Startup Events & Awards: Different Types of “Crunchies Fail”

Last week’s Crunchies, the startup award show of TechCrunch and Venturebeat, apparently did not go so well. Not well at all, actually, if even Michael Arrington (as the founder of TechCrunch) had this to say…

I thought this last night, and I still think it 24 hours later. The Crunchies were a disaster this year.

This is (most likely) mainly refering to the performance by comedian T.J. Miller from the TV show “Silicon Valley”, who (sort of) stayed “in character” a bit too much, one could say. (Probably good publicity for the show. Good for the real-life Valley and the nerves of people there? Not so much.) Quite a few people criticised this (and in some cases other things, too). Ned Desmond from AOL / TechCrunch apologized. PandoDaily took the opportunity to take a shot at both TechCrunch and the “Silicon Valley” cast. So much about that.

Most of the discussions still seem to revolve on what is offensive and what not, what is a good joke, sufficiently backed up with Silicon Valley “knowledge” and what not. Comparatively little attention is paid to the premise of a “startup award show”, or it’s merit.

Looking at the winners, one seriously has to wonder what kind of definitions the “Crunchies committee” has worked with. In what sense was Uber the “best” startup? If “best” becomes just about big valuations and funding rounds, one does not need an award – there’s data on that. I get tired and bored of the constant Uber-bashing articles about lawsuits and regulatory issues many (tech) media outlets like to publish (so that they get their clicks), but quite objectively, I also do not see that much reason to celebrate them. While I really like Product Hunt, “Best New Startup of 2014” also seems like an odd choice. Certainly, it is one of the new startups with the most hype, but should “best” not look beyond a very strong impact on the Silicon Valley / tech mainstream echo chamber? Because that is essentially what Product Hunt is about: A community to find out and discuss what kind of things are popular in the tech mainstream.

Without going into specific choices, Jolie O’Dell, formerly writing for VentureBeat and Mashable, strongly criticised the selection process on Facebook, as well as what the Crunchies seem to be about. While ideas to “reform” the Crunchies seem intuitively laudable, one should also wonder if award shows – at least on a general “industry level” – fit to startups at all. Should these kinds of awards and rankings not rather stay the realm of ad agencies, like in “Mad Men”? Or, of the place T.J. Miller came from, Hollywood?