This week on TechCrunch: very bad things, irritable Germans, retro fall-outs and shopping til you drop

minesweeperIf you’re anything like me – and let’s for all of our sakes pray that you’re not – then your first thought as you stagger back to your desk today, bloated and giddy after Thanksgiving, will likely be “what can I do to kill time until the end of the week?”

Actual work is out of the question, obviously. If you’re a PC person then there’s always Minesweeper, while Mac users can make a start on editing their Thanksgiving videos in iMovie. Linux fan? I suppose once you’ve finished your daily six hours of masturbation, you can just fill up the rest of the time pompously explaining to the rest of us precisely why what we’re doing is wrong. You know, the usual.

But, regardless of our OS allegiance, there’s one activity we can all enjoy together – and that’s taking a look back at the last seven days of TechCrunch. So let’s get started, shall we?

(And Linux users, please wash your hands before clicking. We all know where they’ve been…)

Something really, really bad of the week…

By far the most interesting story of the week was one that was almost entirely ignored by other media outlets for the first 24 hours. On Tuesday, Michael reported that ‘Something really, really bad went down at high flying startup Canopy Financial’. That something, according to multiple sources, was the discovery that Canopy was ‘absolutely making up their financial statements, even forging audited statements with fake KMPG letterhead. And somehow the investment bank and all the investors never figured it out.’

The story developed throughout the day, leading to a second post in which Arrington likened the response from the company’s lead financial advisors to the – shocked, shocked! – police chief in Casablanca. The action continued in the comments: alongside several comments from former Canopy employees, one anonymous reader pointed out that Dave McClure, one of Canopy’s investors, had removed the company from the list of ‘achievements’ on his website. In response, McClure commented that ‘needless to say, after getting a letter from the general counsel of the company that their financials are under review, I no longer feel that way about the company’. He also referred to CEO Vikram Kashyap as a ‘former friend’, adding “Vik: if you’re reading this I hope you come to your senses and handle the situation responsibly.”

Yeah, bit late for that.

European disharmony of the week…

In other controversial news, it seems that the Germans are getting irritable, which is most unlike them. Reporting from the relatively safe – but strategically important – stronghold of Belgium, Robin Wauters tells us that ‘several federal and regional government officials in Germany are trying to put a ban on Google Analytics’, on the basis that collecting user data without explicit permission breaches the country’s strict data protection laws. Google Germany’s Per Meyerdierks, however, says there’s nothing to worry about: the company is well within its rights to process user data in the United States because it respects the Safe Harbour treaty between the EU and the USA. And given that I can’t think of a single instance of Germany breaking a treaty, we can all sleep safely in our beds tonight.

Undeterred, the next day Robin had another group of Germans in his sights – this time a manufacturer of laptops marketed under the trademark ‘Smartbook’. The company – Smartbook AG – has been threatening legal action against publications that use the word ‘smartbook’ to refer to a generic portable device, leading to the deletion of various blog posts and news stories. Of course, as any intellectual properly lawyer will tell you, trademark owners have a duty to take this kind of action to ensure that their trademark retains its legal protection, and doesn’t become a generic word. But like the plucky Belgian he is, Robin laughs in the face of such lawyers, titling his post ‘Smartbook Says Bloggers Can’t Use The Word Smartbook Anymore. Smartbook.‘, which, while not actually infringing on the trademark, is funny enough to be my headline of the week. Einfach klasse, Robin. Gut gemacht.

Hill of Beenz of the week…

Sticking with Europe and a guest post on TechCrunch EU from an anonymous ‘London-based VC’ sparked a whole lot of controversy. Not for the author’s suggestion that European start-ups needed to work harder if they were going to compete with Silicon Valley, but rather because of the fight that broke out in the comments between former Beenz CEO Philip Letts and – apparently – other former board members of the legendary dot com disaster. Here it is in full…

Philip Letts: Having been one of the few Brits to have built a number of successful tech/Web startups and lead 2 large US Web businesses I hear what you are saying. The Silicon Valley ecosystem is unique and cannot be replicated – I should know I ran one of their pinups! The UK and Europe need to find a way to take the keys to Silicon Valley success and embed it into Euro startups while optimizing Euro differences – more global minded, diverse and distributed. I hope so anyway as I chose to develop my latest venture, blur Group, in London not the Valley. And there were good reasons why. We run at US pace but with Euro players – its a nice combination done right. Let’s see if the VC’s can keep up!

Rob: Dude, You were fired from beenz. Silicon valley didn’t want you Back. :)

Phil(ip Letts): Actually you were the one fired. I was headhunted to go run Tradaq – the billion dollar Silicon Valley pinup after taking Beenz thru its glory days. U got the wrong guy/facts Dude!

Steve: Lets put a line under this once and for all. Philip did an amazing job bulding Beenz into a formidable machine with a market value in the hundreds of millions. After he left there were tons of sour grapes one complaint stands out in light of this article was that he worked the team too hard making them go on working off-sites, always pushing them to better results etc. Well he went off to his Silicon Valley trophy and you europeans got to do what you wanted at Beenz. Nice easy 9-6 hours. No more of those lifestyle interrupting off-sites. You changed the strategy – fired half the team . Bravo. End result you all ended up getting fired or the board let your contracts run out and the company ended up being sold. Well done Dude. Its been nine years – get a life.

Of course an argument between the board of Beenz is about as relevant today as a debate between the founders of Boo over who made the decision to fly Concorde, but it does provide another useful tip for European founders: working longer hours is not going to help you much if you spend your whole day arguing on the Internet like pathetic little children.

Past imperfect, of the week…

Speaking of debates from the past, Thanksgiving week has apparently spurred Americans to look back at alternative histories that could have been.

Kicking off the orgy of hypothetical-revisionism, the team behind Google Wave decided to demonstrate the service’s questionable usefulness by suggesting how the Founding Fathers might have used it to draft the Declaration of Independence. The result is hardly the pinnacle of satire, but given how shockingly unfunny the Onion has been these past couple of weeks, it’s not a terrible way to pass the time.

Slightly more interesting, but even less funny, were Arrington’s musings on what the world of technology might have looked like had Steve Jobs not returned to Apple in 1997. His verdict? ‘We’d likely still be in mobile phone hell. Chances are we still wouldn’t have a decent browsing experience on the phone, and we certainly wouldn’t be enjoying third party apps like Pandora or Skype on whatever clunker the carriers handed us…Think back to the phone you had in 2006, and then tell me you don’t love Apple for the iPhone alone.’

(On the subject of the iPhone, the latest stats show a staggering 75% of smart-phone web traffic now comes from Apple and Android handsets. Apple is still well in the lead but, if this leaked video from Swype is anything to go by, that might start to change pretty soon.)

What you two talkin’ about? Shoppin’! of the week…

Today is, of course, black Friday, and what better time for Google to up the obnoxiousness level of its in-results advertising in an attempt to grab a few more holiday clicks for its customers? As MG reported, the ads can basically be summed up thus: ‘Bigger, bigger, click me, bigger. Or, in Google’s own words, ‘Text is often useful, but sometimes videos and pictures are a more effective way to receive information.”’ Certainly the ads are more noticable – so much so that MG reckons Google ‘has finally cracked the code for getting my mother to click on their ads non-stop.’

In other holiday shopping news  “mystery buyer” has paid $1.5 million for the domain name, previously owned by the consulting firm that also owns,, and The ideal stocking stuffer!

And finally, of the week…

And finally, if you still have time before the weekend starts, Michael has been busy with his Flipcam this week, conducting interviews with Skype CEO Josh Silverman and Twitter’s Dick Costolo. The Costolo one is particularly enjoyable to watch, if only for the revelation that Mike has been mispronouncing his friend’s name for the past five years.

Have a good weekend! And don’t work too hard on your generic smartbook.