This image was lost some time after publication.

When Jason Calacanis and Michael Arrington launched their startup conference, TechCrunch20, they promised to change the slimy business of launching new companies at high-priced shindigs. For the companies chosen to present their products, be no cost to pitch or attend, unlike other high-profile startup bashes. Now, though, he's figured out how to solve two problems at once: Bump up flagging ticket sales and charge startups for the privilege of showing their wares. It's so ingenious, so hypocritical, and so brazen, it could only be conceived by Michael Arrington. Here's the plan.

The scheme is called DemoPit, and the pitch is simple: If your company was one of the hundreds that didn't make the cut to present on stage, you can still get a chance to demo at TechCrunch20. But — and here's the catch — you have to buy a $1,247.50 two-for-one ticket special. Bingo! Arrington makes an extra $124,750 and sells 200 extra tickets.

One small problem with his scheme. Having paid more than a thousand bucks for a conference pass, startup founders won't be able to attend the panels at the same time that they're showing off their companies. That means a lot of empty seats in the main conference hall — unless Arrington, cynically, decides to oversell tickets, knowing that DemoPit attendees won't be able to leave their laptops behind.


And who are they going to demo to, exactly? Aside from a lunch break, the conference's agenda is wall-to-wall packed. Does he really think attendees are going to pass up the drama of seeing his chosen 20 companies to pay consoling visits to 100 also-rans in an adjacent ballroom? Either he's not very confident in the quality of his presenters, or he's cynically exploiting desperate startups.

Not that it matters. Just the chance of getting on Arrington's radar will probably be enough for most startups to dive into this money pit. The editor of TechCrunch charges handsomely for his attention. At the cost, of course, of his credibility.