At the TechCrunch Winter Party that took place in San Francisco last week, there was a pinata bashing that signified the death of the much maligned awards show, The Crunchies, which after a decade of highs and lows has finally been shuttered by Verizon, TechCrunch’s new parent company.
Launched in 2007 by legendary TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, the show’s mission was to showcase the best in tech, but it soon became mired in controversy for becoming an over-the-top, glitzy, star-studded affair that repeatedly celebrated the same industry heavyweights: Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google/Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, Uber’s Travis Kalanick, Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel.
Broad, overreaching categories like Best App, Best Startup, Best Founder seemed to exclude many who were toiling away, revolutionizing the industry.
“They had an award for ‘Best VC’ which pretty much says it all right there,” recalled BitTorrent Founder Bram Cohen.
BitTorrent’s Bram Cohen enroute to The Crunchies showing off the black leather fashion of the night. Photo credit: Jenna Cohen
When asked for memories of the show, Discovery Channel’s Revision3 co-founder David Prager laughed, “I’ll leave a positive one: John Oliver.”
John Oliver, the popular TV comedian, who had previously hosted The Crunchies, attacked the industry at the 2014 show shouting profanities at the audience and doling out his own tech awards: Best Cartoon Villian, Creepiest Marketing Idea.
“I don’t remember what Oliver said. Making fun of the pompousness of it all wouldn’t have seemed notable to me” added Cohen.
Then there were rumors that The Crunchies were rigged. VentureBeat reporter Jolie O’Dell posted publicly on Facebook scathing details exposing what had long been a suspicion by industry insiders:
End of an Era
Perhaps in the ultimate irony, few of the eager startups hustling for partnerships, funding and coverage at the sold out TechCrunch Winter Party last week even knew what The Crunchies were as they dove for chocolate coins that fell from the busted pinata.
In a forward-looking industry with no memory how we got here, it’s helpful to understand that the show was a staple in the tech calendar during a time when all eyes were just starting to turn to Silicon Valley. Eventhough flawed, the show was visionary in that it gave a spotlight to many of the companies that have since dramatically transformed the way we live our lives.
Serial entrepreneur and investor Jimmy Ku recalled fondly, “The Crunchies started as a joke but quickly grew into something that helped gather the tech community together. It was a chance for us “techies” to have an award ceremony that we could rally behind and to give acknowledgement for some of the great startups here.”
Now a new era has dawned and we have accelerators like Y Combinator and sites like AngelList serving as brilliant curators of rising tech stars.
Ridge Ventures’ Ben Metcalfe summed it up, “Artists, across all mediums, deserve recognition and validation from their peers for outstanding achievement. That’s why we have the Oscars, Grammy’s, Pulitzer prize, Ivan Nevello awards etc. Entrepreneurs and VCs already have such mechanisms built into the very fabric of what they do – it’s called being a shareholder. No one needs an additional ego stroke because they just created $ millions of shareholder value and personal wealth.”