So here we go then, the fourth and final part of my award-winning TechCrunch50 coverage; the all-important ’round-up’. This is where I ask appropriately round-uppy questions like “what did we learn this week?” “what were the highlights of the event?” and “is there any chance it will happen again next year, given that the whole spectacle climaxed with Arrington walking off stage as co-host Calacanis led the audience in some weird, embarrassing clapping game?”
As anyone who unfollowed me on Twitter this week will testify, I found an annoyingly large number of notable moments across the two days. My TC50 drinking game went splendidly, especially after Scoble handed the TechCrunch team a bottle of 18 year old whisky from the stage. Special thanks are owed to those contestants who went the extra mile to ensure that we got wasted in record time, particularly the founders of the The Whuffie Bank who not only wore identical shirts (swig!) but also identical jeans (swig!), shoes (swig!), ties (swig!), glasses (swig!) and faces (swig?!).
By the end of the presentation I imagine anyone playing along was so paralytically drunk that The Whuffie Bank actually started to sound like a viable business. For my part, I lobbied passionately for the company to be awarded the grand prize on the condition that they agreed to take their prize money in Whuffies.
And yet, despite my annoyingly persistent Twitter coverage, there remained a few special moments that were just too brilliant or too ridiculous to be explained in 140 characters. Moments which, at the time, made me think “I can’t possibly Twitter this”, but which – now that the dust has settled – make me think “screw it – they’re too good not to share.”
Here, then, are my top five unTwittered moments from TechCrunch50 2009…
- Scoble’s on-stage work displacement
At last year’s LeWeb in Paris, I called out Robert Scoble for playing Solitaire at the judges’ table during the start-up competition. Scooby took exception to my comments, arguing that as he wasn’t technically a judge, he was under no obligation to pay attention to the pitches. A fair point. For fun, then, when Scooby took to the stage as an expert during day two of TC50, I messaged him to see if he fancied a game of Twitter Hangman. To my surprise and delight, he did! I chose the word ‘WHUFFIE’, which took him six guesses to get, even though we playing the bulk of the game during the pitch of The Whuffie Bank.
Neologised euphemisms, FTW
During CitySourced’s presentation (which for my money was the most game-changing of the competition), founder Jason Kiesel proudly announced the company’s first paying customer: the city of San Jose. Unfortunately that pride, mixed perhaps with on-stage nerves, fried the syntax portion of Kiesel’s brain and he then went on to talk about investment from “the city of… er…. sorry… the company of Palm”. Like a couple of schoolkids, Lacy and I couldn’t help but snigger – for at least the next half hour – at how delightfully euphemistic the phrase ‘the company of Palm’ sounds. Viz… “Look at Kevin Rose’s face. He really loves these guys.” “Yeah, I think he might be in the company of Palm.” (We’re really hoping the phrase catches on. Please do your bit to help.)
Un incident diplomatique
On Tuesday I wrote about my discomfort with the American flag proudly flying next to the judges table at an international start-up competition, and also about the website I built to monitor it: istheamericanflagstillthere.com. Since then, I’ve received some amazing hate mail from proud Americans, including one chap who seethed through patriotic teeth that if it weren’t for America helping us win World War II then I’d be writing on TechCrunch in German.
Putting aside the logical inconsistencies of a contributor to an American website being forced to write in German were it not for America, I couldn’t help but imagine what the Internet would be like it the Nazis had won the war and we all had to speak German online. Twitter would need more than 140 characters, that’s for sure.
Anyway, my favourite part of what some pundits are already calling ‘Flaggate’ came when I jokingly asked over Twitter if anyone had a giant French flag that I could fly on the other side of the stage. A freedom flag, if you like. My first surprise came when when, within minutes, Loic LeMeur forwarded me an email from someone offering to courier a gigantic flag to the venue. My second surprise came when I saw who had sent the mail. It was Pierre-François Mourier, the French Consul General in San Francsico – the highest ranking French diplomat in Northern California. I swear I’m not making this up…
Date: Tue, 15 Sep 2009 23:51:44 +0000
Subject: Marseillaise and Star Spangled Banner ;-)
To: Loic Le Meur
I have just read Paul Carr’s tweet and I am ready to deliver a huuuuuge French flag as he requested to TechCrunch50, just tell me if I should put Paul’s name as recipient?
And, of course: I don’t want this gesture to be interpreted as a manifestation of French imperialism in California!
Now, I’m sure we can all agree that à cheval donné on ne regarde pas le dents, but sadly before I could take M. Mourier up on his kind offer of manifesting French imperialism in California, Arrington removed the flag from the stage for a final time. C’est la vie; there’s always next year.
Or is there….?
Arrington vs Calacanis Internet Celebrity Death Match
“Obviously it was all just a publicity stunt.” That’s generally the reaction I’ve heard from people who witnessed Arrington’s walking off stage at the end of the TC50 awards ceremony. And it’s an assumption that strikes me as odd, especially as on more than one occasion during the event, Michael made a point of removing his headset in protest at Jason continually talking over him. Likewise, Jason didn’t hold back from making snarky comments at Arrington’s expense, even going so far as to give an interview with Loren Feldman’s Shel Israel puppet in which he claimed that this would be the last ever TC50.
Anyone who knows either Michael or Jason will tell you that they both have ridiculously strong ideas about how things should be done, and that neither has a functioning compromise chip. Why then should their falling out at the end of a stressful conference be a cynical stunt as opposed to, say, a perfectly logical outcome? Frankly it’s amazing they held it together that long.
For those who didn’t stick around until the end of the event (for shame!), the final confrontation came when Arrington, irritated by what he called ‘the Jason Calacanis Conference’, chose to walk off the stage and leave Calacanis to present the final awards. In response, Jason lead the audience in a round of applause that was either intended to bring Michael back to the stage or to bring Tinkerbell back to life. I’m not sure which.
Either way, the attempt was unsuccesful: Arrington had left the building. The question is, will they kiss and make up now that the stress has passed, or is this really the end of the most volitile on-stage partnership since that tiger bit Roy’s neck? Yesterday, in an interview with VentureBeat, Jason said that next year’s event – and the partnership – is definitely still on. And yet at dinner last night, Arrington refused to comment on the record. When I told him that his silence might be interpreted as a continuation of the spat, he simply smiled, shrugged his shoulders and poured himself another glass of Diet Coke.
“You only tell me you love me when you’re drunk”
Jason Calacanis and I have a fun history. As readers of my nobel-prize-winning book will know, we first met in London where I thought he was hitting on my ex-girlfriend. He wasn’t but that didn’t stop me retaliating by convincing a bartender to charge an entire bar-full of drinks to his Amex card. He later got his revenge at FOWA London where, after I’d arranged an impromptu all-day drinking party aboard the MySpace bus, he gleefully tweeted my drunken behavior to the entire world. So you can imagine my delight when right at the end of the final night after-party, fuelled by more than a few well-deserved Lemon Drops, Jason wrestled TechCrunch Europe Editor Mike Butcher’s phone from his hands and decided to drunk dial Arrington in an attempt at late-night reconciliation. The resulting Flipcam footage is below.
Say what you like about Jason – including the fact that he seems to be turning into Leo Getz – but he certainly provides splendid entertainment….
The ending says it all. Watch this space, and roll on 2010.