This week, the world was introduced to Shirley Hornstein: an ersatz entrepreneur who Photoshopped and name-dropped her way through Silicon Valley. For at least a year and a half, Ms. Hornstein has been trading on flimsily fabricated connections to powerful tech investors, startups, and celebrities–always depending, as TechCrunch first reported, on the optimism of strangers.
“She told people she had the authority to approve up to a $1 million investment from Founders Fund. That was her line,” an investor from Los Angeles who recently moved to San Francisco told Betabeat, recounting the time Ms. Hornstein cajoled a pair of young entrepreneurs into pitching her on a Saturday, convincing them on Sunday that she had already heard back from the board with good news.
The fact that Ms. Hornstein’s roommate was TechCrunch community manager Elin Blesener also helped “legitimize her,” the same investor added.
Reddit had its biggest day ever thanks to President Obama’s AMA. No surprise there, considering the site was inaccessible for most of it. [The Verge]
RIP Microsoft Zune, can’t say anyone will really miss you. [Engadget]
Shopbop is trying to make itself into a high-end competitor to sites like Net a Porter. [New York Times]
Facebook has been cleared to officially purchase Instagram. [Wall Street Journal]
Is TechCrunch a bully? [Lane Wood]
In the Arms of an Angel
Let’s face it: There’s a reason clubs will pay reality stars just to come hang out. People are more intrigued by a famous face. Silicon Valley might think itself above crass fame-whoring, but that doesn’t mean tech folk are immune to the siren song of social proof. Witness, for example, the rise of the so-called “party round.”
Today TechCrunch takes on the topic of these early-stage “family-style” rounds, where angel investors and VC firms pony up a bit of cash (often as a kind of option for later investments), but no one quite leads the pack. The process is compared to–what else?–high school:
Secrets Secrets Are No Fun
This is just silly.
Amazon would never invent a time machine because rogue book publishers would just use it to kill Amazon.
Attack of the Clones
Whatever your opinions on its ethics policy, it’s hard to argue against the fact that getting a write-up in TechCrunch is basically the holy grail for startups. So when an Italian weather startup called Metwit found it impossible to usher their company into the TC fold, they decided to take matters into their own hands.
Metwit created Techcrunchcover.me, a website that ganked TC’s logo, font and layout to make it look like your startup has actually been covered by TechCrunch. And you, too, can create your own fake TechCrunch coverage! The company also offers a git codebase of the TC layout. Enterprising startups hungry for press can make a branch in git that adds a TechCrunch-like story, then send up a pull request to have them merge it into the main codebase. Voila! You–ostensibly–have a TechCrunch writeup.
Blog the Public
The blogosphere is a brave new news world, but it’s generally assumed that blogs that report the news adhere to basic journalistic standards—like not deliberately inserting bits of misinformation into their virtual pages. Right?
Former TechCrunch blogger MG Siegler took a dig at bloggers who rewrite others’ reporting. “I used to love to plant one really weird bit of random information (sometimes even false) into stories to catch the rewrites,” he tweeted earlier today. There’s that TechCrunch swagger.
How does one properly convey just how miffed you are by a newspaper’s attempt to make money? By starting a blog post thusly, “Fuckers I am so sick of reporting on incremental tech news for fucking two years now.”
So began TechCrunch blogger Alexia Tsotsis’ invective-laced late-night rant about the New York Times decision to bring its paywall over to Flipboard, written, if Ms. Tsotsis is to be believed, “in between the downing of tonight’s two bottles of wine.”
A Startup Is Born
Did your Groupons for Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes in Murray Hill, Brazilian food in Bay Ridge, and a Brazilian wax in Soho expire unused again? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could be rewarded for patronizing restaurants and businesses you actually go to?
This is the premise of Mirth, a self-described “principled objection to the frenzy of deals.” The new customer loyalty app was presented and launched at TechCrunch’s Disrupt NYC last week by co-founders Jeremy Philip Galen and Phil Reichenberger.
After a brief interlude, wherein an organizer appealed to whichever publicity-seeking startup might have released the still-chattering bird high aloft in the rafters, TechCrunch marched onward. M.G. Siegler (formerly of TechCrunch, currently of CrunchFund) opened with what sounded like an invitation to coffee, rattling off the overlap between their respective organizations’ portfolios and concluding, ”We should probably talk more.” Betaworks CEO John Borthwick didn’t bite: ”We probably should, but we’re doing just fine.” He also added rather pointedly that, “as you know, we are not a fund,” though Betaworks, of course, has investments.
Mr. Borthwick proceeded to, at Mr. Siegler’s inquiry as to how they work with investors on the sunnier side of the country, essentially dismiss any notions of conflict: ”This bicoastal thing, I think it’s fun and games” but added that “the market is bigger because of the complementary skills that both coasts offer the market and entrepreneurs and so it’s not, it’s fun to sort of pit one coast against the other, but companies are better for having East Coast and West Coast investors.” Some companies might be a better fit for one coast or the other or both, but regardless, more options are better.
Alley vs. Valley
After a Southern-inspired lunch of sloppy joes, potato salad and cornbread, the attendees of TechCrunch Disrupt NYC filtered into the auditorium of a spacious pier building on the West Side Highway for another set of panels. Jason Kincaid, formerly of TechCrunch, took the stage with Foursquare’s Harry Heymann, OMGPOP’s Jason Pearlman and Facebook’s Serkan Piantino to discuss whether or not the East Coast is indeed the “best coast” for engineering.
“It’s sort of a silly name,” opened Mr. Kincaid, playing politely to both sides. “I think both coasts are very nice.”
He then asked the panelists whether hiring engineers in New York is particularly hard due to the fact that many of them are drawn to the glitz and cashmoney of the finance sector.