Vator Splash Tackles Tech Diversity; Offers Lessons from Venture Funders and “Unicorns”

Oakland, California (EastBayDaily) — A rich array of content and expert speakers await attendees at this year’s Vator Splash conference in Oakland, California. The tech startup competition and educational event for entrepreneurs, investors and the tech and business community will pair founders of some of the hottest tech companies, venture capital and civic leaders for two days of breakout sessions, keynotes, fireside chats and panel discussions. Marking its second year in Oakland, Vator Splash takes place April 22-23 at the Kaiser Center at Lake Merritt and at the Port Workspaces in the city’s lauded Uptown neighborhood – an increasingly popular home for startups, as well a larger tech firms such as Pandora. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf will welcome attendees with opening remarks.

Founded by former award-winning journalist Bambi Francisco, Vator Splash aims not only to educate entrepreneurs, investors and cross-spectrum business leaders but also to help launch startups via its popular competition. Eight finalist companies that have survived three rounds of online judging will present on stage before judges, including blue chip VCs and prolific angel investors. They will compete live for a minimum of 10 sit-down meetings with investors and more than $40k in in-kind prizes

Being a Vator Splash finalist has proved to be a significant booster of success. Over the past five years, Splash alumni competing in events in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, London and New York have gone on to raise more than $400 million in follow-on capital after being on stage. Finalists to be culled from the current round of 20 companies include five Oakland-based startups.

This year’s event includes keynote speeches from highly successful founders such as Adam Goldenberg, CEO of “unicorn” status company Just Fab, valued at over $1 billion; Slava Rubin, CEO and founder of Indiegogo; and Marco Zappacosta, of Thumbtack, which has raised $148 million in funding and was the very first Vator competition winner. The agenda will also address one of the more critical challenges for tech companies: how to diversify their workforce. A panel discussion entitled “When Will Tech Look Like America?” features Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf; Kapor Center for Social Impact co-founder, Freada Kapor Klein; Google’s Senior Manager for Global Diversity and Talent Inclusion, Nilka Thomas; former tech exec and Founder of Black Girls Code’s Kimberly Bryant and Pandora senior diversity manager Lisa Lee. Fast Company writer Evie Nagy will moderate.

“Oakland has emerged as a model for how technology firms can begin to mirror the nation’s racial, ethnic and gender diversity,” said Bambi Francisco, founder and CEO of Vator. “We are thrilled this year to bring one of the richest Vator Splash agendas yet, with compelling conversation about topics that have global impact. Not only does Oakland have a unique concentration of great startups, it is home to innovative business accelerators and impact investment-focused venture firms, as well as nationally renowned organizations dedicated to building a sustainable and diverse ecosystem.

Top VCs will provide timely and provocative perspectives on the state of tech funding. Cory Johnson, reporter for Bloomberg TV will interview Josh Elman of Greylock Partners in a fireside chat entitled “How Venture Capital is Being Turned on its Head.” Other venture firms participating at the event include: Khosla Ventures, Javelin Venture Partners, Canaan Partners, Scale Venture Partners, Shasta Ventures, Karlin Ventures and many more. Organizers estimate that the venture firms participating at this year’s Vator Splash represent $15 billion in assets under management.

An afternoon of breakout sessions is scheduled for Wednesday, April 22. Held in a more intimate setting at the Port Workspaces at the Kaiser Center, attendees will be able to delve into three tracks of content geared to educating both entrepreneurs and investors. The Startup Toolkit track provides practical advice on everything from how to build founding teams and creative, legal and financial considerations in the startup period to how to find and fund office space for a growing team. The investor track offers sessions that take a deep dive into a wide array of topics, including impact investing, investing in syndicates, the rise of Micro VCs and lessons learned. A second entrepreneur track focuses on the broad issues of how and when to scale your startup, impact investing and how and what makes for great entrepreneurship.

Vator has partnered with the City of Oakland’s Economic & Workforce Development Department and Avison Young to provide a private walking tour entitled “Uptown’s Innovation Hub” the morning of Wednesday, April 22. Accompanied by the city’s Special Projects team, participants will get a sneak peak inside some of the city’s largest tech firms, innovative co-working and startup spaces and exciting new tech ecosystem arrivals. Planned stops include Gensler’s newly opened offices; Impact Hub Oakland located in the Hive, a mixed-use development featuring retail, residential and office space and the newest from Port Workspaces, a technology and culinary center for entrepreneurs that includes a commercial kitchen and some of the most exciting event space in the city.

Tour participants will also get inside the historic former Sears building, 400,000 square foot of which are currently being developed by Lane Partners for potential tech company tenants and ground floor retail. The tour ends with sweeping views from the currently vacant 24th floor at the Kaiser Center, a mid-century landmark office tower at Lake Merritt, which includes the 3.5-acre Kaiser Roof Garden. The Roof Garden Terrace will serve as the venue for Vator’s popular post-event networking reception on April 23, which will treat attendees to made-in-Oakland artisan food, craft beer and wine from local vintners.

The conference has received local and national support, including sponsorship by KPMG, Kapor Center for Social Impact, Wendel Rosen Black & Dean, Javelin Venture Partners, Rackspace, Port Workspaces, Alaska Airlines, the City of Oakland, Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Gensler, Bread & Butter Wines, the Lake Merritt Uptown and Downtown Oakland Associations, Swig Co., Avison Young, Scrubbed, Stratpoint and 2.Oakland.

Vator Splash – The international start-up competition and venture capital conference series brings together entrepreneurs, angel investors, VCs and high-tech influencers to discuss the current state of technology, innovation and investment.

Vator – Founded in 2007 by award-winning finance and technology journalist Bambi Francisco, the Vator media family includes Vator Splash; VatorNews, a news site boasting over 500 contributors covering the business and trends of high-tech innovation; Vator, one of the largest business networks dedicated to entrepreneurship and investors, Vator Competitions, a competition management platform and investment platform.


Karen Wertman


Bambi Francisco Roizen

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