Chelsea Peretti (above) a comedic actress, introduced the 10th Annual Crunchies -- awards celebrating startups and VCs in Silicon Valley -- and managed some decent jokes poking fun at the techie audience. ( See my video here.)
Diversity was once again the bold theme of the event. And the selections of the nominees for the awards showed a tremendous amount of diversity in gender and people of color.
People from outside Silicon Valley must be tremendously impressed that our young startup teams are so progressive from the very beginning and are building the future the right way.
But the staged diversity of the Crunchies is far removed from actual reality. The audience looks nothing like them. Startup teams continue to be predominately: male, white/Asian; from privileged backgrounds.
The Crunchies are trying to change things and it takes time. Soon the startups will get a clue: if you want to be nominated to win a Crunchie you'd better show significant diversity in your teams.
The TJ Miller effect...
The Crunchies has changed a lot since 2015 following a stunning performance from TJ Miller, a standup comedian and one of the actors in HBO's Silicon Valley sitcom. During a long evening of superb improv with the audience he called someone a "bitch." It was scandalous. It was disruptive to an audience more comfortable with unspoken workplace misogyny.
The organizers apologized and since then they bend over backwards, and they would bend even further if they could, to present an awards show that is all about diversity in capital letters and in bold typeface but without spelling it out because that would be tedious.
The Crunchies show highly diverse startup teams being successful. Success at winning awards equates with likely future success in business. Monkey see monkey do. The Crunchies award consists of a black chimpanzee holding a stick. The message will eventually get through.
It was a dark and stormy night...
I've been to nearly every Crunchies but the last two have attracted smaller numbers of key people. I would normally run into a lot of high level contacts, a lot of top Silicon Valley CEOs would show up -- but now they don't -- with the exception of Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO, who was presenting an award.
Even Michael Arrington, the co-founder of the Crunchies, who always presents an award with sidekick GigaOM founder Om Malik, also absent, didn't show up.
There were a hundred or so empty seats in the front rows reserved for extra important people who didn't turn up.
It might have been the weather. Or it might be that the new format of forcibly mixing diversity into the innovation message of the Crunchies awards isn't compelling enough to retain an insider and top CEO audience; or maybe the Crunchies are running out of steam.