Vator Splash: How to differentiate your tech event in Silicon Valley

With the hundreds of tech events that take place in Silicon Valley every month, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. Yet constant innovation is the name of the game in this neck of the woods and events are no exception. We got a chance to sit down with Bambi Francisco, CEO and founder of Vator.tv and producer of the first inaugural Vator Splash event, to talk about how to create a tech event that offers a unique value proposition.

What is Vator Splash?

It’s an event for seed- to early-stage startups that want to learn about building their business and launch and/or showcase their companies before their industry peers, investors and media. The event includes dinner and drinks, and keynotes from Zynga CEO Mark Pincus and Smule CEO Jeff Smith, and ends with an after-party with venture capitalist Tim Chang of Norwest and his band gracing the stage.

What would you like attendees to take away from the event?

I hope that they learn something from Mark and Jeff and that they are wowed by at least one start-up. I also hope they are able to do some networking and most of all, have fun.

How did you think about differentiating your event from all the other tech events happening in the bay area?

We focused on bringing together three main things that when combined created an event that people are excited to attend:
1. Relevant speakers who have a good success story that people can learn from.

2. An exciting competition with a top-notch judging panel.

3. A unique venue.

What is the Vator Splash Competition?

CEOs and/or founders of 10 companies will have the opportunity to present onstage and give a three-minute pitch in front of some 300 business professionals, comprising of executives from startups and large companies, angel investors, VCs, and media.

How did you chose which companies get to compete?

It’s a purely democratic process, these start-ups are chosen by their peers and vetted by judges and we ensure that every voter has a unique vator.tv account to ensure a level playing field. We hope that these awards are more meaningful because of this.

What was your strategy for finding the judges for the competition?

We wanted to have people who could be entertaining but at the same time have recognizability and credibility in the industry. For example, Howard Hartenbaum is serious yet entertaining, you want to find the people who are dynamic and articulate, not just the smarties. Google ventures is new and has excitement around it, so I knew someone from there would be great. I tried to find people who would make everyone laugh, but be good judges. I also focused on finding early stage investors so that they would be relevant for the start-ups.

You also have an impressive line-up of speakers, how did you recruit them?

I emailed each one of them. Because of our company, vator.tv, we are lucky to have personal relationships with many great CEOs and founders. I focused on gather speakers who are relevant today, who people are interested in hearing from because of the work that they are doing right now. I also focused on serial entrepreneurs who have had successful exits, who have gone through the tough start-up experiences and have the scars to prove it, but who have been successful in the end. They need to have a good story that the audience can learn from.

How did you choose Café du Nord as a venue?

We got lucky really, one of our investors is a part-owner. After we had our first event at Microsoft, we were looking for something a little more hip. We wanted to make it different and special. Microsoft is a great venue, but there are a lot of events there. We also found that even after the event ends people want to stay together and have drinks, so there was an unofficial after-party last year, but this year we’ve baked it into the program so a venue like Café du Nord can transform well to serve both parts of the agenda.

How did you gather sponsors?

I looked at who our partner sponsors were on Vator.tv and reached out to the ones we thought would be most excited to participate. We let them know that we would have 300 people, we gave them the speaker line-up, the agenda, and we told them that we thought hat we would sell out. I put together a rate sheet with 5 different tiers of sponsorship and let them pick what they were most comfortable with. In gathering sponsors it’s really important to understand who your audience is for the event and then reach out to people who want to get in front of that audience.

Check out this video of Bambi talking about the Vator Splash Competition:

Events