fun > serious
People are basing more and more decisions on the vibes.
That’s a vibe. It’s a vibe. - 2 Chainz
For the first installment of Super Duper Serious, I want to give some context on why I decided to start this in the first place. I’ll ramble on some more about the details later but the key things that I’ve noticed in the past fews years are:
People, especially in tech, take themselves way too seriously.
Overly serious people make products that are unbearably boring.
This makes me sad 😭
So we’re going to change it.
As someone who has always seen technology as a way to bring more excitement and joy to the world, seeing people churn out sterile products that prioritize KPIs over UX/UIs has given me a new perspective on what the future of technology should look like. With changing consumer behaviors, the future of prioritizing fun over serious is still in its infancy and will lead to some of the next decade’s biggest companies.
fun as a brand
Established companies like Wendy’s have pivoted to light-hearted and hilarious Twitter presences to set their brand apart from their rivals to great success. For a brand like Wendy’s, this is about adding a human face to a product that doesn’t have a lot of built-in fun. With little differentiation between a Whopper, Big Mac, or Baconator, a tongue in cheek online presence essentially becomes the product. Now, anyone who has a semi-active presence on the web automatically associates Wendy’s with fun and a percentage of these people might be more willing to grab a Frosty the next time they want a fast-food dessert (sorry McFlurry, you’re a close second).
Wendy’s is just the tip of the iceberg. Companies big and small are now flocking to hire college-aged social media managers to spice up their brand’s online presence and convey a “cool” irreverence. While some of this comes across super disingenuous, for others it’s a great way to modernize and expand their customer base. As more brands adopt this genuine, less serious attitude externally, we will continue to see more historically boring brands appear in the zeitgeist and cash in.
fun as a product
With record investment dollars flowing into the startup world, companies are doing everything they can to differentiate themselves. Party Round is one example that not only does an amazing job shitposting, doing fun drops, and building clout online like Wendy’s, they also build fun into their product. Party Round and Stonks (another startup in the space), both aim to help founders fundraise and help investors invest in founders. As someone who has done both, this has traditionally been a process that’s boring as hell. But by revolving around community, fun and innovative UI, and a human-centric experience, these two companies have become very sexy in the early-stage funding space.
Famous investors are joining Stonks demo days and successful founders are touting the awesome experience they are having with Party Round, in large part due to the joy built into the product. At the end of the day, no consumer wants to use an ultra-serious tool even when working on something that is pretty serious (like raising millions of dollars). By changing people’s impressions of fundraising to something that is delightful, these companies will be able to continue gaining market share and retaining customers compared to their less enjoyable competitors.
With more of what we do moving increasingly online, delightfully designed products that prioritize fun are going to be the big differentiators. Even though the Metaverse terrifies me, I know I’d much rather be in a crazy, unique virtual world than in a fake conference room in an office building (looking at you Meta).
fun as a career path
As the world transitions to distributed work, new graduates may never have a traditional office experience and experienced vets are quickly getting used to working from wherever they want. An interesting side effect of this paradigm shift is that more and more workers are optimizing for fun in their career. From content creation to part-time engineering work for the latest DAO to moonlighting as a DJ, the standard 9 to 5 is quickly falling out of vogue (especially for Gen Z) in favor of lifestyle-friendly careers.
While this certainly isn’t the case for everyone, it’s changing the way startups are hiring the next generation of tech workers. In the before times, big tech and others would offer standard perks (“a free lunch and a ping pong table”) to close new hires. With the transition to gig work and the desire for inclusive environments at work, new grads are prioritizing the most fun-loving and vibey workplaces and frankly couldn’t care less about the famous chef in the office kitchen.
Instead, companies are doing everything they can to convey the exciting culture they have to break through to candidates. Mike Demarais (founder of Rainbow wallet) has done quite a bit to advertise the fun culture at his company, most notably buying up a bunch of ENS addresses of other people’s names. Whether it’s getting Soulja Boy or an engineering prospect their own ENS, Mike makes it very obvious how awesome it’s going to be to work for him, gets his company free marketing, and allows him to be able to hire some heavy hitters in the crypto space.
fun as a investment thesis
Consumers and founders aren’t the only ones who have realized the power of the anti-serious in the current market. Legacy VCs and up-and-coming solo GPs alike are harnessing fun in their brands and in their portfolio creation strategies.
If you follow VC twitter at all, you’re very familiar with Turner Novak’s Banana Capital and Niv Dror’s Shrug Capital. The two of them built extremely strong brands leveraging genuinely hilarious content and rolled that into raising successful venture funds that participate in the hottest deals. In an environment where dozens of firms and hundreds of angels are competing for allocation in the same rounds, differentiating as a personal brand that founders identify as delightful to work with makes a huge difference. Founders deal with a lot of stress and shitty days. An investor who will cheer you up with a goofy TikTok may just make all the difference.
Fun doesn’t just stop in the personal personas of the investors though. That ethos is changing what people are investing in. Whether it’s web3, consumer, or fintech, more and more money is going to teams and products that have great vibes. a16z is leading the charge here, putting hundreds of millions into vibey investments like Friends with Benefits, Royal, and more. I’ll take the liberty to tweak Chris Dixon’s “the next big thing will start out looking like a toy” and turn it into “the next big thing will always look like a toy”. Consumers want something that’s fun to play with, regardless of if the toy is life insurance or a photo app. Founders would much rather build this way and investors are ready for it.
let’s have some fun
Fun is the future of tech. If nothing else, it’s at least the future that we all deserve. Hopefully, Super Duper Serious will play a small part in continuing to make that a reality. I’m just excited to be a part of it 😊
If you’re a founder working on a fun product or know of any awesome companies that fit into this category, send them my way at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to meet and include them in a future post!