There was some head-scratching over the weekend about rumors that TheFunded, the controversial site where entrepreneurs can rate and review venture capitalists, had been shut down due to threats of a lawsuit. But it was all just a prank by site founder Adeo Ressi.
Basically, Ressi posted a message on the site on Friday titled, “Conclusion: Investors are great” and stating that TheFunded would stop publishing reviews on April 2. Many people assumed this was a joke, given the timing of the announcement and the obvious sarcasm of the statement. At the same time, there was still some uncertainty, since Ressi didn’t respond to requests for comment, saying he was at a wedding in Utah, leaving him with no cell phone or email access (which, surprisingly, he insists was actually true). Plus, Ressi has responded sarcastically to VC lawsuit threats before.
Here’s what Ressi has since told me:
The message was a weekend prank for April Fools’s Day that was leaked to the media by Member saying that the site was shutting down “following a lawsuit.” There are no more threats than usual, and there was no mention of a lawsuit… The site is not shutting down. In fact, the prank notice said that we would end reviews because we concluded all investors are great. We chose the weekend because of the low traffic levels, and we thought people would laugh at the claim that all investors are great. Instead, people just assumed the worst.
He also pointed out to VentureBeat Editor Matt Marshall that his fake shutdown announcement featured the same rose-colored wording used by entrepreneur Michael Linderman to praise his investors in an about-face — apparently under threat of legal retaliation — after he’d earlier said the VCs were rip-off artists.
I’ll take this opportunity to express my dread about what will surely be a wave of fake news stories over the next couple of days. Now, TheFunded isn’t a news site, so I don’t think it’s a huge deal that Ressi pranked his users for a couple of days, especially in a manner that was transparently sarcastic. But I can’t be the only one who thinks it’s a huge drag to wonder if every story I see in the tech blogosphere is an April Fools joke. Maybe I need a better sense of humor, but I don’t like thinking that what’s normally a trusted news source might be deliberately lying to me, you know? It doesn’t help that sites have started to move up their jokes in hopes of tricking more people — many April Fools stories ran on March 31 last year rather than April 1 (in Ressi’s case, it’s only March 30 and his joke has already run its course from prank to truth).
Granted, most of April Fools stories are obvious jokes, and I’m probably sensitive to this issue since I got taken in by a prank about a site called TheUnFunded last year. Still, when April 1 rolls around, I’ll do my best to stick to real news.