Over the last several years, April Fool's Day has been moving online – and although we’ve seen online pranks from startups, bloggers, and large Internet companies, I’ve noticed relatively few from venture capitalists. (Insert sarcastic comment about VC’s lack of sense of humor here). So, I thought I’d try to join in this year.
One of the investment themes we’ve been following this past year is the rapid growth of user-generated content. And a creative example of user-generated content in the venture industry is TheFunded.com – a site where entrepreneurs can leave anonymous feedback about their experiences with venture capitalists. So, I thought it would be fitting to launch TheUNFunded.com for April Fools – a site for VC’s to provide anonymous feedback on entrepreneurs. I intentionally wrote such outlandish reviews of fake entrepreneurs, and I expected everyone to immediately realize it was a joke.
Michael Arrington “broke the story” about TheUnFunded.com yesterday on Techcrunch, and the site quickly benefited from the Techcrunch Bump. And while my little prank surely won’t make the 100 Top April Fools Day Hoaxes of all time, the responses provided an interesting perspective on people’s attitudes (and predispositions) towards the venture industry. While there were several people who recognized the April Fool's Day satire, I was surprised to see that many people assumed the site was real. And their reactions on Techcrunch and blog posts were very revealing. Heck, even VentureBeat (which covers the venture industry professionally) fell for it. My favorite reaction comes from a del.icio.us user who tagged the site as “Funding, VC, Douchebags”.
The fact that so many smart people actually believed that such an outlandish site could be legitimate speaks volumes about the state of the relationship between entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Today's New York Times has a story which notes that "...recent research suggests that the experience of being duped can stir self-reflection in a way few other experiences can..." And while I don’t want to read too much into a silly April Fool’s Day joke, I think it does shine a little light on the level of mistrust and ignorance within the VC/entrepreneur ecosystem. I don’t know if I am more surprised by the fact that entrepreneurs fell for the hoax – or that the site received over thirty membership requests from legitimate VCs. (Don’t worry guys, I won’t publish your submissions – just make sure you mark up my next hot deal;-)
Just to be clear, TheUnFunded was a joke. A parody. No actual entrepreneurs or companies were reviewed on the site. I genuinely like TheFunded.com – and think it provides some much needed transparency in the venture industry. No hidden message here -- just a recognition that sometimes everyone takes themselves a little too seriously...
Now that April Fools is past, I’ll be shutting down TheUnFunded.com later this week, and giving the domain to Adeo at TheFunded to use as he sees fit. Thanks to both Michael and Adeo for playing along…