Silicon Alley's Bitter Awards Scramble

For a startup founder itching to cash out, the recession can be tough: The economy fades hopes for an acquisition or plum funding round. Perhaps this explains some of the testiness around this year's awards from Silicon Alley Insider.

Corporate awards might seem silly, but for some entrepreneurs, they are among the few forms of recognition still within reach. And the Insider's Silicon Alley Awards, intended to "celebrate the resilience of New York's digital industry in the face of the global economic collapse," has its share of obsessives. One even wonders if the selection process has been tilted in favor of nominees with financial ties to the Insider.

Henry Blodget's publication yesterday released its final list of nominees. The nominees were selected by the Insider with input from an online poll.

As our tipster notes, the 25 finalists include Gilt Groupe, co-founded by the same team that started Silicon Alley Insider; Huffington Post, co-founded by Insider investor Ken Lerer; and Thrillist, started by Ken's son Ben Lerer.

It's hard to argue with, say, HuffPo's impact over the past year; it pioneered a particularly effective form of citizen journalism and grew both its traffic and profile by leaps and bounds. But, as with the other two nominees, its links to the Insider were not disclosed; maybe they should have been, as our tipster argues, if only to keep the awards above reproach.

Blodget, who says he "understand[s] the concern about disclosures," he since added a note to his nomination post outlining "every possible conflict I could think of." And while he conceded "there was definitely some subjectivity in the selection of the final nominees," he defended his process:

We explained up front that, while we would take the nominations and votes into account when picking the final 5 nominees, the votes would not determine our selections.

The reason we don't use straight votes in these things, by the way, is that we have learned from experience that they are too easy to game...

For what it's worth, we won't be involved in picking the winners [see explanation at bottom of this post].

For those still dissatisfied with the process, just remember: It's only an arbitrary prize. They're a dime a dozen. If you don't win SAI's, why not go for a Webby? They hand those out to practically anyone!