Adventures in Venture Capital

Your Celebrity VC Firm Is a Horrible Idea, Here Let Everyone Count the Ways

Those that can't do, scold.
 Your Celebrity VC Firm Is a Horrible Idea, Here Let Everyone Count the Ways

(Photo: Flickr.com/LeWeb3)

Yesterday, word leaked that former Mashable editor Ben Parr is launching a seed stage VC fund targeted at celebrity investors. The cofounders of Tracks.by, a platform for music artists, are also partners in Mr. Parr’s fund. The tech world, as it’s wont to do, erupted into a collective scoff: A star-studded investment firm helmed by a “disgraced” journalist, who was fired for blabbing about his salary, doesn’t sound like the stuff of Sand Hill Road.

Unwilling to let an opportunity for backseat quarterbacking pass them by, tech bloggers immediately swooped in to offer their analysis of Mr. Parr’s newest venture.

The Wall Street Journal chimed in with a cautionary tale for Mr. Parr, penned by a journalist-turned-VC-turned-journalist-again, who quit his ink-stained day job during the first bubble to become an investor. Just because reporters write about startups, it seems, does not make us experts on the innerworkings of a business. Writes the WSJ:

When journalists give up their penny-a-line trade and think they are financiers and business executives, you are in a bubble….We wish Mr. Parr and his team of neophytes well, but he has a lot of work to prove that writing about startups in any way prepares him for the very different life as a VC.

Venture Beat writer Jolie O’Dell–a former coworker of Mr. Parr’s–took a similar tact, questioning the trio’s “capacity to run a credible investment outfit.” She hammered that point home by making the post’s URL “O Rly?”

Kernel Mag founder Milo Yiannopoulos, who himself is no stranger to blog controversy, took a more personal approach, calling Mr. Parr a “tragic figure” who got “carried away with his own celebrity:”

Since then, Parr has cut a rather tragic figure on the international conference circuit, his lanyards showing white space where the name of an employer ought to be. A year later almost to the day of his termination, however, Parr, who in a delicious slice of faint praise was described as “relentlessly nice” by waspish Valley journo Owen Thomas, is returning to the limelight with… yup, you guessed it. A venture capital firm.

And as for the “celebrity” aspect of the fund, PandoDaily pointed out that nary a celebrity is currently to be found:

First off, it’s a celebrity fund, but its grand entrance to the scene included scant actual funds and nary a celebrity. That’s a bad start. At best the oddly named group – the first financial vehicle with a hashtag as part of its name? – is a nascent concept, with a fundraising “target in the single digit millions” to quote the friendly launch article by Forbes’ Tomio Geron. The anchor investors are not celebrities themselves, but rather the business managers of Brittney Spears, Lil Wayne, and Drake. In the world of celebrity, close doesn’t count.

To be fair, as the New Yorker noted in its profile of Scooter Braun, talking to the managers of stars does seem to be the first step towards clinching that celebrity investment. As we mentioned in our profile of Rap Genius, Troy Carter, Lady Gaga’s manager and an investor in Tracks.by, has been known to stop by the offices of Andreessen Horowitz.

Lucky for Mr. Parr, celebrities may be less tied to Silicon Valley tradition. Besides, if Michael Arrington is any indication, he can always get back his day job.

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com