TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington is viciously critical of Web startups that make their users pay for their wares. But he's perfectly happy to charge party sponsors for booths. The return on investment was hard to find at TechCrunch's annual party held at August Capital's Sand Hill Road offices on Friday. The booths, in the midst of free booze, pretty people, and business cards to swap, went completely unnoticed. The party, TechCrunch's third annual event held with the VC firm, was unremarkable. But the afterparty was legendary. We got in and took photos of the whole thing.
At August, things got crowded up real fast. There were more women in the crowd this year, a change from sausagefests past. But they were hardly breaking Valley gender barriers. The marketers at the Plista booth lamented that their competitors were getting attention by hiring cute girls to serve free beer. (I still don't remember what Plista does.) A fellow with an accent — possibly a put-on — asked Yahoo Tech Ticker cohost Sarah Lacy if she worked in PR, because "you're so pretty." Here's Lacy's account of the conversation:
Dude: "You girls are really lovely you must work in PR." Lacy: "Did you really just say that? That's incredibly insulting. Never say that to a woman in any business setting." Dude: "No, I just mean because every pretty girl I've met here is in PR." Lacy: "Yes, I know what you meant. that's why it's insulting. It's like assuming a woman in an office is a secretary." Dude: "Blah blah." Lacy: "You know what? There's a lot of people i actually want to talk to here." (walks off) He came up to me TWICE after that, interrupting conversations to apologize. Lacy: "Look, I don't care dude. just don't ever say it again because it's textbook insulting."
Everyone was mesmerized by Julia Allison, the former Star editor-at-large (read: TV spokesperson) turned Wired covergirl. That is, if you were important enough to warrant a conversation with her. Once the 30 seconds of polite time she gives you is up she'd turn free agent and could easily be stolen by somebody like Facebook's Dave Morin. Speaking of being mesmerized, rap impresarios MC Hammer and Chamillionaire showed up as well. They mingled amongst the geek kids talking about tech and rap while the Olds just guffawed at the entire thing from afar.
As the party wound up and the business-card-swapping got all the more frantic, Duck9's Larry Chiang put his afterparty plan into motion. His brilliant scheme: Send the entrepreneurs a URL with an invite to the Four Seasons Palo Alto and misdirect the venture capitalists with an otherwise identical invite to the Westin — a plausible location, since that was where Chamillionaire was staying. For non-VCs, the choice came down to Chiang's pool party at the Four Seasons, or Julia Allison's expedition to the Cheesecake Factory with Randi Zuckerberg, the nerd chanteuse and sister of Facebook CEO Mark. I crashed the pool party. I like to think I made the right decision for Valleywag readers.
At the Seasons, we saw Brian Solis working the crowds like a pro. Justin Kan of Justin.tv enjoying the jacuzzi in his underwear surrounded by girls. Shira Lazar mingled with Michael Arrington (perhaps prepping for an interview). And I even witnessed Jason Baptiste of Publictivity pitch a movie deal to Sarah Lacy based on her book. Michael Cera to play Zuckerberg anyone?
Which brings us to a tweak in Arrington's business model. Michael, instead of charging sponsors for booths at the party party, why not sell sponsorships at the afterparty? I don't remember any of the companies who paid for my attention on Sand Hill Road. But the scenes of Silicon Valley's finest stumbling around at poolside? Burned into my memory.