"What does the average person know about venture? Well, maybe a lot. Consider that [venture capitalists] have invested in such bad deals as Webvan and Pets.com." Venture capitalist Mark Modzelewski thus argues that because "experts" suck at picking good investees, we may as well throw it to the swine. Of course, this reasoning is bullshit meant to flatter the public that Mark hopes to interest in "You Be the VC," his new program in which regular people decide which startup deserves an investment. Oh yes, public elections are a perfect way to ensure smart decisions. Just ask Sanjaya Malakar or George Bush.
Okay, it's not entirely a bad idea.
For one, the investment isn't pure cash. The site's FAQ lists office space, development support, and accounting and legal services as part of the award deal, showing that "You Be The VC" is paying more attention to its investee's real needs than even some real VC firms.
On the other hand, the prize requires that the winning startup founders move to Cambridge.
Who will probably win?
Well it's a web contest, right? And everyone knows these things go to whoever can mobilize their loose contacts. So whoever's most energetic on Facebook, a blog, whatever, has a good chance of making it. Unless someone's got a BoingBoingable idea.
"BoingBoingable," named after the most popular grab-bag blog on the Internet, is a term I just invented for something that's immediately catchy, neat, the conceptual equivalent of a hit pop song. If an idea has a Diet-Coke-and-Mentos-level attraction, that could upset the whole balance. Granted, the conversion rate from views to votes is horribly low, so this would have to be one damn popular idea.
But wait, there's judges
The public only sees the top 100 applicants, as chosen by a panel of judges. Then these contestants go through another winnowing round, apparently judged by the judges, and registered site users finally get to vote on the top twenty based on a video pitch.
What is the Wisdom of Crowds?
Stupid, that's what it is. But if you insist, it's this pop-sociology idea that's been too widely accepted by people who can't distinguish a decent book idea for James Surowiecki from a solid scientific theory. These people hold a contradictory and equally unsupported faith in Malcolm Gladwell's Blink.
Nick Douglas writes at Valleywag and Too Much Nick. He's had thousands of bad ideas.