I spent last Friday night at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco watching the Crunchies. The third annual version of the tech award show was co-hosted by three leading high-tech blogs: GigaOm, VentureBeat, and TechCrunch. According to the official Cruchies description, the show aims to “recognize and celebrate the most compelling startups, internet and technology innovations of the year.” You can read a nice overview of the event and after-party by Jessica Guynn of the Los Angeles Times.
It was an entertaining, if low budget, affair. In fact, the casual nature of the show in such a fancy space was quite charming. There were corporate jugglers providing entertainment and the reliably funny Richter Scales served up a nice glee-club style spoof (see video above).
You can check out the award winners here. But the mix of nominees and winners left a muddy impression of the event. What, exactly, is the point of the Crunchies?For the third year in a row, Facebook won start-up of the year. And that begs the question: Is Facebook really a start-up? When you have 300 million users, the answer is obviously no. But the default mentality in the valley is that you’re a start-up until the day you go public. Which is silly.
Winner of Best New Product or Start-up for 2009 was Bing, the new search engine released by Redmond-based upstart Microsoft. The Founder of the Year category included the founders of six companies that weren’t started last year. And of the six products nominated for Best Technology Achievement, three came from Google, and one from Microsoft.
The blogs that host the event mostly cover the start-up economy, with news of bigger companies mixed in as they impact those entrepreneurial economies and communities. Still, it seems the opportunity here is to really recognize the start-up world, the new faces on the scene, the things that really make the valley what it is. I’m not sure that Google or Microsoft really need the boost, even if their products are spectacular.
For me, when the Crunchies made sense Friday night, was when they honored a guy like Mark Pincus of Zynga for being CEO of the year. Zynga had an explosive year in 2009 thanks to its social games like Farmville and Mafia Wars. Pincus is, relatively speaking, a new face who is well-known in the start-up community, but not yet at Mark Zuckerberg-level recognition. And yet, Pincus noted during the event that Zynga has 750 employees AND 300 job openings.
For a company founded less than three years ago, that kind of growth is astonishing. And it’s those stories, highlighting the newcomers and the lesser known successes, that I’d like to see the fourth annual Crunchies focus on next year.