Last year, a video called “What does Vooza do?” surfaced on the internet and immediately went viral in the startup community with hundreds and thousands of views and industry giants like The Next Web and Tim Ferriss applauding its particular brand of satire. Of course, the video said nothing about what Vooza really was or what it did; it was mockery through and through – of startups, their pitches, and most of all, the reality of the entrepreneurial world. Several other videos followed on a weekly basis, each one parodying a particular aspect of startups, from job descriptions, to “startup culture”, to buzzwords. Vooza coined their own for the last: “Radimparency” is their most watched video yet, and we still don’t know what it means. Nor are we supposed to – that is the fun of it.
A murky palimpsest of a mystery
The mystery only deepened over time. What was Vooza? When they released a slightly less lighthearted video for Tapstream, an app marketing manager, Wired UK reported “it’s not entirely clear what Vooza is. Is it a series of comedy virals created by a media company? Is it an extremely bold launch campaign for an actual startup called Vooza? Or is it a “what not to do” marketing vehicle for a second, real startup, Tapstream?” Vooza’s “CEO”, “Matt Stillman” didn’t help shed any further light on things. “We’re pivoting a lot so we can’t reveal too much.
But trust me, it’s a game changer,” he said in the Wired interview which read like the script for one of their sketches, wittily satirizing the buzzwords startups love to use when talking about their products. And just to add to the intrigue, “Stillman” confessed that the most entertaining thing about building their brand was that people couldn’t figure out if they were real or not. “Come on! Isn’t it obvious? Also, when you figure it out, let us know. We’re still not 100 percent sure either,” he enigmatically replied. People suspected “Stillman” was actually comedian Matt Ruby, but no one really knew. When asked if he was going to come clean by the Financial Times, he said, “I shower every third day. I keep my cleaning regimen lean and agile.”
A new form of advertizing for Web 3.0
Finally, in April this year, after expanding to making humor laced videos for real startups like Name.com, Mailchimp and Eat My Words, Vooza shed some light on the conundrum. “Vooza” was revealed to be an elaborate fiction but with a real company behind it. Fort Pelican, a NYC company comprised of local comedians, directors and editors, has been producing the mockumentary style videos, and as speculated, Matt Ruby is indeed the person behind it. Speaking to Techcrunch, Ruby said, “Vooza is a video content platform targeted at the startup world that uses native video advertising integrated into the experience,” throwing in a bit of the jargon that he loves to lampoon so much. Vooza offers a new kind of advertising for startups which want to use New Media to its fullest potential. Working on the branded content or sponsored product placement model, Vooza has pivoted a few times in the past before reaching their current business strategy. Television and print advertising are dead – the internet is the new platform for raking in the big bucks. While big companies still go for a traditional approach, increasing numbers of startups have taken to the internet, wanting to create fun little videos instead of the traditional 10 second commercial format. Vooza incorporates brands it represents into their scripts and performs sketches revolving around the company in their characteristic deadpan style.
“Anyone who guarantees a viral campaign is lying”
The internet is an ever changing, ever evolving organism – no one knows what will blow up and go viral tomorrow. I Can Has Cheezeburger started off as a blog with funny photos of cats, went viral almost overnight, and is now a multi million dollar company spawning several sister sites under the banner. “Anyone who guarantees a viral campaign is lying,” says Ruby, speaking to Techcrunch. “Our biggest goal is to make good funny stuff that are worthwhile and companies can be proud of. How it spreads is something else entirely.”
When Vooza launched, their idea was just to make something that would get people talking but which would also be sustainable. No one could have predicted that it would blow up this big, even to the point of attracting VCs’ attention. But that is exactly what startups are paying them to do now. While there are many companies who create their own spoof laden product videos, few can really hit the mark. It takes a professional comedian and self confessed comedy snob to create the right blend of straight faced, satirical, mockumentary style humor that’s in step with popular internet culture. Ruby and his fellow comedians have certainly captured the pulse of the startup community with their videos – here’s to more “Radimparency”!