Crappies awards rain on tech award show's parade

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in a Walmart logo, on a sign just outside the Crunchies
Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

The Crunchies are a San Francisco-based dog and pony show for the tech industry, hosted by technology business news site Tech Crunch. But amid rising San Franciscan anger, this year's Crunchies took on a decidely different tone.

At the outset of last night's [Mon/10] awards ceremony, big-time investor and noted "Godfather of Silicon Valley," Ron Conway, asked a question. "Raise your hand if your company is located in San Francisco," he asked the tech employees gathered in Davies Symphony Hall.

Hundreds of hands rose across the audience. That's San Francisco's point of pride, and point of contention. Techies bring jobs and growth, supposedly, to the city, but also all the side effects thereof: a housing crisis, mass evictions, overpriced toast, rising unrest. Even the Crunchies' opener and host, comedian John Oliver (of Daily Show fame), took it to the techies of the city.

"You're no longer the underdogs! It's very important you realize that," he said to the crowd, roasting the attendees who still laughed anyway. He even brought the Google buses into the mix. "Now you're pissing off an entire city, not just what with what you do at work but how you get to work. It's not easy to do that!"

Cue the Crappies, the awards ceremony for the rest of us. Hosted on the sidewalk just outside the Crunchies, the Crappies highlighted folks in tech most responsible for turning San Francisco into a playland for the rich, as opposed to a hometown for families, and put them on blast. 

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo was named Best Tax Evader of the Year, in honor of the now estimated $55 million Twitter local tax break championed by Mayor Ed Lee. The man who confused attacks on the 1 percent with Nazi Germany, Tom Perkins, was honored for Diarrhea of the Mouth. Google was honored for driving a Bus in a Bubble. Ron Conway, the angel investor who invested early in companies like AskJeeves and Twitter, was named Angel of Death. 

Understandably, none of the actual folks awarded came to pick up their colorfully painted plungers, the trophy Crappy award winners were handed. Local activist Tony Robles dressed in a cape, reminscent of a vampire. People posed as their favorite tech evil-doers. 

Attendance was sparse at about 50 folks or so, but the political theater played just outside Davies Symphony Hall, well within view of tech employees lining up for their gleaming, red-carpet ceremony.

"I think they were confused and didn't want anything to do with what we were doing," Erin McElroy, a tenants rights activist and event organizer, told us.

An audio interview with protest co-organizer Erin McElroy.

Inside the event, techies dressed in bowties and lavish dresses posed for pictures. Camera in hand, this Guardian reporter was mistaken for an event photographer, and we started to ask attendees (after clarifying we were a reporter) what they thought of the protest outside.

The opinions were decidedly mixed. There were certainly sentiments shrugging off the protest as typical San Francisco antics, but tech workers from outside San Francisco tended to be more sympathetic.

All companies should be civically minded, said Shinta Dhanuwardoyo, CEO and founder of bubu, a tech oriented ad agency. "It doesn't have to be just tech," she said.

Tech isn't responsible for all the city's ails and ills, another attendee told us, but maybe there's a middle ground. "Just paying attention, help and not just trying to make cool stuff, maybe they should," said Aryo Ariotedjo, CEO and co-founder of footwear design website Project Shoe.

But still, some tech folks still aren't getting the message. They reduce protests to simple ideas, like tech hatred, or think that tech is already doing more than enough to help. Silicon Valley news site Venture Beat said the anger against Conway, for example, was misplaced.

"Meanwhile, inside Davies Symphony Hall, Conway delivered a heartfelt speech about the need for tech companies and employees to give back to the community, and pledged $12,000 in matching funds for a fundraiser for nonprofits," they wrote, calling out the Crappies for not recognizing his civic-mindedness.

Its thesis that $12,000 towards nonprofits could make up for the lost homes of hundreds of San Franciscans, or the painful cost of living increases for middle and low income families affected by the tech boom, is questionable, to say the least. 


