The First Round Capital Holiday Train Wreck

Your annual reminder of the hidden costs of taking venture capital is here — it’s the First Round Capital Holiday Video, a yearly cringe-fest of startups parodying the year’s biggest pop hits, with lyrics tweaked to reflect the worst of startup culture. (Full lyrics at the end of the post.)

I have a grim fascination with these videos and their ever-increasing production budgets. Every year, I watch them with my hands shielding my eyes, and collect them in a YouTube playlist. (For some reason, 2009’s video is only on Vimeo.)

Of course, if you ask First Round about it, and probably most of the founders in the video, they’ll say, it’s all in fun! We’re just blowing off some steam at the end of the year! I know one of the partners at First Round. I know some of the people at the startups in the videos. I don’t think their intentions are bad.

But once these startups have taken funding, do they really have a choice?

This year, Crunchbase says First Round invested in 57 startups, a median amount of $8.5M and an average of $18.5 million.

If someone gives you $8.5 million, sits on your board, and owns a significant part of your company, you’re going to dance if they say “dance.” You’re going to sing if they say “sing.”

And you’ll ask your entire team to do it too, and they’ll be captured on video, streamable on YouTube for years after they quit or were laid off.

In a situation like that, you can’t really say no. You just put on the costume, smile, and dance.


Lyrics

True grit, not gonna fold
That Pied Piper is pure gold
Another year, we’re still here
New unicorns, big press releases
Stylin’, thrivin’
Startup life ain’t always pretty
Like Black Swans with blinders on
Can’t innovate by committee
Series Seed (Hot damn)
First line of code and it all began
Series A (Hot Damn)
make something people love, man
Series B (Hot Damn)
This ain’t a game, got massive TAM
Series C (Hot Damn)
Not a fad, making money, break it down
(We) Hustle
Scrappy
It all started with our series seed
There’s no fear – just warp speed
Cause in startups there’s no guarantee
Yeah, it’s all about disruption
Not the spotlight
No one ever mentions the sleepless nights
Need to hire and hurry about it
Need to grow my dev team for sure
Do you know a growth team for hire?
Need to find a dev ops engine-ee-eer, whoa
I need candidates to interview
Fill the funnel, fill the funnel
Oh, I need candidates to interview
Fill the funnel, fill the funnel
Oh, I need candidates to interview
You used to offer me a bridge loan
Fund me if things get rough
Offer me a bridge loan
Fund me if things get rough
And I know when the markets swing
We’ll be the one left standing
All we need is First Round to lean on
You take every single piece of the fame if you want to
But you know that we’ve got a clear contrarian point of view
We grow we grow and then we IPO and I speak the truth
Do you really believe “this time it’s different”?
Yeah
Does your website work in Safari?
Cause Chrome, isn’t used by everybody
Oh, does your website work in Safari?
Yeah I know Fidelity marked you down
And we all know your stock price now
Does your website work in Safari?
Cause Chrome, isn’t used by everybody
Oh, does your website work in Safari?
All around our team grows
And we don’t expect it to plateau
Focus, change has come
We’ve got First Round to lean on
Focus, change has come
We’ve got First Round to lean on
Hey, you’re the one I want to fund me
And if you want, I’ll sign your term sheet
There’s nothing I, no I wouldn’t do, I wouldn’t do
Just to get to work with you
All we need is First Round to lean on
Yeah, I know Fidelity marked you down
And we all know your stock price now
I need candidates to interview
Don’t believe me just watch
Don’t believe me just watch
There’s nothing I, no, I wouldn’t do, I wouldn’t do
Just to get to work with you

14 thoughts on “The First Round Capital Holiday Train Wreck

  1. But once these startups have taken funding, do they really have a choice?

    The CEO of a First Round funded company once told me participation in the video was mandated by the funding docs. So, “no.”

    I never saw the agreement myself, but I’m 95% sure he was serious.

  2. Oh the humanity!

    Is this actually worth complaining about?

    I like the video. It’s an art project, it’s self aware, it’s cheap in the scheme of things.

    No shaming needed. More smiles necessary.

  3. These videos are the same kind of self-aggrandizing promotion that lots of big companies do.

    Don’t be naive, these aren’t ‘art projects’, they are ego driven vanity projects.

    If the video was by Monsanto or Comcast, it would be widely mocked on the interwebs.

  4. This is a harmless and whimsical video that hurts no one. Everyone could do with a good laugh during the holidays. I’ve worked with many of the folks at First Round and can only say that they are awesome people who do an incredible job. If you don’t want to watch it, please don’t. I’m certain that everyone who took part in the video did so voluntarily. Many of these founders and teams look like they’re genuinely having fun making this video. They’re all adults who can refuse to if they want. I encourage you to stop spreading ridicule for no good reason.

  5. “This year, Crunchbase says First Round invested in 57 startups, a median amount of $8.5M and an average of $18.5 million.”

    Incorrect, First Round invests *with* other investors. They have never done a full Seed round purely by themselves.

    The amount they actually invested is substantially lower than 8.5-18.5mm.

  6. I work at a FRC-funded startup that has participated in past years but sat this year out. It’s not mandatory.

    It works like this: FRC emails around asking founders if they’re interested in participating. They can say yes or no. I’d expect that the same goes for the employees in video.

    I mean, I think they’re pretty stupid, but not really worth the scorn they get every year.

  7. Each year, I get fewer and fewer of the references. As Mark Steyn prophesied a few years ago: pop culture is no longer popular.

  8. Each year, I get fewer and fewer of the references. As Mark Steyn prophesied a few years ago: pop culture is no longer popular.

  9. – whether or not it’s required attendance or to perform, the pressure to look as the VC wishes to see you (fun, smart, whatevs) is deep. That said, and not being of the ‘whimsical fun’ disposition, I watch this with horror…

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