We have a confession. The Short Change Venture Capital’s MicroFundr™ Fund, which we announced yesterday, was an April Fool. It was a fake, it was a hoax, it was some scam, it was our joke. We got you. Well, we got most of you – there were a few doubts.
Anatomy of a hoax…
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten of The Next Web and Ville Vesterinen of ArcticStartup cooked up the central concept on the afternoon of 31st March, and mailed the outline to fellow conspirators. David Petherick worked on a fictional press release (reproduced below), from which Ville Vesterinen and Zee Kane worked to create separate blog entries. Meanwhile, David created the graphics and account for @microfundr on Twitter, and took a screenshot of the first instructional Twitter message to be used in the blogs from the Next Web and Acrtic Startup. TechCrunch UK & France couldn’t join in the fun, as they were busy on the road in Silicon Valley, but the story still had enough legs, and Ville and Zee published within a few minutes of each other in the early afternoon of April 1st.
- Arctic Startup Blog 1st April: MicroFundr, First Pan-European VC Fund, Will Use Twitter For Funding Process
- The Next Web Blog 1st April: Announcement: MicroFundr, an innovative new Pan-European VC Fund is born.
The story spreads…
Within a few minutes, retweeting of the stories started, and the @microfundr twitter account had gained over 100 followers by early evening, and currently stands at 119 followers. At least one person tweeted that “here was a story that was NOT an April Fool”. Oops. We were starting to believe it ourselves as we saw the story rippling out across the twitterverse and blogosphere.
We don’t wish to be cruel and name anyone who retweeted, or went as far as to send a URL with the hashtag #twit14 (TWIT 1st of the 4th), but a search on twitter for “microfundr” or “#twit14” is rather revealing. I’m afraid that, like Google, Twitter seems never to forget.
Letting you down gently
All followers of the twitter account will now be followed (according to our story, the sign that they are receiving a green light to pitch via 13 tweets for MicroFundr™ funding) and will see the following tweet “We are sorry to announce that @microfundr is an April Fool joke. Gotcha!” with a link to this blog. We will keep the account running for a while, as it seems a shame to bury what’s starting to look less like a joke and more like a good idea.
Quotes from the Perpetrators..
“The VC industry could do with some innovative new models. Even if having a smaller fund means smaller management fees. We apologize to those startups for raising false hopes, but at the same time hope that Angels and early stage funds will take note and look at Twitter not only as a bygone investment opportunity, but also a useful tool for their trade. ”
“Mr Kane is unavailable for comment.”
“Boris’ initial email quoted Albert Einstein “Anyone who doesn’t take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.” So after that, the release almost wrote itself, and I came up with the term microfundr in a flash, checked it was available on twitter, along with the hashtag #twit14 being unused, and within about 20 minutes, it was all in place. A quick twiddle in Fireworks gave me an avatar and icon (I even have an animated gif file) and the release was a solid base of ‘factual foundation’ for Ville and Zee to spin out from.
I think Boris’ interview with Andrew Keen from the ‘launch dinner’ conducted that same evening in Amsterdam was the real cherry on top, and Ville in Helsinki and Zee in London did a great job interpreting the release, and keeping their tone ‘straight’.
I just wish the fund was real. We could certainly start a €14 Euro fund (fourteen) – that might show up some great startups!”
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten:
“The huge amount of feedback to our ‘joke’ was so positive and encouraging that halfway through the day we started regretting that our project wasn’t real. Maybe we should seriously consider looking into making MicroFundr a reality. They say reality is stranger than fiction, but maybe we can turn fiction into reality one day.
Isaac Asimov famously said “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I’ve found it!), but ‘That’s funny…’. MicroFundr™ certainly was ‘Funny’ but for many people it seemed to feel more like an ‘Eureka!’.”
“I’m very small myself…”
Small Change’s Microfundr Press Release in Full
EMBARGO: 08:00 UTC April 01, 2009
Small Change Venture Capital: First pan-european VC fund MicroFundr™, aimed at small, mini & micro businesses, will use Twitter for funding process
AMSTERDAM, HELSINKI, LONDON & PARIS, April 01, 2009: Small Change Venture Capital are launching with MicroFundr™ which will invest up to €14,000 Euros (USD $18,500) in Micro blogging start-ups. The Invest Fund raised just under €14 million (USD $18m) from an anonymous group of small banks and informal investors. A joint group of European blogs, including The Next Web (https://thenextweb.com), ArcticStartup (http://www.arcticstartup.com), TechCrunch UK & Ireland (http://uk.techcrunch.com) and TechCrunch France (http://fr.techcrunch.com) today announced the launch of the MicroFundr™ investment fund aimed at European small, mini and micro start-ups.
“With the current economic climate, the rise of micro blogging services and a global focus on details, the time is right for a small money fund. The blogs involved will invest money, advertising space and attention in the form of blog posts for start-ups with no more than 2 employees, and modest goals.” said Dick Vogels, VP for Small Change Venture Capital, based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
“To be eligible, start-ups are required to have a turnover of no more than €140,000 Euros per year (USD $185,000), and should aim at an exit worth no more than €14 million (USD $18.5m). Business plans can be submitted via Twitter in no more than 14 tweets using the tag #twit14, with their first tweet to simply include a link to the startup company’s web site.
“If the twitter account @microfundr starts following the startup on twitter, a further 13 tweets will be accepted from that startup, as part of the application process. The shortlist of those to follow will be judged every 14 days by a panel of the partner Blog owners and Small Change executives, and we expect to have our first funding in place for 14 startups, totaling up to €196,000 (USD $259,000), within 28 days. Our backers all agree that ‘Small teams, modest dreams, high volume but low cost services and minimal turn-over are the keywords of the future.’
“These small startups are the key to growth in this economy, and the unique nature of this fund, along with the unique, rapid, web-enabled method of accessing funds, means it has an immediacy and straight-to-the-point focus that engenders a new breed of entrepreneur and a new type of micro-company. Our investors are confident that they will reap rapid rewards from the unique nature, speed of access to funding, and the clarity of equity participation that MicroFundr™ will employ.”
Further details will be announced on Partner Blogs, and there will be a series of tweets every 14 days from the @microfundr twitter account, with the first announcement of shortlisted startups due to be confirmed on 14th April 2009.
Apologies to those who were duped. We really almost wished it were real too. Watch out for us next year…