A protester holds a sign asking the tech industry to take responsibility for their impact to San Francisco. Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez.

At the end of the day, demonizing tech was not the goal protest organizer Erin McElroy worked towards, she said. Put simply, she just wants tech workers to wake up, to pitch in, and become part of the community. 

"We're really not trying to pivot ourselves against tech workers, but it's up to those workers to open their eyes to what's going on," McElroy told us after the event. Displacement and rising costs are tied to tech's presence, and they should pitch in where they can, she said.

"They could protest with us, or come to a tenants' rights meetings," she said. "They could make conscious efforts not to move in where someone was evicted. There's so many things they could do, and that's one of the things we're trying to convey."

The conversation between tech and the community is evolving, and soon there may be hope of real solutions. The Mission District has played host to a series of dinners allowing dicussion between tech and long time residents, and an upcoming Tech Workers Against Displacement Happy Hour touts its goal to "create an open discussion on how improved communication and collaboration can affect reforms needed to stop involuntary displacements of longterm San Franciscans and ensure sustainable, cohesive and diverse communities."

One can only hope tech workers get the message: join the cause. Unite with the communities of San Francisco, and work together to stop displacement.  


Just show up everywhere and make lots of noise. It helps not to have or need a job, of course.

In the old days, it took decades of effort and achievement to get anywhere and even then, as we see with marcos, they often just lose and end up bitter anyway.

Erin is the new face. No matter if she achieves nothing. She's getting in the papers.

Just a waste of skin.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2014 @ 11:07 am

She might make a good supe candidate. I know she'd be a lot better than a few of those do-nothing seat warmers like Katy Tang or Malia Cohen or Mark Farrell.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 12, 2014 @ 1:36 pm

A perennial student dabbling in activism is your idea of whatw e need to run this city?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2014 @ 2:09 pm

Exactly. Let's elect an activist-turned-career-politician because we've all seen how well that's worked out with Jean Quan and Oakland.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2014 @ 2:23 pm

Seeing a privileged progressive white woman take on a working class woman of color would be hilarious. I'm quite sure the people of the Bayview would welcome Erin's earnest efforts to tell them what to eat, where to sleep, what to watch on TV, when and how much they could sell their property for etc... She'd surely be welcomed with open arms!! After all, black people have long memories of privileged white people telling them exactly how to live their lives.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2014 @ 7:51 pm

Too true.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2014 @ 1:50 pm

These greedy landlords have always been trying to get more out of what they have invested in thirty years before hand. They fill that if they invest $100,000 in 1985 for a shitty apartment building by god they deserve to be paid a $1,000,000 dollars in rent in 2014. They will never be happy until they can charge a million dollars for a shit box studio. These insects have been the plague of San Francisco since I lived there in the 1980's. In the same greedy vein, the CEO's that have giant companies in Silly Con Valley are the same. The take over a government made device like the internet for pennies or free and add a few bells and whistles charge a fortune and tell the world they invented the wheel. They try to convince the rest of us that they are the lone genius in a land of the dull always providing their own funds for everything they build. This is what they say. However, for some funny reason when they wish to build giant corporate buildings or sports arenas they come running for the public tax dollars which will make them richer after they build these things. Of course, they do not share the future wealth with the tax payers that get stuck with the original building bill and yet they go on about how 'they' and only 'they' created this wealth and deserve to profit from it as they are gods and the rest of us just children. Well for the slimy landlords of San Francisco and the greedy pig CEO's of Silly Con Valley just wait until a giant earthquake come a knocking and destroys your over priced squats and cuts the electrical power to your stupid little electronic toys (that no body really needs anyways) and we will see how much we really need you. You both are parasites on humanity and will suffer a fate that you deserve very much.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2014 @ 12:47 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2014 @ 1:09 pm

