What Warhol did for a certain era, capturing the spirit of its popular culture and skewering it with his “Campbell’s Soup Cans” and “Marilyn Diptych,” Danielle Baskin is doing in our own backyard. A different medium: venture capitalist trading cards and drone sweaters. An arguably stranger culture: the Bay Area’s tech age. And a platform all her own: niche corners of the internet and tech company Slack channels. But comparable in effect: forcing the people so deeply entrenched in these spaces (Hollywood and New York for Warhol, Silicon Valley and San Francisco for Baskin) to analyze the weirdness of their worlds.
Baskin is equal parts artist and entrepreneur. Barefoot, she walks me around her studio, breaking down her creative process in the same breath she uses to explain the technicalities of being co-founder and CEO of Your Boss, an accountability app for the self-employed. This app has her hovering above Silicon Valley’s seemingly impenetrable startup world, interpreting its complexities the best way she knows how: artistic satire.
Baskin created TouchBase venture capitalist trading cards as a playful way of standing out while pitching Your Boss to investors. They mimic the baseball variety, complete with statistics, rarity levels and all, but for a new brand of hero — the illustrious VC.
I should probably live somewhere else because a lot of my work is so much Silicon Valley jokes.— Danielle Baskin, entrepreneur, artist, stunt queen
When Baskin and her co-founder landed an interview with Y Combinator (which she describes as the Ivy League of incubators), she made cards for five of the firm’s partners in case one of them bit. “I wanted to play into the idea that they think they are celebrities,” she says.
Y Combinator didn’t invest in Your Boss, but the TouchBase VC trading-cards business was born from the experience. And once the internet caught wind of them, there was no going back.
“It’s crazy that VCs request to see themselves on the cards,” she laughs. “I think they want to be celebrities. They’re very active on Twitter, and they want press, but I don’t think people outside of the Bay Area care that much.”
The cards are broken up into categories based on rarity and accomplishment. Andreessen and Horowitz co-founder and partner Marc Andreessen is marked as a Silicon Valley “Super Angel,” while Kleiner Perkins icon Mary Meeker is recognized as a “Legend.”
“The VCs I want to work with are VCs that totally understand my sense of humor,” Baskin says. “All of the card packs I’m sending out to VCs include a postcard that says ‘$10 off my Series A.’”
TouchBase is one of Baskin’s many projects that scratch the surface of the tech sector’s absurdity. She started making drone sweaters at the end of 2016 during what she describes as peak drone infatuation. “This is satire, but people order them, which is weird,” she says, referring to the drone draped in wool above her desk.
The idea struck her during San Francisco Fashion Week that year. If people make protective gear for themselves, their pets and even their phones, why would their beloved drones be so far behind?
Her body of work also includes, but is not limited to, branded avocados — yes, branded avocados. Baskin has filled orders for Salesforce and Twitter, companies who employ many of the millennials that have staked a claim to the creamy green fruit.
When her friend’s company was acquired by WordPress, their celebration barbecue specifically requested avocados as a contribution. That’s when Baskin decided to put the WordPress logo on the skin. She realized its potential when other guests began tweeting and Instagramming her creation.
“I’m curious about how people interact with these things,” she says of her work, “especially for those that are unclear whether or not it’s a joke; I’m just curious how the internet interprets it.”
And just when you thought things couldn’t get any more niche, enter Baskin’s crypto cutlery. It’s the perfect gift for the techie paranoid about Bitcoin wallet security, or even those entertaining an outdoorsy streak.
To highlight what she calls its ridiculousness, Baskin online-marketed the crypto cutlery as the perfect item to take on a camping trip. She also recommends it for self-defense, you know, if someone is trying to steal your bitcoin.
“I should probably live somewhere else because a lot of my work is so much Silicon Valley jokes — but it’s my reaction to it,” she says. “I’m curious once we actually have to play the games of Silicon Valley, and work out if we want to grow our company, or have partnerships with other companies, how that will affect things, and if I’ll still have this perspective from the outside while I’m in it.”