Techcrunch's Mike Arrington — who has never claimed to be a "golden fountain of objectivity" — recently partnered with Jason Calacanis to launch the Techcrunch20 demo conference. The idea is to break out of the paid-demo conference mold and give space to startups based purely on merit. However, there's no reason to throw the cash-baby out with the payola-bathwater for other events.The Supernova conference — produced by the Wharton School — also selects its 12 Techcrunch-sponsored "Connected Innovators" based on merit. Of course, the winners must be prepared to cough up $5,000 in order to accept the honor and make their presentation; that's in addition to the $2,000+ conference fee, though if you're so inclined, you can bundle your $5K fee in with some slick conference sponsorships for yet more money. Note that winners get three (presumably laudatory) posts on Techcrunch as part of the deal, in addition to related conference coverage. None of this is improper or even unusual as far as conferences go. If nothing else, it illustrates that the charitable instincts of the Techcrunch20 event will not be copied elsewhere unless some serious insta-cash blows out of the demos at the freebie conference.
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