Home Venture Capital Why humor is intrinsic to the venture and startup landscape

Why humor is intrinsic to the venture and startup landscape


As my editor and I were trying to find something light-hearted to do for this April Fools’ Monday, that’s a question we kept volleying around over Slack. And I had to think about it for a second.

VC itself is certainly funny. And that’s not just my opinion, that’s per HBO hit show Silicon Valley, which ran for six seasons. Many of the show’s best jokes are lines given to VC characters. (A personal favorite: Gloriously deadpan VC Peter Gregory, coming onstage after the rapper Flo Rida, saying to him: “Thank you, Florida.”)

But are VCs themselves funny? I’m no arbiter of what’s funny, but I know what works for me, as I suspect you know what works for you. And there’s definitely a lot of VC-made humor and content that’s not for me. The VC podcaster persona is one I’ve always found interesting—I tend to find most VC podcasts informative at best, cringeworthy at worst, and rarely as compelling acts of storytelling. 

Then there are private markets-made holiday music videos, which can be simultaneously charming and cringe. And if the tone isn’t just right, it can all feel pretty egotistical, pretty fast. 

That’s not to say all VC-created humor isn’t for me. Take Bubbleproof, a mockumentary series created by Heroic Ventures’ Michael Fertik and Bessemer’s David Cowan. I spit-take laughed within the first three minutes, when Fertik, on a TED spoof stage in a plaid shirt, says soulfully:

“Get to know an expert in your chosen field–and ignore everything he has to say…You pay your customers to be your customers…If you cannot find a problem, create a problem. Does that sound like a terrible idea that could not possibly work? You bet it does.” 

Bubbleproof, to me, is funny. The cast that seems to mostly also be…VCs rather than actors. As a recovered theater major, I can honestly say they’re pretty good. I managed to reach Cowan with my question: Are VCs funny?

“I think that as a group we really are funny–more in a laughing-at-you way than a laughing-with-you way. That’s how committed we are to getting laughs,” Cowan told Term Sheet via email. 

Humor can be a risky thing. One of my all-time favorite books is called Hammer and Tickle: A History Of Communism Told Through Communist Jokes, which is a great introduction to dark Soviet humor––and ultimately about how a misplaced joke could cost you your freedom. Of course it doesn’t go that far often. But watch any comedian, and eventually they’ll start talking about the spectacular embarrassment and risk of being a standup. And VC’s all about risk, right? Humor is risky and it’s important––in the defense of the holiday video trend, those videos are an investment in and, by extension, an acknowledgement that humor is important. 

So, are VCs funny? The answer, of course, is that it depends, but I’m more or less inclined to say yes. They sort of have to be, given how volatile and outlandish the world of venture and startups can be. The last time I unexpectedly and uncontrollably laughed recently was when I ran into an investor I knew at an event. We somehow got to talking about the most absurd pitches they’d ever heard, and I nearly broke a wine glass in hysterics. 

And I’ll never tell you where or who, but I’m still laughing weeks later. Happy April Fools’ Day. 

In case you missed it…GGV has officially rebranded to Notable Capital, and GGV Capital Asia has rebranded to Granite Asia. 

This month’s cartoon…Here’s our cartoon for April, by Ian Foley.

See you tomorrow, 

Allie Garfinkle
Email: alexandra.garfinkle@fortune.com
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Joe Abrams curated the deals section of today’s newsletter.


InStride Health, a Boston, Mass.-based outpatient provider of specialty pediatric anxiety and OCD treatment, raised $30 million in Series B funding. General Catalyst led the round and was joined by previous investors .406 Ventures, Valtruis, Mass General Brigham Ventures, and Hopelab Foundation.

ValidMind, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based AI and model risk management platform for financial services, raised $8.1 million in seed funding. Point72 Ventures led the round and was joined by Third Prime, New York Life Ventures, AI Fund, Notion Capital, FJ Labs, Angel Invest, and Gaingels.


Abrigo, backed by The Carlyle Group and Accel-KKR, acquired TPG Software, a Houston, Texas-based provider of investment accounting and management solutions. Financial terms were not disclosed.

AgroFresh Solutions, a portfolio company of Paine Schwartz Partners, acquired Pace International, a Wapato, Wash.-based provider of sustainable postharvest crop technologies. Financial terms were not disclosed.


Blue Yonder agreed to acquire One Network Enterprises, a Dallas, Texas-based developer of an AI-powered supply change management platform, for $839 million. 

Descartes Systems Group (Nasdaq:DSGX) acquired OCR Services, a Rockville, Md.-based provider of global trade management and compliance solutions, for approximately $90 million.


Boundless Bio, a San Diego, Calif.-based biotech company developing therapies for patients with intractable oncogene amplified cancers, raised $100 million in an offering of 6.3 million shares priced at $16 on the Nasdaq. 

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