Everything Wrong with Venture Capital in a Single Tweet 8

Enough is enough.

I was on Twitter this morning when I was officially pushed over the edge. Here’s the tweet that did it:

“Now, what’s wrong luxury villas?” You might be asking. And on the surface, the answer is nothing. Perhaps some day, I’ll even have the opportunity to rent one. What is wrong is the fact that this company got $1 million in VC funding – $1 million FLORIDA* dollars – to make it easier to book luxury villas. Is that actually a problem people have? Are you seriously telling me that there are people sitting around going, “You know, it’s so hard to book a good villa these days”? Let me tell you something: That is not an actual problem.

Not that long ago, the NY Times did a story on how a lot of money in the tech startup scene is being thrown around so that the 1% can live like the .1%, but this blows that out of the water.

And yes, I am angry about this in part because we haven’t gotten VC funding yet. In our meetings with VC folks, we’ve got a lot of “Oh, if you only had 100,000 users or 1 million users or every person on the planet already using your games.” “Oh, if you only had $100,000 or $1 million or $1 trillion in monthly revenue.” The reality is when we have the numbers that the VCs throw out as “Oh, if only…” I won’t need their money because we’ll have a self-sustaining company – and I’ll be lamenting that there isn’t a better online option for luxury villa rentals.

For long enough, I have accepted that educational technology is a different “space.” That it’s not sexy in the scheme of investing. That it is less likely to produce the billion-dollar unicorns of some other sectors (never mind, that unicorns are imaginary and don’t even exist). That investors want faster returns and that ed tech is a longer game. I was willing to roll with this – I didn’t particularly like it, but whatever. And we rolled with it pretty well – to the tune of bringing in over $1 million in non-VC funding ourselves.

But this is where I put my foot down. Because you know what? This is the most blatant example of how much of a FLORIDA joke venture capital is. You know why? Rich people – as in people rich enough to be booking luxury villas – don’t even book their own travel. You think rich people are on freaking websites debating which villa to get? Because they aren’t. No, rich people pay travel agents that pull together their luxury vacations, so I’m not even sure who benefits from this highly investible venture. The best I can guess is travel agents serving rich people? Seriously, for all the talk I have heard from VCs about market size and scalability, I’m trying to understand how that is not a niche market.

You see, the very first time that I met with a VC (who is actually very well known), he said that our games were “too niche” and education isn’t really something traditional VCs are interested in investing in. Now, as part of our accelerator experience, we did the whole market analysis breakdown – and without getting into the minutiae – I’m going to go out there and say, no matter how you slice it, there is no FLORIDA way that the luxury travel agent market is bigger than the 50% of the K12 English and Spanish-speaking global markets that our products can serve (or even just the U.S. portion of that market).

And if you can come back to me with a reason for why villa rentals is a much stronger and better market to invest in than education, then you should seriously take a long look in the mirror and ask, “How the FLORIDA did we, as a society, get to place where that is something that you can even dignify arguing?”

This is not a dig at Edge Retreats. Props to them for raising $1 million in VC funds. That’s work, no matter who you are. But this is a dig at the entire VC system that has the luxury of being so bad at their jobs that they only need to be successful one out of every 10 times and the ability to be so out of touch with reality that they think luxury villa rentals is actually a better investment than education.

That said, we’re still taking on investors, so if you’re an investor and you think that investing in education is more worthwhile than investing in luxury villas – or if you want to invest in education as well as luxury villas – let’s talk.

*Because I am anti-swearing on our company blog, I have replaced swearing with FLORIDA – because well, “Florida.”

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8 thoughts on “Everything Wrong with Venture Capital in a Single Tweet

  • Laura

    Why you are upset? Someone chose to invest in something they thought would be profitable and you’re angry because you feel you are more deserving of the money? Aren’t people entitled to invest their money however they please?

    I’m very curious as to what you mean when you say you are “putting your foot down,” because I don’t see how you have a leg to stand on when it comes to dictating how other people spend their money. Nobody owes you an investment.

    Frankly if I were an investor interested in working with you, this post alone may make me think twice, which is a shame because I think you guys are trying to do a really good thing. I’m not sure this post will get you the results you’re looking for. Lashing out in anger rarely does.

    • AnnMaria De Mars

      No one disagrees that people have the right to invest their own money however they would like. I believe you missed Maria’s point that what she is angry about is the REASONS people give for not investing are simply contradicted by their behavior. The same people who say that they are not interested in investing in educational technology because it has a long pay off, or isn’t going to make a billion dollars then invest in other things that will take several years to pay off or are not going to make a billion dollars. If you only want to invest in things that are problems for you and your friends, that is certainly your right, but OWN IT. Don’t lie and say “I only invest in enterprises making $100,000 a month”. Say, “This isn’t a problem that I care about.”

      I think the other thing that makes her legitimately disappointed is that there seem to be a lot of people interested in investing in exactly what she said, enabling the 1% to live like the .1% rather than say, trying to improve health care or education.

