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The battle to win Startup Battlefield began long before TechCrunch Disrupt kicked off Tuesday. Startup founders from all over the world applied to what has been described as the most competitive batch in TechCrunch history. Twenty startups competed this week on the TechCrunch virtual stage for $100,000 in equity-free prize money and last night, we announced the finalists: Adventr, Cellino, Koa, Nth Cycle and Tatum.
The stakes stretch beyond prize money, however. The winner will become known to investors and potential partners and customers, thanks to global press coverage the event enjoys. It's a hefty award and one that requires a panel of expert judges to help determine who should receive it. It's a critical appointment — while brief — that can have a lasting impact on the founders who win, as well as help maintain TechCrunch's reputation as an outlet that finds innovative tech and entrepreneurs behind it.
Without further ado, here are the five judges who will pick the 2021 Startup Battlefield winner:
Kirsten Green is the founder and managing partner of Forerunner Ventures, a San Francisco-based VC firm she formed in 2010. Green has built her career as a VC by becoming an expert within the fields in which she invests, beginning in the consumer space and expanding to health and wellness, durable supply chains and more. Before starting Forerunner, the UCLA business economics graduate and licensed CPA was an equity research analyst and investor at Banc of America Securities, formerly Montgomery Securities, covering publicly traded retail and consumer stocks.
Green, who has collected a series of accolades, including being honored in Time’s 100 Most Influential People and named a Top 20 Venture Capitalists by The New York Times, currently serves as a board member on several portfolio companies, including Glossier, Faire, Hims-Hers, Curated, Ritual and Modern Fertility. She is also on the board of Nordstrom and previously served on the boards of Dollar Shave Club and Bonobos.
Jim Lanzone was named earlier this month as the next CEO of Yahoo Inc. (formerly Verizon Media and new TechCrunch corporate parent), a job he will officially begin September 27. The appointment comes less than two weeks after Apollo Global completed its acquisition of the media group from Verizon for $5 billion. Lanzone is leaving his current CEO position at dating app Tinder to take this new role.
Lanzone has a long history in media and as an entrepreneur. He worked at Ask.com (formerly Ask Jeeves), a division of IAC/InterActiveCorp., for seven years, eventually leading the internet company. He went on to found Clicker, an internet video search and programming guide. Clicker, which launched at the TechCrunch50 conference in 2009, was acquired by CBS Interactive. He rose through the ranks at CBSi, holding the chief digital officer role until eventually becoming president and CEO. During his time at CBSi, Lanzone led the creation, launch and growth of streaming services CBS All Access, CBSN and CBS Sports HQ.
Luciana Lixandru is a partner at Sequoia, where she focuses on enterprise and consumer technology companies across Europe. The Georgetown University economics and mathematics graduate started her career at Morgan Stanley as an analyst and was later an associate at Summit Partners.
Prior to becoming Sequoia’s first partner in Europe, Lixandru worked at Accel for eight years, where she led investments in Deliveroo, Hopin, Miro and UiPath, among others.
Sarah Tavel is a general partner at Benchmark, where she invests in network effect businesses with a focus on marketplaces and social, as well as cryptocurrency. Tavel currently sits on the boards of Chainalysis, Hipcamp, REKKI, Supergreat, Popshop and Poparazzi, as well as several unannounced companies.
After graduating from Harvard with a degree in philosophy, Tavel was a consultant at The Kerden Group and then vice president at Bessemer Venture Partners. She joined Pinterest in 2012 as one of the company's first 35 employees after co-leading the Series A investment while at Bessemer. While at Pinterest she helped it expand internationally, close its Series C financing and led three acquisitions.
Tavel left Pinterest to become a partner at Greylock Partners, where she led their investment in Sonder and Gixo, which was acquired by Openfit.
Tavel is also a founding member of All Raise, the nonprofit organization focused on women in the venture capital and VC-backed startup ecosystem.
Alexa von Tobel, the co-founder and managing partner of Inspired Capital, can likely relate to the startup founders on the TechCrunch stage. The Harvard College and Harvard Business school graduate founded LearnVest in 2008 with the goal of helping people make progress on their money. The company, which raised nearly $75 million in venture capital, was acquired by Northwestern Mutual in May 2015 in one of the biggest fintech acquisitions of the decade.
Von Tobel joined the management team of Northwestern Mutual as the company’s first chief digital officer. She later assumed the role of chief innovation officer through which she oversaw Northwestern Mutual’s venture arm. She's also a New York Times-Bestselling author of the book, "Financially Fearless and Financially Forward" and hosts the weekly podcast "The Founders Project with Alexa von Tobel." Alexa is a member of the 2016 Class of Henry Crown Fellows and an inaugural member of President Obama’s Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship.