02:23 AM

Crunchies Awards: Diversity Ruled The Stage But Silicon Valley Stars Absent


I was excited to be at The Crunchies Awards Monday evening. I was right behind two seats reserved for Mike Arrington (founder of TechCrunch) and my old buddy Om Malik founder of GigaOm.

Neither came to occupy their seats and neither did Silicon Valley's star CEOs and VCs as had been common in prior years. Arrington and Malik turned up on stage later to present an award for Angel of the year but there was no Silicon Valley royalty: no Zuckerberg, no Marissa Mayer, no Travis Kalanick, Elon Musk, Marc Benioff, Marc Andreessen...

This year the Crunchies billed itself as the Oscars for startups and tech. And unlike the real Oscars, the Crunchies was determined to load up on as much diversity and political correctness as it could fit on one stage.

The organizers had an another incentive to add an extra helping of diversity  because of last year's "Bitchgate" controversy.  TJ Miller from the HBO "Silicon Valley" sitcom called an audience member a "Bitch." She forgave him later in a Tweet, "Stay classy Silicon Valley..."  

[Please see: The Crunchies' Bitchgate: High Horses With Fake Unicorn Horns Ignore Decades Of Silicon Valley Misogyny.]

This year the MC was female standup comedian Chelsea Peretti from the Fox sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine. And the diversity level was off the charts. Looking at all the people presenting awards, and receiving awards you would be mistaken for thinking Silicon Valley were a golden city of the future where diversity and meritocracy are sacred principles and misogyny exists only in the history museum -- stuffed and mounted. 

Silicon Valley's approach to diversity is generally skin-tone distracted and gender confused and is measured as a low ratio. But the ratio on stage was far from being a true representation in reality. Every opportunity to show great diversity was pounced upon. Slack set the tone of the evening early on when it sent four of its African American female engineers on stage to collect the award for "Fastest Rising Startup." And other winners tried to do the same. 

Just in can we didn't notice all the diversity on display there was also a new Diversity Award with a diverse nominations group that was won by Code.org. While the stage was a colorful picture of diversity the audience was far less color balanced than the show and more realistic representation of Silicon Valley's diversity. 

Some grumbles: The audio was flaky; there was little energy in the room; and the media section was moved from the two front rows to the back of the theater (bad move);  and the promotion of Toyota cars inside and outside the venue made it feel like a car convention.

These things are easy to fix but if the Crunchies wants to become the Tech Oscars then it needs to pull in some of the local Silicon Valley star power. 

Here are the winners of the Crunchies.

Fastest Rising Startup

Winner: Slack

Also nominated were: Postmates (runner-up), TransferWise, YouNow, and Zenefits.


Founder Of The Year

Winner: Stewart Butterfield
Also nominated were: Jessica Livingston, Natalie Massenet, Tristan Walker (runner-up), and Anne Wojcicki.

Include Diversity Award

Winner: Kimberly Bryant, Black Girls Code

Also nominated were: Erica Baker; Joelle Emerson, Paradigm; Laura Weidman Powers (runner-up), Code2040; Kortney Ryan Ziegler, Trans*H4CK


Hardware Of The Year

Winner: Samsung Gear VR

Also nominated were: Apple Pencil, Devialet Phantom speaker, Parrot Bebop, Sphero BB-8 (runner-up).


VC Of The Year

Winner: Bill Gurley

Also nominated were: Marc Andreessen, Sonali De Rycker,, Mary Meeker, and Chamath Palihapitiya (runner-up).


Best New Startup

Winner: Honor

Also nominated were: Eaze, Jet, Operator, Robinhood (runner-up).

Biggest Social Impact

Winner: Code.org

Also nominated were: Google.org, Fast Forward, Thorn, and Frida Kapor Klein and Mitch Kapor (runners-up)


Best Angel Investor

Winner: Scott and Cyan Banister

Also nominated were: Naval Ravikant, Gil Penchina, Joanna Wilson, and Chris Sacca (runner-up)


Best Mobile App

Winner: Facebook Messenger

Also nominated were: Citymapper, Robinhood, Wish, and Periscope (runner-up)


Best Technology Achievement:

Winner: SpaceX Falcon 9

Also nominated were: Apple's 3D Touch, Microsoft's Hololens, Transatomic Power, and Tesla's Autopilot (runner-up)

CEO Of The Year

Winner: Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)

Also nominated were: Tim Cook (Apple), Jack Dorsey (Twitter/Square), Susan Wojcicki (YouTube), Elon Musk (Tesla) (Runner-up)

Best Overall Startup

Winner: Uber
Also nominated were: Docker, Snapchat, Xiaomi, Slack (Runner-up)