The problem with insisting that idealist things can’t be funded by VCs is to adopt a narrow view of the relationship between finance and invention. To decry venture capital as inherently corrupt, without proposing a viable alternative to create major organizations from nothing seems as naive as any idealism about it — that social software can be built without real money. Ello and its investors asks a favor of its users, to trust in their idealism. Maybe, just maybe, a group from Colorado and Vermont got together to do something different, something that no one expects?
The problem isn’t that ello took venture capital. There are two key problems:
- They have built their system as a closed, walled garden, and they have given no indication that they ever intend to change that.
- They were deceptive about their funding situation, leading people to conclude that the closed nature of their social network is deliberate.
There’s nothing stopping someone from using venture capital to build a better open social network, perhaps even using Diaspora or GNU Social as a starting point. Just like there’s nothing stopping people from using VC funding to build a better e-mail service.
Build an open VC-backed social network and I’ll sign up. But don’t build a walled system and try to convince me it’ll be different from all the other walled off systems and that this time I won’t be a captive.