Silicon Valley turns out for Crunchies

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Silicon Valley honored its own Friday night at the Crunchies, the third annual geeks’ choice awards put on by alpha technology blogger Michael Arrington and his cohorts, GigaOm and Venture Beat.

The remarkable ingenuity and industry of Silicon Valley were on full display. But this was not the Kodak Theatre. The only glitter came from an audience filled with iPhones (and Nexus Ones). There was little showmanship as presenters flubbed their delivery and relied heavily on inside jokes and self-referential lines. And the production was so low-tech that celebrity presenter, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, wryly commended the Crunchies for ‘keeping it modest.’

Controversy tends to follow Arrington, and this night was no exception. Some in the audience objected to heavyweights such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook walking away with awards they said should go to struggling entrepreneurs who code all night in their boxer shorts and operate on a shoestring budget. And some objected to honoring Mark Pincus, founder and CEO of Zynga. Zynga is a social-media gaming company that has had runaway success and some controversy of its own.

Still, the Crunchies, named for Arrington’s influential TechCrunch blog and held at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco, were a hit.


One of the main attractions was Arrington’s on-stage interviews with Pincus (who admitted in a lighthearted moment to being so addicted to his company’s FarmVille game that he missed an appointment because he was redecorating his farm); Google vice president of engineering in charge of mobile, Vic Gundrota (who generated buzz for saying that Google Voice would come to the iPhone soon ‘one way or another’); and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg (who said he was humbled to still be recognized as a startup even with more than 350 million users and an Aaron Sorkin movie in the works).

Facebook pulled off a hat trick, taking top prize for the third year in a row.

But it was Animoto CEO Brad Jefferson who delivered the laugh line of the night by accepting the award for best Internet application this way: ‘We were founded with the simple goal of acquiring Google. This award is a big step toward that goal.’

Check out the winners here.

The evening’s highlight unquestionably was a knockout performance by the Richter Scales. Clad in white suit jackets, they recast the Barry Manilow hit ‘Copa Cabana’ to satirize Silicon Valley. Their first target was the largest man in the room: Arrington, who’s involved in a dust-up with a Singapore company that he says was supposed to work with him to produce a tablet called the CrunchPad.

‘His name was Michael/
He was the blog king/
But deep inside he really felt/
He should be hardware king as well/
He took a napkin/
And drew a tablet/
He called a group in Singapore/
To ship his Crunchpad out the door/
But Singapore said psych!/
Thanks for the napkin, Mike!/
Your old Crunchpad is now our JooJoo/
So go take a hike! ... ‘

Also worth noting:

-- An after-party overflowed with Grey Goose and trays of canapes across the street in the rotunda at City Hall.

-- Shinoda is a gadget-obssesed blogger and a regular TechCrunch reader. He said in an interview: ‘I’m constantly impressed by the humility, intelligence and sense of humor here. It’s great to know that good people are behind good products.’

-- Arrington’s best line of the night was to Gundrota: ‘We have five minutes to talk about three things and those three things are the Nexus One.’

-- Gundrota said Google aims ‘to surprise people in 2010.’

-- With so many Android phones on the market, Gundrota has quite a few but he had a Nexus One in his pocket.

-- Zuckerberg is old school and relies on his trusty BlackBerry.

-- Zuckerberg also contends that social attitudes toward privacy are shifting. “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.”

-- Angel investor of the year, Ron Conway, who is a renowned philanthropist kidded TechCrunch CEO Heather Harde for not mentioning his ties to the Tiger Woods Foundation.

-- Quote of the night from author and business writer Sarah Lacy: ‘We are all winners because we are not at CES.’

-- Jessica Guynn

Upper photo: Herbst Theater crowd. Credit: Joseph N. Hall,

Center photo: Mark Zuckerberg. Credit: Crunchies2009

Lower photo: The Richter Scales. Credit: Crunchies2009