From crunching cans to TechCrunch
Beer money for Arrington
Comment Long before he was stroking our collective Web 2.0 consciousness, Michael Arrington, a Young Republican-type of guy from an affluent part of Orange County, studied economics at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, and generally enjoyed the life of the beer-swilling collegian that many of us led. I know this because I lived down the hallway from the future TechCrunch founder, and did a fair amount of drinking myself at the same college parties.
A by-product of the American higher education system is a sizable quantity of beer bottles and cans. And long before it became fashionable to be green, the dorm - which was known for its excesses, even at that money-oriented, male-dominated institution - left the residue of its bacchanals to pile up in an enormous recycling bin. Those party castaways, in turn, would be regularly cleaned out by a local family that needed whatever money could be generated by the returned recyclables. Call our boozing an act of charity.
It seemed to be a natural symbiosis - the waste of drunken louts cleaned up by the less fortunate. Then, one day, the cans and bottles mysteriously disappeared, and the perplexed Mexican family was left to wonder - what in the world had happened to all of those college parties? Of course, the parties continued, but the small mountain of recyclables had vanished without a trace.
Venture capitalism is all about spotting and seizing an opportunity. And it ultimately turned out that a young and aggressive opportunist named – you guessed it – Michael Arrington had been swooping in before the Mexican family arrived to collect the aluminum and silica bounty to supplement whatever income he received from his family. I couldn't believe it, but we all had our youthful quirks.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I recently came across shots of Arrington hobnobbing at Davos!
I've crossed paths with Mike since college, and even went to a party a few years back at his house when he was living in San Mateo, but the recycling anecdote came back to me while reading an article about him in the Wall Street Journal, which made mention of his rather frugal-seeming lifestyle. He was at RealNames - a startup that sought to simplify entering internet addresses, and blew through $100m in venture funding before ultimately failing - the last time I saw him, at that party in San Mateo, and the Journal article was pretty much on the money as far as his living arrangements go. He had a reputation even in college for being a bit flinty.
Mike, as you may know, has made a name for himself as a professional technology blogger - that most Web 2.0 of occupations. His website, Techcrunch.com, is a latterday publishing phenomenon, a must-read among the Silicon Valley venture capital set and worth bazillions possibly, or even more.
Something about professional blogging strikes me as odd. Editorial rigor is still a virtue to be pursued, not an anachronism of a bygone era, and the contrived carelessness that characterizes the off-the-cuff tone of professional blogs seems, well, unprofessional. Frequently lacking the editorial oversight that typifies traditional media, professional blogs come across as merely lazy; or worse, irrelevant and unreliable. [Pot, kettle. We know. We know. - Ed]
TechCrunch has weathered accusations that it is shilling for companies in which Mike has a stake, or torpedoing the rivals of those same companies, but in that respect, it is at merely a victim of its own careless medium.
Say what you will about professional blogging, it is difficult to argue with financial success, no matter how unsatisfying. Arrington can probably afford to leave the dumpster diving to the plebs now, although we'd pay good money to see Pervez Musharraf catch him wallowing in a trough of Meister Brau cans.
Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office