How A Practical Joke By CB Insights Skewering VC Culture Fooled Silicon Valley


[Photo: Flickr user ~He Shoots He Scores~]
CHRISTINA FARR 04.04.16 4:52 PM
Anand Sanwal, the CEO of CB Insights—a research firm that tracks investment in startups—had an idea for an April Fools’ Day joke that made fun of Silicon Valley’s unicorns and the venture capitalists who fund them.

At the end of the day on April 1, the company announced on its social media feeds that it had launched a new $40 million fund called “ChubbyBrain Ventures” and that it was looking for a “diverse set of candidates from Harvard, Stanford, or Wharton” (hah!).

If that dig at tech’s well-documented diversity problem proved to be too subtle, the post also included a GIF of a unicorn and a call out for “chubby” startups that are somewhere between “the lean and fat startup” (whatever that means).
Within 48 hours, the company says it was flooded with resumes from venture partners, congratulatory notes, co-investment opportunities, and even a few news articles that have subsequently been removed. CB Insights informed any journalists who reached out to them before publishing that it was an April Fools’ joke.

“I suspect that some people only skimmed the headline and not the post, which might explain the congratulatory notes,” says Sanwal. “But I would assume that those who reached out for employment opportunities gave it a read.”
I mentioned to Sanwal that I hear far crazier stuff delivered in a totally un-ironic way on the regular. One incident that comes to mind is from two years ago, when a prominent venture capitalist informed me that he often calls his wife for an opinion when he gets a pitch deck from an e-commerce startup—and is therefore “friendly to female founders.” Or, there’s the constant stream of meaningless jargon in news articles and press releases (what is a SaaS enterprise wellness platform, anyway)?

Sanwal didn’t set out to prove any larger point, but he was surprised—and perhaps even a little freaked out—by the positive responses to a post, in which he intentionally depicted himself as a total douche bag. “People probably fell for it because we have all heard this kind of crazy, absurd thing before.”

Well, Silicon Valley, I guess the joke is on us.