The talk of the town today in Seattle has been TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington’s participation in last night’s TechFlash panel. One panelist said he wanted to spend the rest of his life building his startup, which is just the kind of hand-over-heart sentiment that Mike for some reason feels compelled to subvert, first by insulting the speaker, then in an odd spasm of regret, by insulting himself. Mike said in a few years the panelist would be a broken-down entrepreneur desperate to sell, just as he himself now is with TechCrunch.
Now this morning, the word is that TechCrunch is for sale. In interviews last week, last month, last year, Mike has said that he is thriving within TechCrunch, and that no one has any plans to sell the company, which now generates more than $10 million per year in revenue. And now today Mike observed that if he were trying to sell the company, he wouldn’t joke about it as an aside on a panel at Seattle University, marketing the company as a worn-out has-been that nobody would really want.
This is undoubtedly true. Anyone who has asked Mike directly about TechCrunch’s future, whether in public forums or in private, knows that the company has found a way out of the usual conundrum facing big blogs, which tend to run the founding editor into the ground, or lose their personality when he hires a team. TechCrunch is now growing happily, with a co-editor, a CEO, and a round-the-clock team of writers with their own bizarre styles.
So why didn’t Mike subject the rest of last night’s panel to a standard-issue TechCrunch sales pitch, blandly reciting how “great” and “exciting” everything is? John Cook can’t understand why a public figure making public statements can’t be taken at his word, and Mike can’t understand why he’s being treated like the CEOs of Motorola and Boeing, who never say anything interesting because their every utterance is, for both speaker and listener, nothing more than a recalibration of their companies’ stock price.
Everywhere he appears, Mike seems bewildered that we have become so earnest: about “entrepreneurialism” as a modern-day priesthood, about TechCrunch as an institution rather than a blog. What he seems to love about TechCrunch — about Silicon Valley and Seattle and all of its entrepreneurs — has always been the idea that we’re making stuff for fun; that the ideas and their inventors matter, not the publicists and the deal-makers; that we care too much and then feel silly about it; that we take ourselves seriously and then not seriously at all — and that everybody knows the difference.
Now TechCrunch is a bigger business than most of the companies it covers. We can stuff Mike into a suit and ask him to act the part, but I for one prefer the original edition: the overgrown hobbyist, the compulsive pot-stirrer, the fur-flying panelist.