Genotone: An exposé on a sinister VC business model

As Halloween approaches, and the veil between worlds grows wan, threadbare, and permeable, Cooper turns its collective attention to the spirit, spook, and creature population. Last year we sought to understand them from a Goal-Directed perspective. This year we take the next unholy step and design software, devices, and services around these personas. Today we return to Vladmir and Anton, our conflicted vampires.


Antone grew up in southern Louisiana in the late 1700s, the son of a wealthy landowner. After his childhood sweetheart died, he gave up all hope for life. He told his troubles to a young gentleman who came through town, who promised him an end to Antone’s misery. Instead, he was turned to a vampire, and forced to live a life of eternal suffering, unable to visit his family ever again. Today he broods away his evenings in his family’s decaying plantation.


Vladimir, known as “Vlad” to his vampire offspring, grew up as a Romanian prince in the early 1400’s. After the tragic killing of his entire family by vengeful serfs, he vowed to devote his life to avenge their death. Vlad was turned to a vampire by a Romani witch during one of his bloody killing sprees. He was thrilled when he realized that his new powers would allow him to continue his killing spree through time immemorial. Today he works as a night watchman in a hospital.

The Plight of the Vampire

Both Antone and Vladimir, our modern vampires, have a goal to keep track of ancestry. Antone found penance in protecting his human family from afar. Over time, this protection ranged from just his immediate loved ones to further and future cousins. Vladmir on the other hand has devoted his life to vengeance upon the lineage of marauding serfs hailing from his Romanian hometown.

Our Shocking Discovery

There are many reasons for looking into your personal Genome; hereditary predisposition to medical conditions, personal interest in genetic lineage, participation in the advancement of science. However, we’ve recently uncovered some pitch material revealing a deeper plot behind an interconnected world of genomics: vengeance and stewardship.

While on a typical ethnographic expedition to a derelict housing development to gather empirical evidence for our two vampiric personas, we stumbled upon a pile of blank pages. Being conscious not to overlook potential insights we took the paper back to the studio. Only after a late night of work did we realize that those blank pages actually unveiled a deeper script of the plot behind genomics.

A late night at work revealed the daylight sensitive ink

This product seems to span a variety of uses covering both Antone's and Vladimir's goals

A proximity-based sonar tone is released from the human's smartphone when the vampire is near.

Vampires can assign targets and track bloodlines across the ages.

The VC (Vampire Capitalist) model of investing doesn't require a revenue model for at least 300 years.

A Hidden Offering

Marketed to humans, Genome is a seamless and free genome testing service, with a complementary smartphone app and testing device. Simply insert the needle into your headphone jack, then prick your finger to register your genome. You’ll be presented with your full family history, genetic predispositions, and optionally entered into a scientific research database.

An attractive and free offering, but don't be fooled by its beautiful facade

What most humans don’t realize is that after that initial prick of the needle, a unique ringtone (Getone) is broadcast from your smarter-than-you smartphone. This humanly-inaudible tone can be heard by vampirous bats via sonar. Whether you’re like Antone the protector or Vladmir the vengeful, you’ll be able to keep close watch on your kin and prey.

Some traditional partnerships and marketing channels will be used to spread this trojan horse.

As a classic multi-sided market, the human consumer is getting something for free while that very consumer is being sold to a paying customer. Sounds familiar? Next time you’re searching your own ancestry, just watch out for those vengeful souls.

Journalists’ Notes

While the exposé journalists (Jim Dibble and Patrick Keenan) did not design this ecosystem of services and applications, we can appreciate the thinking that went into these offerings.

  • Breaking Even: Because traditional VCs expect results in a short timeframe (typically 5-7 years), many rush to achieve quick growth through paid user acquisition and marketing gimmicks. A traditional Vampire Capitalist however lives at least a millennium, so return on investment can be delayed for a couple hundred years. What this allows for is a design that improves over time, where value can be captured only when it is created. We suspect that this incredibly long-range financial revenue model may be common among Vampires Capitalists; we can’t say for sure, but it seems the Bay Area may be a haven for these types.
  • Timeframe of Use: The human experience of ancestry lasts but only for a fleeting moment. Vampires live lives orders of magnitude longer than ours. As such, their interface has to remain relevant over time. Try fitting in a to-do list stretching hundreds of years on a mobile screen; now you know the real story behind the expanded screen size of the iPhone 5.
  • Custom Sonar Tone: As a bat, the wonders of the opposable thumb are lost. Sonar however is a gift to the blind rats of the sky. A custom ring tone, offers both a method of navigation, and a compelling case for paid subscriptions. After all, you want to be able to locate your prey regardless of your present corporeal form.
  • Behavior Modification: We’re well aware of the line that’s crossed in affording Vladimir his vengeance upon a whole gene line. Though aghast, we do appreciate the encouragement given to those vampires who choose to protect rather than ravage. It seems the reward points are skewed toward pity on us mere mortals after all.
  • Special thanks to Flickr user craigCloutier for the CC use of this image
    and to Flickr user Alex Holzknecht for the CC use of this image

2 Comments

Interaction Design for Monsters | Cooper Journal
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