These landlords in SF have been making millions off of small investments and yet think they deserve every penny. They buy property in the eighties for $200,000 and have more than paid for their investments and will only be happy when they can charge a million dollars for a crappy studio apartment plagued by cockroaches. These CEO's in Silly Con Valley take a government invention called the internet that they buy for cheap, add a few bells and whistles and tell the world they invented the wheel again. The claim they are the special genius of the planet yet constantly expect and demand tax subsidies or not to pay taxes at all and use quasi slave labor and continue to import communist workers from China to undercut American worker's wages so they can get richer. They use the nations universities like their own private colleges yet do not pay anywhere near their share in taxes to keep up these schools that they flood with foreign students so they have future cheap labor in their factories. When they wish to develop a commercial waterfront zone and stadium that will block the people's view of the bay, they come begging for tax hands out from the people. When they collect massive profits on these investments that we the people have subsidies they do not share the profit. They got the handouts in tax subsidies yet tell everyone how great they are as job creating gurus. Never once do they acknowledge the public's taxes nor the government's inventions they bought cheaply, yet keep going on and on about how wonderful they are and expect the rest of us to suck it up like pudding.
Some day soon a real big earthquake will come and knock down all these fucking landlord's overpriced shit holes and destroy the government's electrical system that Silly Con Valley needs to power the factories that make all this crap nobody really needs anyways and then they both will be back begging for the county, state and federal governments to come dig them out and rebuild what is destroyed so they can go on being the rich scum that they are.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2014 @ 1:10 pm

It's easy to rant and complain. Six-year old kids do it all the time.

It's harder to come up with specific ideas to address some of the ills you describe. It's even more difficult to get more than a few people to agree with you what those changes might be. It's almost impossible to sustain a movement to accomplish those proposed changes. If change was easy society would be at the promised and already.

And when people start talking trash about some generalized "others" (ie, "Silly Con Valley rich scum"), it only alienates people who might be allies for a cause. No movement will gain traction that doesn't respect other people, even those people who are against whatever changes are being proposed.

Angry and bitter people have nothing to add to any movement. They are often either agent provocateurs or merely angry people in need of better mental heath services.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2014 @ 5:14 am

whichever scapegoat they need to avoid taking responsibility for their own failures.

That is why the left is so ineffective. They practice hatred based on what class they think you are in. to them, every realtor, banker, tech worker and landlord is inherently evil. While ever tenant, minimum wage worker, non-white and illegal is a hero.

Losers categorize, stereotype and hate because they have nothing else.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2014 @ 5:49 am

I have a feeling they were barely noticed.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2014 @ 4:42 am

"Well-known angel investor Ron Conway opened the awards and made a plea for the tech industry to pay attention to what is going on in San Francisco. “We may not agree with everything the protesters outside have to say, but they do represent an anxiety,” Conway said, and he called upon the entrepreneurs, executives and others in the audience to engage with their neighborhoods and communities and donate time or their money or both."

Similar to the very diverse Occupy movement that seems to be having a hard time figuring out what to do next to keep their momentum going, SF protesters might be more effective if there were a handful of concrete steps they could coalesce around that are proactive rather than reactive. Generalized protests get very old, very fast.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2014 @ 4:55 am

I am not a transplant, 5th generation native of this state which I was born in a valley to the south. Santa Clara Valley, aka Silicon Valley, people have come from all over to move here. They rented, they purchased then turned around and tried to make their little mark on their new.

Preserve it like they day they moved here, so called progressive have made it hard for anyone to come here, unless they become successful but not here. You can be rich, progressive and live the lifestyle. Or full time activists that think they are trying to solve the homeless problem by blaming on people coming here to work. Then you got activists that are running around stopping housing projects because for reasons like ruining a view, high rise or just something.

I grew up around the tech industry, BIG TIME, they came and came, today you think I can go home. I will have to say a big "No", the bay area has changed. Sometimes I think for the worse but overall it has been good.

We did it to ourselves, housing hasn't kept pace, a transit network is a joke, and other reason.

Posted by Garrett on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 1:36 pm

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