Benner on Tech: Silicon Valley Pats Itself on the Back

Katie Benner is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about technology, innovation, and the cult and culture of Silicon Valley. She lives in San Francisco.
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People are Talking About…

Last night was the eighth annual Crunchies Awards, an event that’s been called (mostly by people in the Bay Area startup scene) the Oscars of the tech world. T.J. Miller, who stars in the HBO series "Silicon Valley," emceed the sold-out event. It took place at one of San Francisco’s swankiest venues, Davies Symphony Hall.

The night’s big winners included lots of companies that you've probably never heard of, such as Casper, Storehouse and the Stella Solar-Powered Car, and some that you most surely know, such as Uber, Airbnb and "Kim Kardashian: Hollywood."

The show is put on by the publications TechCrunch and VentureBeat. And the idea, I suppose, is to lightly roast tech culture while taking a celebratory romp down startup memory lane. Remember when Airbnb introduced that new logo? That was so great. Or when Uber delivered those kittens? In tech, the good times never end.

Like the hosts who came before him, Miller made fun of Silicon Valley’s easy targets: the money, the industry’s love of itself, the high-profile flameouts and the humorlessness that comes with the heavy burden of changing the world one app at a time.

But unlike past hosts, Miller cursed a lot and got mean and picked on Uber CEO Travis Kalanick (whom he referred to as venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar) and on Kalanick’s girlfriend, who held a very small, white dog in her lap. (Kalanick was spotted pacing outside after the event, yelling into a cell phone.)

Lots of Miller’s barbs were about money and class. (You can clap for the camera guy, he said, “because he works for a living.”) It was almost as though he would have had more fun with the protesters outside, led by Eviction Free San Francisco. 

The people who laughed at his performance were laughing hard. There weren't many of them, so they were easy to spot. Miller didn't seem to understand that he was working a crowd that purports to believe in inclusion and meritocracy above all things and that has a deep reverence for people who are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Miller hit some sour notes when he called a couple of women in the audience "b*%#es." Michael Arrington, the former TechCrunch editor-turned-venture-capitalist, seemed most dismayed by the flagrant disrespect toward women. “You really can’t do that here,” he intoned, before revealing that chief executive Marc Benioff won CEO of the year. (Runner up: Marissa Mayer. Tim Cook lost.)

In the end, Miller broke a TechCrunch piñata and had to be forced from the stage. After the show, people giggled that it was a wonder he got out alive.

The best part of most awards shows happens as the evening draws to a close, when the biggest stars give out the biggest awards and everyone scrambles to the open bar flush with self-congratulatory good feeling. And so it worked out perfectly when Uber won the award for Best Overall Startup of 2014. We laughed. We cried. We celebrated. I can’t wait until next year when we do it all over again.


Uber is introducing a panic button into the version of its app that users in India will have, TechCrunch reports.

Snapchat’s Discover feature is already a hit with publishers, according to Digiday.

Spotify does pay for music, and most of that money goes to the record labels, according to Techdirt.

People and Personnel Moves

Tony Scott is set to become the U.S. chief information officer, FedScoop reports. He was previously the chief of the VMware's global information technology group.

Amy Pascal will step down as co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment as part of the fallout from the recent cyber-attack, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Jeffrey Veen, a vice president of product at Adobe and founder of the startup Typekit, is now a design partner at True Ventures, reports VentureBeat.

Laura Weidman Powers, the co-founder and CEO of Code2040, talks to Fortune about her organization’s latest funding from Google and why it’s easier to talk about gender than race in Silicon Valley.


Earnings roundup…

* EBay revised its 2014 earnings upward, turning a previously reported loss into a profit, the Wall Street Journal reports.

* GoPro beat revenue forecasts, but it also announced that its COO Nina Richardson has resigned, reports CNBC.

* LinkedIn’s revenue rose 44 percent in the most recent quarter, and the stock surged on the news, Business Insider reports.

* Pandora misses Wall Street forecasts, and the stock sinks, CNBC reports.

* Sprint posted better-than-expected earnings and drew in more subscribers, Bloomberg reports.

* Twitter’s revenue nearly doubled to $479 million amid slower user-acquisition growth, Bloomberg reports.

* Yelp’s revenue rose by 56 percent to hit nearly $110 million in the most recent quarter, Marketingland reports.


Re/code takes a look at the company’s new photo app.


The company’s advisory group says that the “Right to be Forgotten” rule should only be applied locally in Europe, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Radio Shack…

The company has filed for bankruptcy and will sell about half of its stores to the hedge fund Standard General, Bloomberg reports. Standard General will run about 1,750 of the stores it buys with Sprint.


The automaker has hired more people from Apple than from any other company, a number that amounts to 150 former employees, Bloomberg reports.


CEO Dick Costolo tells BuzzFeed that he wants to make it harder to be a troll on the site. The Guardian has the tale of one woman who was horribly bullied on Twitter.


The company’s $10.5 billion asset sale will help it become more of a pure wireless company, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Cyber-security Watch

Anthem didn’t encrypt social security numbers so that it would be easier for employees to track health-care trends and share data, the Wall Street Journal reports. Security experts say that a Chinese government-sponsored hacking group is the main suspect in the attack, according to Bloomberg.

Anthem plans to tell customers if hackers stole their data over the next two weeks, Bloomberg reports.

The British intelligence agency GCHP’s use of mass surveillance was ruled unlawful by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the Guardian reports.

Media Files


The camera maker will launch a new channel on Roku this spring, Quartz reports.

News and Notes

Private investment on space and satellite tech has surged and could hit $10 billion by the end of this year, Bloomberg reports.

San Francisco’s class and culture war has come to Burning Man, reports Bloomberg Businessweek’s Felix Gillette.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.