We kicked off the 2021 edition of the VRTECH Competition last week by announcing the 20 startups shortlisted for the award.

The voting will happen in three rounds: the first startup will be chosen by public vote, the second by a panel of expert judges, and the third by a panel of experienced property managers. 

The three finalists (one chosen in each round) will present their business in front of industry professionals at the Vacation Rental World Summit 2021 in Annecy, France, on the 16th-17th of September. The winner will be chosen by the audience.

And now, let us introduce the property managers and vacation rental experts who have agreed to be a part of this year’s VRTECH jury!

Panel of property managers

1. Jesse DePinto


Jesse is the Chief Product Officer and Co-founder of Frontdesk, a leading flexible and short-term rental brand and solutions provider for urban multifamily apartments. 

Today, Frontdesk operates across 180+ apartment communities in 33 cities with over 160 talented employees. 

Jesse holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from UW-Milwaukee. He is a proud husband and father of three boys, and a complete nerd at heart.

2. Ellie Paget


Ellie is Chief Executive Officer of HomeSlice Stays, a national short-term rental management company that offers a truly unique service.

Ellie and the HomeSlice Stays team help multifamily owners, operators and vacation rental investors in several areas of business, including purchase and acquisition; design and staging; branding and marketing; guest management and reservations; smart tech integration and optimisation and maximising efficiency. 

3. Terry Whyte

Terry is the Owner of Anna Maria Island Beach Rentals. He also runs a website called Vacation Rental Software Guy

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s more passionate about vacation rental software than Terry. When he’s not busy running his Florida-based property management company, Terry leads a group of researchers on a mission to find the best vacation rental software.

His work has earned him numerous awards and he’s made appearances in a wide range of webinars, podcasts and conferences.

4. Tim Andrews


Tim is the Founder of OVO Network, a technology-driven marketing and booking platform for a network of 300+ handpicked boutique vacation rentals across the French Alps.

He started OVO Network in 2010 after 20 years of working as an entrepreneur in the music industry running independent record Iabels and recording studios.

5. David Angotti

David is the Founder of SmokyMountains.com, the go-to platform for cabin rentals, restaurants and attractions in the Smoky Mountains. 

He is a serial entrepreneur with an impressive track record of business successes. He founded and exited a rapid-growth edtech startup, consulted with Fortune 100 brands including Amazon, and built and sold a property management company from the ground up.

Now, he owns two successful niche listing sites with a third launching soon. When he isn’t working, David is likely training for an ultra-marathon, travelling, or spending time with his family. 

6. Pablo Zubicaray  

Pablo is the Founder and CEO of OlaLiving and Founder of YelloLiving, specialising in corporate ad co-living apartments. 

With more than 17 years of experience under his belt, Pablo not only dabbles in vacation rentals. He is an entrepreneur and has been a founding partner for several successful start-up companies in various sectors, from the restaurant to the real estate and tourism sectors. 

Another passion of Pablo’s is technology, and he has invested in some exciting start-ups in Barcelona, including Glovo and Badi, among many others.

Panel of expert judges

1. Jessica Gillingham


Jessica is the Founder and Director of Abode PR, an award-winning B2B public relations consultancy and agency focused on raising the profile of transformative technology solutions operating within the short-term rental, hotel and real estate ecosystems.

With over 20 years of experience in public relations, hospitality and technology, Jessica is also an advisor, leadership mentor and industry commentator. 

Her company sits at the heart of the developing intersection between work, life and play in the property and hospitality markets, and partners with technology solutions playing a lead role in this transformation.

2. Dustin Figge

Dustin is the CEO and Founder of Homelike, the largest platform for mid-term furnished apartments offering over 90,000 apartments in more than 400 locations that can be booked entirely online.

He’s a serial entrepreneur: prior to starting Homelike in 2015, he co-founded Talents Connect,

Dustin is also a sports enthusiast – his favourite hobbies include surfing and triathlon – and a world traveller who’s lived in four different countries). 

3. Margot Schmorak


Margot is the CEO and Co-Founder of Hostfully, a venture-backed software company providing a B2B SaaS platform to middle-market short term rental property managers. 

Margot has been working in Silicon Valley tech companies for the last 15 years. After getting her MBA, she started out working at Apple and launched the iPhone Developer Program in 2008. 

She worked at another early-stage startup and then joined ServiceSource where she led Sales Strategy and Marketing for the $250M business unit. Margot lives in San Francisco with her family.

4. David Soskin

David is a Founding Partner of HOWZAT Partners, an investment fund investing in digital businesses.

Previously, David served as Chief Executive Officer of Cheapflights (later renamed Momondo) for eight years. Under his leadership, Cheapflights grew from an attic-based operation into an international leader in online travel search. 

During this period, Cheapflights won many industry awards and was included in the Sunday Times Microsoft Tech Track of the UK’s 100 fastest growing privately-owned technology companies for five years in a row. 

David was a Finalist for the Ernst and Young UK Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He is the author of the book Net Profit: How to Succeed in Digital Business.

5. Julia Lane


Julia is the Principal of Parlay Vous, a company that delivers innovative marketing, ecommerce and business strategies for its clients.

Before founding Parlay Vous in 2017, Julia worked extensively in the vacation rental and travel tech segment. Her credibility as a SaaS vendor, consultant and start-up advisor stems from her roots as a property manager, giving her a 360˚ view of the industry.

Julia also serves as VP of Communications for the South Carolina chapter of HSAMI and on the Advocacy Committee for VRMA.

She lives in the historic district of Charleston, SC and is passionate about studying placemaking in the living lab of her neighbourhood. 

6. Seán Worker

Seán is the Founder of T5 Strategies, where he and his team advise both established companies and start-ups in various aspects of their business. These include business strategy; tech analysis and development; prepping for investment; executive and team coaching and more. 

In addition, he has joined the HoCoSo Consulting expert community as Managing Director of Technology, Adaptation & Innovation Services.

He has over 25 years of experience across the hospitality, alternative accommodation, coliving, coworking, real estate, franchising and technology sectors. He’s held senior management roles with brands such as Marriott, Wyndham, Aimbridge, and BridgeStreet. 

Under the T5 flag, Seán has recently authored the book The Adapters: How the Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Industry is Adapting and Innovating to Connect the World.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with the VRTECH competition become a member of the VRTECH Community here!