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TechCrunch Arrington to helm $20m VC fund for startups

Vows he won't pimp his flippy flop-shops on blog

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Nontreprenuers, rejoice! Memorably described by Nick Carr as the "Madame of the Web 2.0 Brothel", TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington is launching a $20m VC fund to invest in the kind of frivolous built-to-flip web startups pimped by the blog.

The fund is backed by AOL – which is also owner of TechCrunch. However Arrington argues that because he is relinquishing editorial oversight of the blog, there will be no conflict of interest. Uh huh. Arrington will still be writing for TechCrunch, we are told.

"We have a traditional understanding of journalism with the exception of TechCrunch, which is different but is transparent about it," AOL's chief executive Tim Armstrong told the New York Times. As The Atlantic points out, Arrington has consistently used his pulpit to promote the startups he invests in.

This isn't an original idea. Angel Investors' Ron Conway bought into Red Herring magazine to hype his dot com investments. As Joe Menn described it in his Napster book:

"Conway would give [Herring] editorial director Chris Alden, who was an Angel Investors limited partner, an update on the fund's new investments. Then he would walk down the hall and pitch the magazine's news staff on his startups."

And before that, MIT Media Lab guru Nicholas Negroponte provided the initial investment for WiReD magazine to promote Negroponte and the Lab's ground-breaking innovations, such as the furry alarm clock that runs away from you.

It's vanity publishing with a twist.

TechCrunch is the bible of new media marketing aspirants and budding nontrepreneurs – and its success owes a great deal to Arrington's uncanny ability to gauge the level of understanding of his audience. This was demonstrated by Ted Dziuba here, and here, where Arrington became confused about the difference between an operating system and a web browser. ®

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