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My Night at the Nerd Oscars

A non-techie recounts the winners, losers, and red-carpet trends ("A lot of that brushed-to-the-front hair on men") at TechCrunch's annual Crunchie Awards.  

 Who needs movie stars when you have start-ups?

The red carpet: Only a few actual gowns were on show, but it wasn’t all hoodies and jeans (though Zuckerberg did accept his award for best CEO in characteristic attire). There was a lot of black, a lot of that brushed-to-the-front hair on the men, and a reasonable number of suits and basic dress-up attire. These people clean up well.

The host: Sorry, Jon Stewart: Your British colleague John Oliver did a much better job than you did at the Oscars a few years back. He was loose, funny, and just the right combo of insulting and respectful. His opening remark: “Now you can do what nerds do best: Sit back and judge each other.” And he left us with a hair-raising image. Apparently, he found some slash fiction on the web in which he, Steven Colbert, and Jon Stewart were in some kind of ménage a trois. It was a tough act to follow, but Oliver continued to keep the crowd in stitches all night.

The stars: The only one with real star presence was Marisa Mayer (though one presenter did come out in a salmon-colored gown, retro updo, and white gloves). But plenty of more low-glam stars of the tech world were on show, including Zuckerberg, Max Levchin, Peter Thiel, Kevin Systrom (the Instagram guy), and Ben Silbermann (one of the Pinterest guys).

The entertainment: The rapper GZA, which was an odd experience given the overall geekiness and whiteness of the crowd. Some people tried to show cred by grooving in their seats, but really, nerd funk just doesn’t cut it.

The acceptance speeches: There was an awkward silence when one of the first recipients looked up at the ceiling and said he wanted to thank “the guy above.” But then he thanked Ron Conway (who was on hand to bless the proceedings), and everyone broke up. After Steve Jobs, I guess Conway is as close as it gets to a tech divinity around here. 

The awards: Education startup Coursera won Best New Startup of 2012, garnering earnest approval from the crowd. Github won Best Overall Startup, which was a bit anti-climactic, given its distinct non-sexiness (it’s a web-based hosting service for software development projects). But you have to wonder just what the tech world considers sexy, since Cloudera, another software, service, and support provider, won for “Sexiest Enterprise.” Pinterest and Instagram both got the nod as well (for Best Content Discovery Application and Founder of the Year, respectively)

Local color: There was one category in which all the nominees were SF-based: Best Collaborative Consumption Service. (We’re all just so helpful around here!) The crowd sighed disappointedly when Uber was awarded only runner-up, but graciously applauded when Airbnb took the big prize. The other contenders were Lyft, TaskRabbit, and Get It Now/Postmates.


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