When your biannual business event has been satirized by Mike Judge, you need to level up, which is a casual phrase humans say to other humans. And, oh, what a level this year's TechCrunch Disrupt "Battlefield" showed us. Corruption! Hubris! Exploitation! Investment from Michael Arrington! Butlers! It truly had it all.
Techies from across the world flocked to San Francisco this week to take part in TechCrunch Disrupt, hoping to make an impression on tech's top brand journalists and maybe land some venture bucks. But this year's annual startup conference came with a bonus feature: tours that proselytize Silicon Valley's culture of lavishness.
It's not easy being Michael Arrington. To kickoff TechCrunch Disrupt SF this morning, the Uber investor directed a fierce and poignant native ad for his CrunchFund investment Uber—right there on stage, in real-time. With Uber CEO Travis Kalanick by his side, it was a veritable duet of damage control! But then Lyft investor Peter Thiel had to spoil the cozy fireside mood by acting just like Arrington.
Let's talk about last night's episode of Silicon Valley, which was staged at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. In real life, the annual conference is an island of lost startups where aspirants scramble for attention while the anointed tell tales of world change and global impact, signifying nothing (because they're told by the makers of project management software).
Most of the scenes in the final three episodes of HBO's Silicon Valley take place in Mike Judge's version of TechCrunch Disrupt. Without giving away from spoilers, it's pretty much like the real conference only with more dick jokes. Well, one very elaborate Aristocrats-style dick joke on a whiteboard.
Michael Arrington is a man who would prefer to keep the things people whisper about him out of the public eye. So the blogging-capitalist, whose "conflicts of interests" run longer than his resume (literally), came out gunning for Whisper CEO Michael Heyward during a TechCrunch Disrupt panel earlier today.
In 2011, TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington was fired from his own website for reasons including flagrant conflicts of interest over his newly hatched VC firm, CrunchFund. But he never really left. For every year since his firing, Arrington's used the TechCrunch Disrupt conference to help his wallet.
Conflict of Interest 3.0: the winner of TechCrunch's vaunted Disrupt Battlefield startup competition is financially backed by TechCrunch's pugnacious founder, Michael Arrington—it is a matter of pure coincidence that Arrington judged the competition. How much longer are we going to take this seriously?
Earlier today, Michael Arrington solemnly vowed to "face down the evil at TechCrunch Disrupt," the tech blog's biannual conference. Not the vulgar sexism permitted on stage, but rather the tech industry's see-no-evil attitude towards the NSA using its products to spy on American citizens. (Complacency seems to be common theme.)
In a week, the next breathless gathering in Silicon Valley's Liturgal Calendar begins: TechCrunch Disrupt 2013, a $3,000-per-ticket gala of business owners, investors, and their wannabe retinues. For entertainment? "Startup Battlefield," where tech hopefuls compete for money and attention. But what happens after? Often, death.
Last week, we reported that TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington would skip his Disrupt conference for the first time ever. We were wrong: Yesterday, he showed up on stage. It seems that whatever hiccups were getting in the way of his making an appearance have been resolved. One of those hiccups: Our own Adrian Chen.
As a preamble to this week's Disrupt conference in New York, TechCrunch is hosting a "hackathon"—one of those dire geek sweatshops wherein coders create small snippets of ideas, and then hawk them before people with money. It's sort of like speed dating meets department store liquidation sale. But one chose to use his time to basically tell everyone to fuck off.