The Crunchies 2008: Not that Great. (although the Myspace Afterparty was pretty cool)

Last Friday I went to the Crunchies 2008 event, and had a pretty awesome time.

For those of you who don’t know, the Crunchies Awards is somewhat like the Oscar for the Tech/Startup World, and is hosted by the dominant technology and startup blog Tech Crunch. Before the awards, people have selected from an ocean a startups and nominated one for each kind of award like Best CEO, Best Boostrapped, Best Innovation, Best App etc etc. Each award has 6 nominees, and in the actual award, they point out the winner and the runner up.

Some cool people who showed up were Mark Zuckerberg, Founder/CEO of Facebook. Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, Google product chief Marissa Mayer, Twitter founders Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Jack Dorsey, imeem founder Dalton Caldwell, FriendFeed founder Paul Buchheit, Y Combinator’s Paul Graham, Seesmic CEO Loic Le Meur, and Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis. In other words, this event is pretty important.

The thing about the actual ceremony, is that it’s run very much like a startup too…..and obviously techie. A lot of the stuff were seemingly low budget, people were not very organized, and the humor was not very humorous. They went very heavy with the sponsors too. What’s disappointing is that Michael Arrington, founder of Tech Crunch himself, did not show up.

The Awards started with a video of the themed gorilla (I’m actually not entirely sure what’s the significance to it) waking up and doing mundane things in the morning and occasionally cussing about his frustrations with his apartment. I don’t really get it. It’s not funny, informative, nor insightful (unless it was too insightful I couldn’t see it). Then they jumped right into the awards.

The awards was obviously about breezing through everything as fast as possible, which I don’t blame because it was quite boring and everyone was waiting for the Myspace Afterparty. They pretty much just listed the 6 technologies, had a 1-liner for it (sometimes they don’t even have that), and they announced the runner-up and winner. All that is usually done in 1 minutes. I was hoping to see some videos introducing the startups and breezing through some of its interfaces and successes. But nope, its just the logo hanging there. Nothing special.

Techies and entrepreneurs are not actors. Some of the people who won the award got up, seemed a bit nervous, and tried to get off as soon as possible. Most of them stuck with the “this is for the users out there!” theme. Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie, who won best Technology Innovation/Achievement with Live Mesh was obviously more trained and eloquent with his speeches. He had some humor by thanking everyone for being “open-minded” and voting for Microsoft. Truth be told, I think he just needs to tell all the Microsoft employees to vote for them, and they won’t be too far from victory. Tell their employees’ families to vote for MS, and that would probably seal the deal. With that said, Microsoft does create pretty good technologies. They’re just too ambitious with features (hence bugs), and they are not that great with the making things user-friendly.

There were a few interviews conducted with important folks like Marissa Mayer (I know her pretty well by now and her pretty crazy laugh), Paul Graham (someone I respect quite well), but overall the interview wasn’t very engaging and not high quality. I don’t think I learned much from them. Also, midway through the event, I was walking to the restroom while Twittering. A logistics management guy looked at me and said, “no cellphone uses at this place.” I politely answered, “I’m sorry. I’m just Twittering with my phone.” He looked at me weirdly, and said “Well you can Twitter outside.” Somewhat meh and somewhat bleh. So much for social media.

There were some interesting shows like the video above, but only a very few and not exactly awesome but pretty good. Also, more than once during the awards announcement, they read the wrong names because they had the wrong sheet of paper. There were so much stuff left on the podium, that they got a bit confused which one they should read. Stuff like that shouldn’t happen even at a high school prom announcement.

Finally, I thought the ending touch was a bad one. They ended with the same gorilla going back home, doing mundane tasks, sits on his bed, and then checks all the sponsors websites for a few seconds each, and then went to bed. They made the audiance watch something for 5 minutes, in expectance of something funny or interesting, but no it was just showing the sponsors. Quite lame. Yes I understand the importance of sponsors and giving them a good deal and such, but at least they could make it more subtle and integrate it into good content. This is the opposite of embedded product placement. Its interruption marketing, which is obviously not popular. I bet no one will look at that and think, “Ah! looks so awesome! I’m going to check them out when I go home!” I think at the very least, they could add a line of text at the end saying, “Hey, at least we HAVE a revenue model! Enjoy the Afterparty!” That would add more humor to it and make people feel appreciated, instead of just being eye-ball zombies for sponsorships.

As you can see, there is much to improve on for the Crunchies. However, they did it was a lot better than last years. Tech Crunch did explain a bit about all this by claiming that instead of saying they are the Oscar for Tech People (high hype), they view it as a big family gathering. I guess if you look at it that way, its not that terrible. Still boring though.

The nice thing that made everything worth it was the Myspace Afterparty. I caught up with a bunch of friends and made some new ones. I saw Mark Zuckerberg walking by and I wanted to talk to him, but I was distracted by someone else and didn’t want to be rude. Mark’s not a big guy at all, but I like his leadership philosophy of “set the general direction, and then hire the best people you can.” Also met with my Twitter friend Adam Jackson and a few other folks.

The most crazy thing is that I bumped into my high school friend from KANSAS Jonathan Yin, who works at Dropbox now. I have not talked to this guy for close to a decade, and we just randomly saw each other at the Crunchies. Its not everyday that you bump into a high school friend from Kansas I tell ya.

Let me know if you have a different opinion about the Awards Ceremony, or if you spotted something that I didn’t understand and stated out of ignorance. I hope the 3rd year will be a lot better! After all, we’re going close to the Crunchies 5 Year Hockeystick Projection Plan.

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