As Silicon Valley Bank died, a viral startup star was born

March 17, 2023, 6:16 PM UTC
A picture of Omsom cofounder Vanessa Pham.
Vanessa Pham, the cofounder of Omsom, has gone viral for her SVB bank collapse journey.
Courtesy of Vanessa Pham

Howdy. It’s tech reporter Alexandra Sternlicht here to finish off your week. 

As the very sour cherry on top of a bank run-flavored sundae, Silicon Valley Bank’s parent company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. For founders, it’s been a most challenging time—from accessing funds in order to make payroll by a hair to fielding panicked investor calls, texts, emails, Slacks, and Tweets.

From my tech reporter vantage, these founder narratives serve as parables for the manifestation of the industry crisis and the hyper-connected society we live in. In the case of Vanessa Pham, cofounder of Asian home cooking startup Omsom, the wild week not only put her on an emotional roller coaster as she tried to save her company, but it also unexpectedly turned her into a financial crisis viral star.

Pham was walking the stalls of Expo West in Los Angeles when she became unable to ignore her buzzing phone last Thursday. Founder group chats that she was part of were all coming to life simultaneously, activated by rumors of SVB’s collapse. For Pham, it was drop-everything bad: The venture-backed startup had all of its capital in SVB. 

While managing the threat of a frozen bank account, Pham took to Instagram to post her experience, sharing screenshots of texts, and a Slack from her cofounder-sister saying, “I don’t think the wire is going to go through.” 

Pham’s bank collapse journey, branded in Omsom’s signature 60s-style color and design palette that pops on Instagram, has made Pham into a financial crisis celebrity. “In the moment, it didn’t feel like a branding or marketing activity,” says Pham. “It felt like us talking to our communities from a place of real fear and vulnerability.”

Intention aside, it went viral. The Instagram letter calling for supporters received more attention than almost anything else the cofounder or the brand has ever shared; 500,000 impressions and 20,000 likes with 5,000 reshares. As a result, she’s been interviewed by 15 journalists, including live interviews on CNN, NBC News, and CBS. “The reason I believe that we have gotten a lot of attention is because in real-time, we were sharing very open and vulnerable updates with our community.”

As someone once remarked during another recent banking implosion, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

Alexandra Sternlicht

Data Sheet’s daily news section was written and curated by Andrea Guzman. 


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