While Foundry Group has made a reputation as a nationally-focused early-stage venture firm, they are also known for having a lot of fun. In 2011, they launched a "Justin Timberlake meets VC" video called I'm a VC that got nearly 100,000 views. This year they followed up with Worst of Times, a digital short that explores how "worthless" today's technology has become. Launched just a couple months ago, the video has quickly garnered close to 150,000 views. To this end, I recently sat down with Jason Mendelson, managing director at Foundry Group and producer and writer of both pieces. We talked about what motivates venture capitalists to sing, dance, and dress in drag in public.
PS: Why do you guys make these videos? Does it help you with deal flow? Your jobs?
JM: Unlike many venture firms, we don't have a marketing person or outside firm. In fact, we don't even have an internal marketing plan between the partners. We just do what we do. We make these videos mostly because we love hanging out and being creative with one another. And when else do you have an excuse to shop for such horrendous looking clothes?
We think that a lot of people in the venture ecosystem take themselves way too seriously, so I think part of our counter culture is to poke fun at the whole system. My partners Brad Feld, Seth Levine, and Ryan McIntyre all have great senses of humor and we love to have fun at our own expense. If entrepreneurs find that attractive, then perhaps it might help our deal flow, but we really are just trying to express our personalities and have fun more than anything else.
PS: Do you really feel that today's technology is so bad?
JM: Absolutely not. But all of our gripes in Worst of Times are real. Today's technology is simply amazing, but also has a ways to go. This is, in part, why I like being a venture capitalist. I get to invest in entrepreneurs passionate about taking these technologies to the next level. We really are lucky to have the technology that we have, but it feels like we are close to having so much more.
PS: Who is the best dancer of the group? The worst?
JM: Without a doubt, Seth steals the show when we do these things. None of Brad, Ryan or I can dance at all, which is somewhat ironic given that Ryan and I have a fairly serious band on the side. But if I had to vote, I'd give Brad or I worst dancer.
PS: Surely you must have had some good outtakes or funny things happen while undertaking your latest project. Care to share?
JM: I think my favorite story happened just as we finished shooting. We decided to pay homage to Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love Video whereby Seth, Ryan and Brad would dress up as the backup all-woman band and I would play Palmer. To wit, the guys each wore black cocktail dress, full make up and swayed back and forth without expression to capture the vintage Palmer band look of the day. It was the last scene that we shot over two days and we were all exhausted. Brad decided that he wanted to walk home. I offered to drive him and reminded him that he was looking rather "special" at the moment and he replied "It's Boulder. And no one will recognize me anyways."
About 30 minutes later I get an email from Brad's wife Amy. The title was: "What did you do with my husband?" And the body read: "He comes home wearing a dress and makeup, too tired to talk, takes a shower and goes to sleep. Should I be worried?" To which I wrote back: "Sorry Amy, but I haven't seen Brad all day."
PS: When is the next video?
JM: I don't know. While a ton of fun to make, we'll see what inspires me next. It takes a lot of time to write original music, lyrics and produce what amounts to a short film. So long as it's funny and unique, I'm in. If anyone has ideas, hit me up!