The world loves to celebrate comebacks from failure, but the Crunchies and the companies it features are all so new that the show hasn't done much of that. That changed last night at the 2011 Crunchies, with Jack Dorsey, Path and Google+ winning big.
Path's story hits home the most for me.
My first tech blog post ever, back in early 2007 at VentureBeat, was about the rise of the Facebook. It featured an interview with Path founder Dave Morin, who at the time was leading the company's barely launched developer platform. Soon afterward, Facebook exploded, I managed to get a full-time job as a tech blogger… and within a couple years, as is the way of things here in Silicon Valley, Dave and I moved on to new jobs.
Then, I watched Path launch as a photo-focused app last year… and struggle to meet high expectations.
When Dave got in touch right after I joined TechCrunch about covering the pending launch of Path 2.0, I excused myself by telling him that other writers who had been following Path more closely were better suited for the job. But we both knew I was also being a skeptic, unlike the first time we talked.
Path 2.0, however, turns out to be awesome. The mobile app perfectly combines photos, check-ins, status updates, and other key elements of top social services in an intimate setting, in a way that displaces Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram and other leading social services today. I've been kicking myself about not covering the relaunch ever since, but that's what I get for not believing. It very much deserved the Best Design award.
Google Plus is the search engine's latest of several social efforts over the years, but the first one that looks anything like a Facebook contender. Orkut turned out to be a sideshow, the various Friend Connect and OpenSocial platform/standard attempts never really hit it big with developers, and Google Buzz sputtered when the company tried to force it into Gmail in 2010. The guys who got on stage last night had been a part of at least some of the previous launches, so it was vindications all around.
The one I know best is Joseph Smarr, who I've covered over the years as he worked through his former employer, Plaxo, to build open standards for social sharing. Since moving to Google, he's been the mastermind behind private lists feature Circles and other key social parts of Plus, that have helped make it a uniquely good fit for what many social network users have wanted. After a decade of work building social products, he earned the Best Social Application the hard way.
Jack Dorsey has perhaps gone through the toughest redemption process of all. Having created Twitter in 2006, he left in 2008 as the service struggled to: maintain uptime, roll out new products, and make money. But then he launched payment company Square, which has become a key new way for all sorts of small businesses to take credit card payments. And then, he came back to help lead Twitter last March, while staying on at Square. Since then, Twitter has rolled out a series of product changes that helped make it more mainstream, and in the second part of last year it began growing faster than it ever has before. Even its revenue plans are looking more promising. He got on stage twice last night, once for the social impact that Twitter has made as a key way that people share information around the world, and again because of the job he's doing leading product development at the companies he founded.
The best victories are the ones you have to fight for the hardest.