I wrote about DanceJam last week, disclosing that I was an investor and saying I’d be linking to other coverage of the startup. Wired just posted a good overview of the company, which was founded by M.C. Hammer, Geoffrey Arone and Anthony Young.
In the article they mention an issue that has been bugging me – that some people have suggested that we only included MC Hammer as an expert panelist at the TechCrunch40 conference because of his race, or because I invested in his startup.
That is just completely ridiculous and untrue. First of all, we were lucky to have someone with Hammer’s background to help fill out the panel. He’s intelligent and has been through a lot of ups and downs in his career – giving him wisdom. He is also clearly more connected to America’s youth than any other person who attended the event.
And he handled himself brilliantly. At one point I remember seeing the other panelists shaking their head in agreement when Hammer made a comment on stage. Clearly he deserved to be there as much as any other expert, and we really needed his point of view on the startups that launched.
So in fact Hammer did two favors for me – agreeing to spend time at our conference, and letting me invest in his new startup. I think DanceJam is great (obviously, since I put money behind it). In fact, it would have almost certainly been one of the forty presenting startups if not for the conflict of interest.
Eliot Van Buskirk, who wrote the Wired article, agrees:
After TechCrunch announced that Hammer would be part of the expert panel at the TechCrunch20 conference in September, Valleywag speculated that TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington included Hammer because of his race. Then, when details surfaced that Arrington is an investor in DanceJam, allegations of nepotism were leveled at the TechCrunch founder.
The nepotism issue seems to have blown over, and as was obvious during our meeting, Hammer is no mere figurehead.
Hopefully next year when we begin to announce our experts for the next TechCrunch40, people will be a little more circumspect before trashing people who we invite who don’t quite fit the mold of “web 2.0 guru.” Our only goal is to put on an entertaining and educational show, and we’re not going to stop inviting people who help us achieve those goals.