Before the rise of crypto investing, venture capital careers seemed to be divided into two buckets: consumer and business-to-business. If the goal of venture capital investing is to pick winners, American consumer investors generally picked wrong. There just hasn’t been another Facebook. The biggest consumer startup of the moment is ByteDance, a Chinese company.
While I’ve generally dedicated more time to writing about software investing since that’s where the money and exits have been, I’ve tried to chronicle consumer investing to the extent that it exists. I was the first to report BeReal’s seed and Series A funding round. I’ve scooped some of Discord’s valuation ascent. In December 2020, I wrote about investors’ effort to will a consumer renaissance into being. Sure, there weren’t any obvious new platforms but consumer investors weren’t going to let that get in their way.
I invited my good friends Max Child and James Wilsterman onto the Dead Cat podcast. They’re the co-founders of voice games company Volley. The NFX, Y Combinator, and Lightspeed-backed startup — which they tell me is the largest voice game company — started off as a chatbot games company. So Child and Wilsterman know consumer trends. Chatbots once burned red hot before evaporating only to be revived with the rise of generative artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, few VCs have been bullish on voice as a platform.
Child, Wilsterman, and I dig into the struggles of the QVC for startups trend. Popshop looks to be on the rocks and Whatnot may be peaking. We interrogate whether marketplaces were ever really a thing. And we wonder if AirPods as the next platform was really just a statement about Clubhouse.
Then we look to 2023 and consider the pockets of hope for consumer investing: the rise of generative AI startups and the possibility that Apple announces an augmented reality device. And we ponder whether this crypto winter will ever thaw.