San Francisco – After a series of meetings with top executives from venture capital firms including Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, and Northwest Venture Partners, 23-year-old poet Salvatore Romero yesterday received an additional $2.2 billion in venture capital funding.
Romero, who dropped out of the Stanford English program to start his own imprint, is scheduled to release a small chapbook of blank verse in October, and his investors say it will “change everything.”
“His work is incredibly innovative,” said noted investor Peter Thiel. “He’s completely disrupting our concept of the moon as a fickle lover, of a child in his mother’s arms, and leafs turning new colors to mark the passage of time. This is a game changer.”
[jump] “I predict,” Thiel added, “that in six years no one will even be using iambic pentameter anymore. He’ll be disrupting a 600-year-old linguistic convention. That’s revolutionary.”
Sequoia Capital partner Jim Goetz was equally excited. “I admit that I was skeptical at first, thinking ‘oh great, another drop-out with an idea to help heal the broken hearts of modern life and reveal unspoken truths through beauty.’ I must get that pitch 100 times a day. These kids, they’re so idealistic.”
“But Romero?” he said, “He’s the real thing. I never really saw birds flying against the wind until I saw them through his eyes.”
San Francisco Venture Capitalist Ron Conway also decided to invest. “When one of his poems, ‘The Zen of Intensive Care,’ changed the whole way I look at illness, I knew, I just knew, that I wasn’t going to waste another million on a piece of code just to incrementally improve the experience of shopping on your phone. Not when I have something important like this to support.”
Young poets have been hot on the Venture Capital circuit in 2015, with big names like GGV Capital investing $16 million in a sonnet by the Oakland collective “The Red Wheelbarrow,” and First Round Capital offering $200 million to surrealist poet Martin Schulman, which he turned down in order to preserve the integrity of his work, which is glazed with rainwater/beside the white chickens.
“You can’t trust these big money guys,” Schulman told Poetry. “They’ll always say they understand you need free time to continue your exploration of cross-cultural sexual themes as expressed in post-colonial syncretism, but as soon as you leave the room they’ll be on the phone with Harvard pimping you out as a visiting scholar. All they care about are money and print deadlines.”
Other critics of the venture poetry scene have criticized the fact that over 93 percent of the poets funded by venture capital are white males. “Big Poetry is a boys club, basically,” Poet Angela Tyrell said. “The culture is rampant with sexism from Harold Bloom on down, and when you bring the perspective of a woman or a person of color, you find yourself marginalized, both from the VC scene and the MFAs they so often hire from.”
Others defend the poetry scene.
“Poetry is a pure meritocracy,” Goetz said. “There’s no room for ambiguity: either a poem moves you and opens up new vistas in life, or it doesn’t. It’s completely objective, and the best always rise to the top.”
Most poets, said industry analyst Joseph Harmon, don’t pay off for Venture Capitalists. “It’s a high risk business, and most of the artists you invest in are going to fail. That’s just the way the market works. Only a small portion of the artists will bring back steady returns.”
However, what VC’s are really looking for is what they call a “unicorn,” a Homer or Byron who not only shows us the future but helps usher it in, the way Shakespeare is said to have defined the individual for the entire modern period.
“You invest in a unicorn early, and suddenly you’re raking in massive returns on your investment, and you go down in history as the person who funded the poet who changed the world,” Harmon said. “After a few hundred years, that’s really the only thing most people remember about even the most successful businessmen: the art they funded.”
“Frankly,” Theil added, “I’m sure we’d still be doing it even if we weren’t making massive amounts of money on it. Otherwise we’d be putting the next ‘Uber for Pets’ or whatever ahead of the richness of our common culture. I can’t imagine a world where that would happen.”