      I agree with her. Personally, I could be making a lot more money doing predictive models to maximize web traffic so someone buys more yoga pants or signs up for a credit card. I find it sad that the best minds of our generation are often focused on optimizing clicks on links rather than curing cancer, exploring space, ending world hunger. When I was a kid, a lot of people thought going to work for NASA was a great goal if you were brilliant.

      When did we give up on those things in favor of trying to make enough to buy a gold Ferrari?

  • dave lebold

    I played your trail game, I downloaded the trial, I found myself shooting wolves because they were rabid. The premise is wrong and the myth that wolves are evil almost led to there extinction. They were killed them just because of the false premise that they are evil. So I am in a tree killing these helpless wolves. I stopped there because it awful. I wondered why I wasn’t shooting arrows at a Buffalo which would have fed the sick people. You could have also told the story about how the Buffalo were hunted to the edge of extinction, not by the Native Americans with bow and arrows but others with guns. I think your problem with raising money is that your games are not very good. The tree shooting was weird and reminded of games from the 90’s. I think it is pretty difficult to get kids to play a low quality video game when they all have ps4’s and xbox’s.
    Sorry but that is my honest thoughts, maybe the Venture Capitalist people feel similar after playing the game.

    • AnnMaria De Mars

      I would disagree with you that our games are not very good compared to other educational games. I would agree that the games we sell to individuals for $9.99 and to schools for the equivalent of $2 – $3 per student are not equivalent to the games that you buy for $50 or $60.

      There is, in fact, a level in the same game where the players hunt buffalo to feed people. There is another level in another game where players hunt deer to feed people.

      I would also point out that the hardware that most schools have is very far from the type a hard core gamer would have. The minimal hardware our games need to support is Chromebooks and many schools want available an option to play the game on the web in buildings where the Internet access is far from optimal. These kinds of limitations are what make designing educational games such a challenge.

      The premise that wolves catch rabies and when they do tend to be severely aggressive and attack multiple people is a fact. See this report, for example, from the National Park Service https://www.nps.gov/fols/learn/historyculture/rabid-wolf-attacks-fort-larned.htm

      I believe the data support that wolves with rabies are anything but helpless.

  • Elaine

    As a rule, I make a point not to read too long nor that much on internet, especially with social media. Clearly I am on the internet now. I rarely make comments. I feel though I should this time. Many over the years will compare me to a ostrich sticking their head in the ground. I have found though, when I am meant to know something, I will find out. This frees me to have more time to do more things. I realized years ago, not being on the media so much freed me from getting mad and upset over things I have no control over.

    I have found it seems, the last few years, more and more there is horrible news, and clear wrong being done in the world. I had no idea, for example, the things Mrs Ortiz was upset about was even going on. I am glad she addressed this issue, and wrote a blog about it. This way, I not only learned about this thing Mrs Marie was upset about, but I also learned about venture capitalists. I had no clue such people did these things. Thank you for sharing your outrage! It is educational.

    I can respect Dave’s opinion, but I am of the mind, if you don’t like the game, don’t play it. Play something else. Also, how is your game doing? I know I struggle learning to code my own small app.

    As far as venture capitalists, clearly this movement here is going on without them. And odds are, it will grow more and more. Florida has a history of hurricanes, and well crazy things, and that villa could well get blown away during a hurricane season. I will not use a curse word to describe what I think we already know what these capitalists can do to themselves.

    I play the native games to learn more about math. I sure need to get smarter. I feel I can’t get smart enough. I found the lake games a challenge actually shooting the animals. Once I figured out what to do, I liked it. I see where some aspects of the game need some fine tuning, but on simple things like transitions with Forgotten Trail. Nothing bad. By and large, I think these games are great for children in classrooms. I like the fact there is no adult situations and no deep, and bloody, violence. I get so bored with adult situations, occult, and violence. I know living in the country, wolves are anything but helpless. They can and will kill you.

  • Ricky Bobby

    What surprises me is that you are surprised. Your sister makes tens of millions bashing people’s heads to a bloody pulp, damaging their internal organs, then breaking their bones. Where I am from we call that attempted murder. Here in America, entertainment is paramount, not education. Sad, but true. I am retired and for as long as I can remember, things have been as such. My friend Mike graduated from MIT post doc in 1970. At that time he was considered the foremost authority in the world in a specific sub-discipline of geophysics called rock physics. He and I finished the same year and were recruited by ARCO Exploration’ research dept. Mike just recently passed away while holding the Chair of Geophysics at Colorado School of Mines. During his entire career he never made more than $135,000 per year. He was the best in his field…the best in the world.
    Capitalism teaches us that the source of the money does not matter, while money talks…and math proficiency walks.

    • Maria Burns Ortiz Post author

      I wasn’t surprised. Fed up, yes. But not the least bit surprised.

      While I don’t have any issue with how much one of my sisters — or any athlete — making the money she makes, I do agree with you that educators — like another one of my other sisters — are severely underpaid in this country (as well as underappreciated, undervalued and the list goes on) and that is a huge problem as well that feeds into the large issues when it comes to education in the country, (not merely VC-related, but certain reflected by them).