TechCrunch50 conference founders reunite for 2010, blame it all on the puppets

The popular TechCrunch50 conference has gone from off to back on again for next year.

On Tuesday night, high-rolling Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis told several attendees, plus a reporter on Twitter, plus a video-blogging puppet, that this year’s third annual TechCrunch50 conference, at which several dozen tech startup companies debuted their products onstage Monday and Tuesday, would be the last.

Calacanis and TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington had clearly lost their tempers with each other on Thursday, according to VentureBeat’s on-site reporters and others in attendance. At one point, Arrington marched off the stage.

Because Calacanis and Arrington are celebrities among tech startup entrepreneurs, and because TechCrunch50 is seen as Web 2.0′s middle finger to more traditional, more expensive events, the possibility of no more TechCrunch50 events was a gut punch to many fans who don’t go to the show, but follow it online.

Now, Calacanis has changed his story and says TechCrunch50 is on for 2010. Not surprising, I know, but newsworthy nonetheless.

Jason says he was joking about ending the conference, but if you watch the puppet video and read his Tweets, there’s no nudge-nudge-wink-wink factor to his statements at all. Skip the apologists who’ll say he was punking the media, or whatever they call it now when you lie to a reporter. That’s not ex-journalist Calacanis’ style. “I’ll buy you a steak” is his style.

What did Arrington and Calacanis fight about? Arrington won’t talk, except for what he told VentureBeat’s Matt Marshall a couple of days ago, when he said he had no idea what Calacanis was up to. We interviewed Calacanis on IM to ask if beyond the expected stress of running a two-day conference with 50 presenters, there was more personal resentment between them. Arrington is a successful power broker and widely read (for the tech industry) journalist, yet he hasn’t been able to get rich off it yet. Calacanis is a self-made multi-millionaire who drives a $100,000 Tesla sports car, but he isn’t lionized the way Arrington is by aspiring CEOs. These two must get sick of each other, right?

[Disclosure: VentureBeat co-produces DEMO, a conference partly sponsored by IDG that is competitive to TechCrunch50. This explains Jason's punch line at the end.]

Session Start (paulboutin@mac.com:jasoncalacanis): Thu Sep 17 15:27:31 2009
[15:29] paulboutin@mac.com: Jason, for real seriously: Yes, No or Undecided
on TechCrunch50 2010?
[15:30] jasoncalacanis: It was a joke. Of course there will be a
TechCrunch50 next year. You think Mike and I would let our egos get in the
way of something so absurdly successful?
[15:30] jasoncalacanis: for the love of God…. i was talking to a puppet.
What is wrong with you bloggers.
[15:30] jasoncalacanis: Have you all gone mad?!
[15:30] jasoncalacanis: :-)
[15:35] paulboutin@mac.com: To answer your questions literally, in reverse
order
[15:44] *** “jasoncalacanis” signed off at Thu Sep 17 15:44:15 2009.
Session Close (jasoncalacanis): Thu Sep 17 15:44:20 2009

Session Start (paulboutin@mac.com:jasoncalacanis): Thu Sep 17 15:44:25 2009
[15:44] *** NOTE: This user is offline. Your messages will most likely
*not* be received!
[15:46] *** “jasoncalacanis” signed on at Thu Sep 17 15:46:45 2009.

[15:56] paulboutin@mac.com: Better idea: I’ll answer you in a post. Thanks
for the speedy reply, those help a lot.
[15:56] jasoncalacanis: browser crashed
[15:56] jasoncalacanis: missed your responses
[15:56] paulboutin@mac.com: I didnt’ send
[15:56] jasoncalacanis: oh ok
[15:56] paulboutin@mac.com: posting
[15:56] jasoncalacanis: well, feel free to ask any questions.
[16:01] paulboutin@mac.com: There was obviously something going on Thursday
night. Everyone’s got their story figured out now, but our two reporters in
your audience said it was weird when Mike wouldn’t come to the stage. At
this point, though, what matters to my readers is TC50 or No TC50. You’ve
answered that.
[16:01] paulboutin@mac.com: And no, I don’t think you guy would throw away
something that successful.
[16:02] jasoncalacanis: each year we have very heated debates as to which
companies get in and how the event is run. however, we always seem to end up
in the same place: the creative tension makes for a better event.
[16:03] jasoncalacanis: We have an ongoing joke between us that this is the
last year of the event due to the fighting.
[16:04] jasoncalacanis: but we’re cool. and certainly it’s not over money…
as the money from TC50 is not going to change my lifestyle any time soon. I
mean, how many Tesla’s can one man own!?!?!?!
[16:04] jasoncalacanis: (your welcome for these juicy quotes :-)
[16:04] paulboutin@mac.com: Two, because there’s no back seat and you dont
want to leave guests out of the fun
[16:05] jasoncalacanis: I’m just shocked folks are taking this seriously. I
mean… a puppet. It was in fact, a puppet.
[16:05] jasoncalacanis: then again, i guess if you hear mike and i fighting
it isn’t pleasant.
[16:06] paulboutin@mac.com: You were all too convincing. I think you really
were Done With This Baloney when you talked to the puppet.
[16:06] paulboutin@mac.com: The makeup video is cute. I’m running it with
your quotes.
[16:06] jasoncalacanis: Truth = we fight like rabid dogs and neither of us
have to compromise in any other parts of our business.
[16:07] jasoncalacanis: False = we would throw an amazing event like this
out the window.
[16:08] paulboutin@mac.com: Why wasn’t Mike onstage to present to RedBeacon?
[16:08] paulboutin@mac.com: The audience was calling him, and you know I
know he could hear them.
[16:08] jasoncalacanis: I actually don’t know. I think he just wanted to
sleep and was exhausted.
[16:12] paulboutin@mac.com: Frankly, and you can cut&paste me, I don’t buy
it when people try to explain everything in terms of money. It’s too easy.
Plus it would mean I’m an idiot.
[16:14] paulboutin@mac.com: The thing you may not understand is that to the
TC crowd, it really is a big deal whether you and Mike are getting along.
[16:14] jasoncalacanis: we have a very basic relationship… we split the
costs and profits. not rocked science…
[16:14] jasoncalacanis: yes, it’s a big deal to the community that this even
occur each year. We realize that… we dont want to let folks down.
[16:18] paulboutin@mac.com: Matt has a question for you: “Why do they need
you? TechCrunch has built the platform and it’s their brand, so why wouldn’t
they find a way to relaunch without you?”
[16:20] jasoncalacanis: Tell Matt to stop being a trouble maker and get to
work earning his IDG dollars.
[17:41] *** “jasoncalacanis” signed off at Thu Sep 17 17:41:10 2009.

[Photo: Frank Gruber]

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