Andy Baio created Upcoming.org, a plausibly good group-calendar site he sold to Yahoo. Shirt-doffing VC David Hornik of August Capital has funded some plausibly good companies like Six Apart and Splunk. The two served as judges for "Worst Website Ever," a gag panel at SXSW where entrepreneurs gave their all to the worst startup pitches they could come up with. The ideas were funny enough — Sickr, Image Search for the Blind, My Happy Netbox, and the like. (See the photo gallery, after the jump.) But there was something sour about the whole business.
Why didn't the premise of the panel sit right with me? Because venture capitalists laughing at bad startup ideas isn't subversive; it's the status quo. Sure, the crowd was rolling in the aisles. Merlin Mann killed them with his prize-winning social network for thought leaders, Flockdup, which promised to "leveragate your friends."
But in retrospect, it would have been much funnier if the comics had come up with bad pitches for really good businesses, under other names. Would Hornik have funded YouTube if it had been pitched as a way to put videos in auction listings, or Twitter as a podcasting service? (That's how each of those startups got their start, by the way.) Venture capitalists like to think they're so smart — Hornik is just a prime example of the type. If Baio had sent up the likes of Hornik, rather than his fellow entrepreneurs, the laugh might have been on the investors. For a change.