The Sexy and Non-Sexy of Vator Splash: PHOTOS


During a night when sprightly Box CEO Aaron Levie energized the crowd at Vator Splash with his take on what makes enterprise technology sexy, a non-sexy startup won the event’s pitch competition.

Helsinki, Finland-based Flowdock was judged by a panel of VCs to be the best of 10 startups that competed Thursday night at the Vator Splash competition, held at Café du Nord in San Francisco and put on by Vator.tv.  Flowdock, which provides a subscription-based group chat service, won sit-down meetings with CMEA Capital, Javelin Venture Partners and Shasta Ventures. The startup also took home some other prizes, including a Box enterprise package.

Co-founder and CEO Otto Hilska said he was surprised he won, since his company is “not very sexy.” But in his Finnish accent he delivered one of the more polished pitches of the night. It was also succinct, as it was one of the few that came in under the 3-minute pitch time limit. And the startup has something else going for it: the validation of investors. Flowdock has already raised seed funding of about $650,000 from Naval Ravikant, IDG Ventures and other angels.

Other highlights from the night:

Levie, wearing his typical orange Pumas, delivered the opening keynote. He said that when he was pitching VCs in 2007 and 2008, many of them didn’t get the enterprise, and that there were many who thought a startup “couldn’t compete with the Microsofts” of the world.

Levie also showed a slide of his young looking co-founder and CFO Dylan Smith and said one of the early challenges the two co-founders faced was convincing investors they weren’t going to take their money and go to Disneyland.

Levie, a day after Facebook filed its S-1, also joked that Mark Zuckerberg stole his idea.

Jeff Fluhr, co-founder of StubHub, delivered the night’s second keynote and talked about his latest startup called Spreecast, which makes a social video platform.

Fluhr, like most everyone else at the event, said he liked Levie’s keynote and was blown away by how much energy the Box CEO has. “It was like I stuck my finger in a light socket.”

Fluhr said he learned four lessons from StubHub, which eBay bought for more than $300 million in 2007: you need have to have a stomach for roller coaster rides and the ups and downs of a startup; challenge the status quo and you will do very well; trust your instincts; and it truly is all about the people and employees you work with.

The night ended with Raj Kapoor of Mayfield Fund doing his best impersonation as a late night talk show host, as he teased and interviewed on stage Mike Hirshland of Resolute.vc; Sharon Wienbar of Scale Venture Partners; Michael Brown, director of corporate development at Twitter, and Tim Chang, Kapoor’s fellow GP at Mayfield and bandmate in Coverflow.

What the audience learned during the “Late Night with Raj Kapoor,” besides the fact that Hirshland’s red Nikes with blue laces clashed with Wienbar’s purple boots, was that Wienbar gets up at 4 a.m. to get in the water and row every morning by 5 a.m.

Kapoor also asked Wienbar what startup she’s embarrassed to say she passed on, and the answer was Zappos. She said that founder Tony Hsieh never lets her forget that the firm turned him down. Wienbar later tweeted to me that at the time of the Zappos pitch she “was too new to really know a great company and entrepreneur from a normal one.”

The night then ended in Café du Nord’s basement, where attendees were treated to a performance by Coverflow, a Silicon Valley cover band that includes Kapoor on vocals, Chang on bass, entrepreneur Philip “Pud” Kaplan on drums and Facebook employees Ethan Beard and Prashant Fuloria on guitars.

Here are a few pics I took.

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Startup presenters, judges and keynote speakers each got to take home a bottle.

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Get ready for the show at Vator Splash.

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Josh Stein of DFJ, introducing Aaron Levie.

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Aaron Levie, CEO and co-founder of Box, on stage with his orange Pumas, delivering the keynote address.

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Aaron Levie of Box, showing a slide of his co-founder and CFO Dylan Smith.

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Ezra Roizen, emcee of the Vator Splash event, is also a partner at investment bank Ackrell Capital.

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VC judges (left to right) Josh Stein of DFJ, Craig Sherman of Meritech, Jed Katz of Javelin Venture Partners, Darcy Frisch of Hearst Interactive Media and Frank Artale of Ignition Partners.

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Craig Sherman of Meritech and Jed Katz of Javelin Venture Partners, grilling the startups.

[slide title=”Vator Splash”]The second panel of VC judges (from left to right) Conor Moore of KPMG, Tod Francis of Shasta Ventures, Saad Khan of CMEA Capital and Duncan Davidson of Bluepen Capital.

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Otto Hilska, CEO and co-founder of Flowdock, which was judged the winning company of the startup pitches.

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Jon Paris, co-founder of Astrid, delivered a pitch for his company, which provides a to-do  list app. The startup won the People’s Choice award at Vator Splash.

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Bambi Francisco, founder of Vator.tv, congratulating Otto Hilska for winning the startup pitch competition.

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The “Late Night with Raj Kapoor” entertainment of the evening featured (left to right) Mike Hirshland of Resolute.vc, Sharon Wienbar of Scale Venture Partner, Michael Brown of Twitter, Tim Chang of Mayfield Fund and host Kapoor of Mayfield.

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Attendees head into Café du Nord to see Coverflow play.

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Coverflow guitarists Ethan Beard and Prashant Fuloria, both Facebook employees.

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Mayfield Funds’ Raj Kapoor on vocals and Tim Chang on bass.

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Coverflow bassist Tim Chang.

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Coverflow drummer Philip Kaplan, founder of AdBrite, Blippy and TinyLetter.

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