by Paul McNabb
Have you heard the one about the two tall Lithuanians who walk into a venture capital fund? The first tall Lithuanian gestures to the other and says…..well, I’m going to keep you hanging on a minute for the punch line. This is a story that has become part of the cultural myths and legends of Episode 1 and as the AimBrain team announces a major new round of funding led by BGF, it’s interesting to reflect on how this has come about.
Humor is of course a very cultural thing. Part of the necessary ingredients for a great story is a good setup — the introductory line above is already funny because not only do you want to know what happens, you recognize the form and the setup. A learned study a few years back found that nations are very different in the basic form and content of the jokes they tell. The French, somewhat unsurprisingly, tend to like jokes about difficult familial relationships — mother-in-law jokes are apparently a particular favorite. The Russians, with their long winters and gloomy outlook, like stories about how no matter how bad your life is — your friends or relatives lives are worse.
And the English like absurd stories concerning animals. The research team discovered that the funniest joke in the English language begins “two weasels walk into a bar…” Now the rest of the joke is a bit off color, but it’s already funny. English social life centres around strange happenings in pubs, and the idea of something as absurd as a weasel participating in that is entertaining enough to provoke a grin or a chuckle. It reminds me of a gag Alexi Sayle used to do in his standup routine. It starts “Two popes walk into a bicycle shop…” but he never gets any further as the setup is so funny and engaging in and of itself he just riffs around it for 20 minutes.
And that is essentially why I think this story resonates with us. As VCs we meet with 100s of startups. There is a certain form to the team makeup, the way the pitch works. Like many I am sure I am not alone in sitting down for a first meeting and not always being entirely sure what the company I’m talking to does. But I recognize the form. The pitch, the structure of the conversation, the split of roles and skills and of course the deal on the table. Indeed, on the rare occasions when those elements are not there in the way you expect it can be very disconcerting.
And that is what makes this story so memorable. The guys came in and took the standard form, riffed on it by adding humor and self deprecation, both grabbing our attention and letting us know they had good self awareness and a sense of humour — while still retaining plenty of ambition. So team AimBrain we salute you — great work to this point, we are super excited to have BGF lead this round and Henry join the board, and we could not be more excited about your vision of delivering Identity as a Service as a foundational technology for the internet.
Oh, and what was the punchline? Well, two tall Lithuanians walk into a venture capital company, and the first one says “hello, I am Andrius, and I am the technical founder”. He then turns and looks at his colleague and says with perfect dry timing “and this is Alesis, he is the really, really technical founder.”