Seven years is a longtime in technology — both from a technological and business perspective. Technologies become redundant, behaviors are reinvented and new ideas coming at you like bugs flying into the headlights of a car speeding through the night. And perhaps that is why I am amazed that The Crunchies (which were started as a way to celebrate the startups by a loose affiliation of technology blogs) have lasted this long. Gigaom ended its affiliation with the awards earlier this year, though I have always had a soft spot for the award ceremonies, mostly for sentimental reasons. The first Crunchies was my first public appearance three weeks after my heart attack. It was not easy to go onstage at the first Crunchies, but it made me feel normal and alive!
And yet, yesterday, I felt woefully out of place, amazed that as a collective, we sat through TJ Miller’s schtick. I hope I don’t have to endure his inanities again. HBO’s John Oliver was very funny last year and yet he never crossed that invisible line where funny becomes just straight up rude and unfunny.
For reasons that are well articulated by Twitter’s Katie Stanton, whose values I respect and share, we can’t really afford an evening like yesterday. Silicon Valley/Tech is the focus of attention and scrutiny like never before and we need to remember that what we say and do has ripple and impact. As a group, we need to be not only cautious and thoughtful in what we say, but also what we do and who we applaud. I am not against satire or comedy — but there are some lines that shouldn’t be crossed.
As the evening went on, I went on stage with Michael Arrington (who started Techcrunch) to give the CEO of the Year award — to Marc Benioff, who 16 years ago started Salesforce.com and has been at it since. And while he has done a good job as leader of Salesforce, Benioff’s philanthropy is what makes him stand apart. I have had an opportunity to work with UCSF and I have come learn about how much they need in terms of resources and I can certainly appreciate Benioff’s largesse. He has been a positive influence on me from giving back to the hospital that saved me from saying the final goodnight!
If it was fun to be up there, but the biggest thrill for me was to see some of my entrepreneurial peers being celebrated. Matthew Prince from Cloudflare isn’t exactly a household name, and to see him up there was fun. Still, my face beamed with pride when two companies about whom I am utterly and completely biased were recognized for their work — Storehouse and Slack. I say biased because I have a financial stake in their success as an investor in both those companies.
Storehouse, a visual story telling platform co-founded by Mark Kawano and Tim Donnelly, won the best mobile app of the year. It launched a year ago and this wasn’t the first award they’ve gotten for their amazing platform, but continued recognition for a good and thoughtful product. That thoughtfulness comes every time I spend time talking to them about new features and their ideas. It is always — how are we making it better for storytellers! It is an old fashion Apple way of thinking — and I guess Mark who worked there learned a few things. Congrats, Mark and Tim. (Here is, what else, a little Storehouse story about the night at the Crunchies.)
I was also delighted that Slack‘s Stewart Butterfield and his co-founders, Eric Costello, Cal Henderson and Serguei Mourachov won the Founders of the year Crunchie. Those four have had a crazy year, both of growth and valuations, but I love that they are still really four hippies at heart. Stewart & Co and I are old friends (where in I put the old in that relationship) from his days at Flickr. It is good to see them being recognized for staying true to their core selves. Well done gents!
As night turned into dawn, I lay awake thinking about how everything has changed, including (and especially) me — especially since leaving my old profession and embracing my new life at True Ventures. What used to be and what is, are entirely different. As writer/historian Doris Goodwin once said, “The past is not simply the past, but a prism through which the subject filters his own changing self-image.”
February 6, 2015