Newsweek, from 3,000 miles away, bills TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington's parties as "harder to get into than Studio 54 in its heyday." So much for the periodical's vaunted factchecking: I waltzed right in. And the scene? Last Friday's TechCrunch9 was, at heart, the same meet-and-greet that takes place several times a week somewhere between San Francisco and San Jose. Except on steroids. A reported 900 people showed up on the Sand Hill Road patio of August Capital to schmooze, deal, and — oh, yes — sucking up to Arrington in the hopes of a mention on his site.
It was the same small talk, the same pitches, and the same scanning of nametags before faces as any other Valley networking event. With one small hitch — partygoers were asked to fill out their own nametags, and most neglected to include their company information. That omission perplexed at least one venture capitalist in attendance. "I feel like I'm walking socially blind," he confessed. "I don't know how important these people are to me." You mean Arrington's velvet rope-holders let in some hoi polloi who aren't worth your time, let alone your capital? Quelle horreur!
Still with a headcount inching towards quadruple digits, there were bound to be a few gems in the crowd. MySpace cofounder Chris DeWolfe was on hand to support Fox Interactive alumna Heather Harde, now TechCrunch CEO (and proud owner of a a blinged-out TechCrunch rhinestone nameplate necklace). Ning CEO Gina Bianchini, while sampling the samosas, warned me away from the sickeningly sweet frozen margaritas doled out by an overeager PR firm.
But for the most part, it was midlevel business developers trolling the crowd for victims. The pitches from official TechCrunch9 sponsors and invited guests mostly went ignored, but it was harder to miss some pushier in-person come-ons. One annoyed CEO told me, "Three times I've been talking to people and interrupted by pitches. These people just don't get it!"
Confession time: Yes, I went to the party even though I was technically disinvited. I thought it was a cute Valleywag tradition, but apparently Mike wasn't kidding about taking my name off the list. Other guests were well aware of this, and commented on my presence, often, once I graced the patio. One guest half-jokingly said to me, "Arrington's right there, I can't be seen talking to you." At least, I think he was joking. As soon as he pronounced that, he turned and bounced away to the next conversation. Wanker. I'm hoping he got cornered by biz-dev types in blue shirts for the rest of the evening.