, First Round Capital, Benchmark, Foundation Capital and DAG Ventures in November of 2014.



Traxo was the Vator Splash NY 2012 winner. The travel API provider autmatically detects and aggregates travel information, including itineraries, miles, points, and elite status, directly from over 200 different travel websites. It accepts travel confirmation emails, organizing everything into a single, comprehensive travel dashboard. Users are able to track miles, points, status, expiration dates, usernames and passwords.

In 2013, Traxo launched a B2B platform and now includes Chrome River, Lufthansa, Travel and Transport, Cornerstone Information Systems, iJet and InsideFlyer as customers. 

Traxo has raised almost $11 million, including a $5.2 million round in December, led by TripAdvisor. Other investors have included Advantage Capital Partners, Silver Creek Ventures, and Thayer Ventures.



The winner of Splash SF in 2012, Apartment List offers apartment ratings and reviews, neighborhood reviews, pros & cons, and wiki content, social media tools, and peer advice, all designed to help consumers make the right decision when choosing their apartment.

The company has gone on to raise $53 million, including a $30 million round this past November. Investors include Canaan Partners, Matrix Partners and Glynn Capital.

Apartment List now reaches over four million renters monthly.




Kismet, which won the People's Choice award at Splash SF in 2012, also had a big exit to a major tech compay. 

The startup, which originally launched as a mobile-dating app, and then became an app to find people nearby, launched a Snapchat competitor called Blink in 2013. That service got the attention of Yahoo, which acqui-hired the company in 2014, shutting down both Kismet and Blink in the process. Both of Kismet's founders stayed at Yahoo until 2016, and now they both work at GoToMeeting.

Before its acquisition, Kismet had raised just $770,000 in funding from AngelPad, Triple Point and NEA.



One of the newer entrants on this list, was a competitor at Splash Spring in 2016

The company, which is a streaming app dedicated solely to showcasing stand-up comedy from both established and new comedians, raised $2.25 million in seed funding in January. The round was led by the New York Angels, and included investments from venture capitalist Barbara Corcoran, the Wharton Alumni Angel Network, Social+Capital, Backstage Capital, Treehouse Capital, Accelerator Ventures and Atlas Holdings.'s comedy library has albums from more than 700 comedians. Launched in August of last year, the app has been downloaded more than 150,000 times on iOS and Android. Users are currently averaging more than 60 minutes per session.



Carrum, the winner of the People's Choice Award at Vator Splash Health in 2016, allows SMBs to contract directly with healthcare providers in order to provide price transparency to the market, and to offer lower cost, higher quality care to employees. 

The company raised a $6.5 million round of funding in May from SJF Ventures and SpringRock Ventures. That was the company's first funding since being founded in 2014.

Over the past year, Carrum Health went from having one employer group in early 2016 to currently serving more than 400 employer groups on the West Coast of the U.S. The company currently offers over a dozen bundles in orthopedic, spine and cardiac care.



Bloom Technologies, which received honorable mention at Vator Splash LA 2016, has since changed its name to Bloomlife. It provides a a smart pregnancy wearable that allows women to see each contraction as it occurs and learn how it corresponds to the sensations they feel.

The company has raised $6 million, including $4 million in August of last year, in a round led by investors Marc Benioff and Efficient Capacity, LanzaTech Ventures, MeusInvest, Hanmi IT, The Chernin Group, Kapor Capital, and Act One Ventures.



Industry, the winner of the Vator Splash LA startup competition in 2016, is like a LinkedIn for the hospitality industry, acting as a professional network, marketplace, and hiring solution for the space.

The company has raised $2.5 million in funding, including a pre-seed round of $200,000 in 2015 and a $2.3 funding seed round in October, closing right after Splash Health LA 2016. 

Industry's current clients include MGM Resorts International, Disneyland Resorts/Parks, Hell’s Kitchen, Cohn Restaurant Group, Fox Restaurant Concepts, and Stone Brewing Co. 

Related companies, investors and entrepreneurs

Description: Kismet connects you to your existing friends in the real world by simplifying getting together face to face. We show you which of your fr...
Description: Thumbtack helps you accomplish the personal projects that are central to your life. Whether you need to paint your home, learn a new lang...
Description: is a community marketplace that addresses the $5B market for dog-boarding and pet-sitting. Instead of paying for a crow...
Carrum Health
Description: Healthcare is unreasonably complex and costly. At Carrum Health, we’re applying a common sense approach to simplify the payment mod...
Description: Provider of a cloud-based application programming interface (API) platform designed to make healthcare transactions more efficient and ...
Bloom Technologies
Description: Bloom is designing the future of prenatal care with technology designed to improve the health of moms and babies.  We combine wearab...
Description:   Udemy is a website that enables anyone to teach and learn online. Udemy tries to democratize online education by making it fast, e...
Description: Industry is a professional network, marketplace, and hiring solution for top talent in the service and hospitality industry.  
Description: RelayRides is the world's first peer-to-peer carsharing service. Our revolutionary service provides the technology, infrastructure a...
Description: Traxo is the world’s most advanced personal travel organizer.   The free service automatically detects and aggregates tra...
Apartment List
Description: Apartment List is the fastest-growing online rental marketplace, and we’re on a mission to help everyone find a home they love whil...
Description: <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:PixelsPerInch>96</o:PixelsPerInch> </o:OfficeD...

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