At TechCrunch Disrupt, our Startup Battlefield event is the centerpiece of the event, the true heart of this signature program.
There’s good reason we take it so seriously. Over the years, the Startup Battlefield competition has helped launch dozens of nascent startups that have grown into game-changing brands, including Cloudflare, Dropbox, Vurb, Mint, GetAround, Fitbit, Yammer and more. Collectively, Battlefield participants have gone on to raise $9 billion from investors and to generate 115 exits.
With nearly 1,000 applicants already this year — just 20 of which will make it to our stage — we aim to get it right again. Still, the competition is as fierce as ever. It’s why we’ll be relying heavily on featuring the right mix of judges. It’s these investors whose expertise and questions and insights will be key in determining which company is anointed our winner this year.
Toward that end, we’re spotlighting just five investors who we’re thrilled will be joining us in September: Ade Ajao, Maryanna Saenko, Charles Hudson, Ulili Onovakpuri and Melissa Bradley.
Ade Ajao has sat on both sides of the table. He is the cofounder and managing director of the early-stage, San Francisco-based venture firm Base10 Ventures. But before launching Base10 three years ago, Ajao spent several years as a VP with the HR giant Workday, as well as co-founded three notable companies, including one of the largest ride-sharing services in Latin America (Cabify); the data and analytics platform Identifed; and Tuenti, a social networking platform in Spain that was later acquired by Telefonica.
Maryanna Saenko, who in late 2018 co-founded the early-stage venture firm Future Ventures, has an equally diverse set of experiences. Focused today on robotics, quantum computing, biotechnology, aerospace and the future of food, Saenko was previously an investor with both Khosla Ventures, DFJ and Airbus Ventures where she led a series of venture investments aligned with Airbus’ future-of-aerospace initiatives. Before Airbus, Maryanna was a consultant at Lux Research and a research engineer at Cabot Corporation.
Charles Hudson is the founder and managing partner of Precursor Ventures, a pre-seed, San Francisco-based venture firm that has built its brand by leading the first institutional funding round for numerous kinds of software and hardware companies whose vision it likes. Before launching Precursor, Hudson spent eight years as a partner with Uncork Capital (formerly known as SoftTechVC), a role he took after co-founding a mobile games studio called Bionic Panda and working in business development across a range of companies earlier in his career, including Google.
Uriridiakoghene “Ulili” Onovakpuri is a partner with Kapor Capital in Oakland, Ca., where she’s focused especially on startups that revolve around digital health and medical tech. Onovakpuri, who describes herself as a proud UC Berkeley alum (with an MBA from Duke) was previously the director of global programs at Village Capital, the global accelerator program and venture firm with ties to Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, among many others. She also founded and ran for three years a startup called LifeKit that aimed to improve access to health care in the most rural regions of the world.
Last but not least, Melissa Bradley is the co-founder of Ureeka, a Washington, D.C.-based online platform where small businesses can come for professional training and coaching, which Bradley launched after spending roughly two years as a managing director with the D.C.-based accelerator 1863 Ventures. Bradley also previously co-founded a social impact agency called Sidecar Social Finance; was a managing director at Project 500, a business development program to help diverse businesses scale; and served as an adjunct professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.
Based on what we’re already seeing from applicants, the Battlefield will feature some especially compelling founding teams and pitches this year. We don’t envy our judges their work, but we are very thankful that they can join us.
Do join us for this must-see event. Disrupt 2020 runs from September 14-18 and will be virtual this year. Get your front row seat to the Startup Battlefield competition and much more with a Disrupt Digital Pro Pass or a Digital Startup Alley Exhibitor Package. (Prices increase in a few short weeks.)