This fake toothbrush-sharing startup brilliantly mocks all things Silicon Valley

    • A Twitter thread about a toothbrush-sharing startup was such a funny bit of satire on Silicon Valley that it went viral earlier this week.
    • The fictitious company poked fun at everything from popular startup lingo to the sharing economy. 
    • One of the creators, Danielle Baskin, was shocked by how many people believed it was real. She says the fact that people fell for it highlights the "misused capital" in Silicon Valley. 
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    BITE should've been a success. It capitalized on the popular sharing economy, giving people access to shared electric toothbrushes all over San Francisco. The design was sleek and high-tech — the toothbrushes hovered slightly above the counter — and it easily beat their competitor, Ford GoBrush.

    But then the pandemic hit. 

    "Their decline was due to COVID-19 concerns for sure," Danielle Baskin, co-founder, wrote on Twitter. "In March, more people than ever before started buying their own toothbrushes." 

    At this point, you should probably be horrified; plenty of the commenters on Baskin's viral twitter post were.

    But Silicon Valley hasn't actually gone that far (yet). BITE was a fictitious company created by Baskin and her friends, Steven Burt and Kevin Meissner, as a joke to skewer Silicon Valley culture. 

     

    The gag started in 2018 when the creators attended a theater retreat together in Northern California. As a joke, they invented a shared toothbrush company called Ford GoBrush and built a fake GoBrush installation in the woods.

    And then, like true entrepreneurs, they founded their own competitor, BITE. GoBrush couldn't keep up with BITE's dockless design, and the corporate battle ended with BITE's victory. 

    Baskin forgot about the gag until she rediscovered one of her BITE toothbrushes and decided to tweet about it. She was shocked when people believed it was real. 

    "Obviously it's gross," Baskin told Insider. "And yet I got many quote tweets with disappointment and anger that this company 'was not a joke.'"

    The believability is the genius behind the gag. As Baskin put it, "The joke works because there's plenty of funded startups that have nonsensical logistics and didn't do enough user research beforehand."

    BITE particularly pokes fun at the sharing economy that's given rise to tech companies like Uber and Airbnb. But Baskin clearly modeled the gag after Bird scooters, an electric scooter rental service. The BITE label — black, capitalized text on white background — looks similar to Bird's. 

    If you walk around San Francisco, you'll see piles of shared electric scooters, dumped wherever users finish their ride. It was the same for BITE in their imaginary glory years, Baskin said.  

    "Thinking about the magic days of BITE. If you lived in a denser part of the city, sometimes you'd get lucky in the morning and your doorstep would look like this," she wrote, posting a photo of BITE toothbrushes abandoned on her welcome mat. 

     

    But what really fooled so many Twitter users was Baskin's use of startup lingo. For example, she wrote that GoBrush was doomed when it switched to a "B2B model," meaning they stopped selling to consumers and instead sold directly to businesses. And when asked what was next for BITE, Baskin announced they were "joining the next Y Combinator cohort," referencing the prestigious startup accelerator that launched Airbnb and Dropbox. 

    Jokes aside, Baskin said the fictitious company had a deeper mission than just trolling Twitter. 

    "I like satirizing the industry to shine a mirror on some of the thoughtlessness that goes into misused capital," she said. 

    Baskin thinks BITE can serve as a lesson for venture capitalists.

    "The fact that so many people didn't know if a toothbrush share startup was a joke isn't a good look for Silicon Valley," she said.

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