A lot of venture capitalists take themselves very, very seriously. Full of confidence they are convinced they are helping to change the world and enabling entrepreneurs to fulfil their dreams.
All of these things combined have long made the venture capital industry easy to mock. But there is one area where VCs are coming under increasing ridicule: their approach to social media.
This is because even some of the nicest and most humble VCs, when on Twitter, tend to adopt a curious style. Their Tweets become predominately either self-congratulatory (e.g. “Honoured to have been an early investor in Revolut, which is now worth $5.5bn”) or unsolicited fortune-cookie advice (e.g. “The essence of life is speaking your truth”).
In recent months, several satirical anonymous Twitter accounts have started to have a go at this soft target. Some VCs are taking this mocking well, while others… not so much.
One of the most popular of the new accounts is VCs Congratulating Themselves (@VCBrags), which retweets VCs boasting about how great they are with the clapping emoji repeated over and over again.
“They’re adding value. And they’re very proud of it,” reads the description on the @VCBrags account, which has amassed 33,000 followers since it launched four months ago.
Here is a small sample of what you can expect:
— VCs Congratulating Themselves 👏👏👏 (@VCBrags) December 15, 2019
— VCs Congratulating Themselves 👏👏👏 (@VCBrags) November 10, 2019
— VCs Congratulating Themselves 👏👏👏 (@VCBrags) November 14, 2019
— VCs Congratulating Themselves 👏👏👏 (@VCBrags) December 21, 2019
Sifted slipped into the Twitter DMs of @VCBrags to try and understand the motive for setting up the account.
“I think this industry needs some serious self-reflection,” said the person running the account, who wishes to remain anonymous.
“So many VCs craft their thoughts here on Twitter as if they are some deep philosopher that is bestowing their wisdom when in reality it is just some dude in a Patagonia vest and Allbirds that got rich investing in some boring cloud computing software.”
Why do they do it?
The person behind VCBrags said they think venture capitalists like to brag for a number of reasons, including:
- bringing in deal flow
- industry cred/gloating
- feeding their ego
- and in some cases, because they worked hard and believed in a founder when nobody else would and it paid off
The mystery person, who says they set up the account because they were bored and in-between meetings, added: “Most VCs try and mask their self-congratulatory remarks by praising the founders, the firm they work for or reflecting on what they learned in the process. Then pepper in how they invested early and what the valuation/exit is.”
Hussein Kanji, a partner at London-based VC firm Hoxton Ventures (who, to be fair, mainly Tweets out high-quality articles about tech rather than bragging), told Sifted that all VCs play this kind of game on Twitter.
“I do it because everyone else does it,” he said. “I think there is a lot of self-congratulatory stuff in the industry.”
Kanji thinks that US VCs have a reputation for bragging slightly more than European VCs, but there’s a good reason for that in his opinion.
“Not that many European VCs have had success,” he said. “When they do, they certainly toot their own horn. And some EU funds spend more time marketing their ‘big’ wins vs. investing.”
Another VC, who wished to remain anonymous, said VCs brag “to get recognition from their peers”, while an anonymous angel investor said: “I guess it’s ego, getting a promotion, increasing deal flow and raising profile for your next move.”
Not everyone’s a fan
A retweet from @VCBrags can be embarrassing and some have accused the account of being mean and snide. @VCBrags does not offer up any analysis or thoughts, just those withering claps. Some VC luminaries in the US — like Marc Andreessen and Paul Graham — have blocked the account.
Some VCs do see a funny side though. Plenty of venture capitalists have actually embraced the account and are tagging @VCBrags in their own tweets. “Most VCs and angel investors that get retweeted are good sports and see the account for what it is — a dumb meme parody account,” said the person running @VCBrags.
Another top Twitter account to follow is @vcstarterkit. This account was born in March 2019 and has got over 30,000 Twitter followers. The account’s strapline is “let me know how i can be helpful”. Here’s a selection of tweets:
This but for Patagonia vests and venture funds https://t.co/k3Uk7TPCeG
— let me know how i can be helpful (@vcstarterkit) March 16, 2019
Advertising that your company is in YC Startup School is the startup equivalent of adding Harvard to the education section of your resume because you once enrolled in an online “executive leadership” workshop. https://t.co/RjI8n4C6CQ
— let me know how i can be helpful (@vcstarterkit) February 23, 2020
when investing in startups, it’s important to invest in good ones and not bad ones https://t.co/wjTUETESkN
— let me know how i can be helpful (@vcstarterkit) February 13, 2020
It turns out you don't need to travel to the center of the universe to discover a black hole.
Just try sending a deck to the "Submit a business plan" email listed on a venture firm's website
— let me know how i can be helpful (@vcstarterkit) February 9, 2020
There’s not just a Twitter account for this one. It gets better. There’s also a website (vcstarterkit.com) where you can actually buy a VC Starter Kit.
The $499 “Partner Kit” option contains a Patagonia fleece vest, black Allbirds trainers, Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, and Zero to One by Peter Thiel.
If you upgrade to the “Fund II” kit then you get Superhuman email software, a subscription to The Information and a Twitter audit by a VC influencer, among other things.
There are some other similar accounts as well. On Instagram there is @prayingforexits, while on Twitter there is @VCComplaints, @CEOBrags and @FounderBrags with a similar style.
The question is if these accounts will lead to a toning down of the congratulatory style of VC Twitter. But that may be too much to hope for.