Before the TechCrunch Boston Meetup, I had never met Michael Arrington. (For those of you who don’t know, TechCrunch is a very popular blog in the startup world, and Mike is the founder. As a result, he enjoys “celebrity” status in the startup world and also has his share of detractors).
Now before you read further, you should know a few things. First, I’m not personal friends with Mike — in fact, I don’t know him very well at all. Like most startup entrepreneurs, I simply sent TechCrunch information about MyPunchbowl.com a few days before we launched. I have some experience in PR, so I wrote Mike a pointed email telling him why he should care about MyPunchbowl. Of course, I was very happy when he emailed me back to say that TechCrunch was interested in taking a look. A few days later, I met with Nick Gonzales. Nick is a great person and he really took the time to understand why MyPunchbowl is different. TechCrunch covered our initial launch and again when we launched “Pick a Date.”
Throughout my dealings with TechCrunch, I’ve mostly dealt directly with Nick, but Mike and I have traded a few emails and spoke on the phone once. No interactions of consequence.
Fast forward to the TechCrunch Boston Meetup. I spent most of the night around our demo area talking to users, VCs, and press folks. One of Punchbowl’s board members is Don Dodge, and at one point towards the beginning of the night, Don pulled me aside to introduce me to Mike. We said our pleasantries, I thanked him for inviting us to sponsor, and I moved on. What transpired after our initial introduction was amusing to say the least.
The announcement podium was near our demo area, so Mike was back and forth near our demo area throughout the night. We were very crowded, so it was a tight fit to get by. At one point, as Mike walked by, I put a MyPunchbowl “World’s Greatest Host” sticker on him. With a smirk and a sarcastic comment, he accepted. Here’s Mike sporting the MyPunchbowl sticker:
Later, Mike inadvertently bumped into me as he passed by our demo area. He jokingly asked, “Who are you? Have we met?” Apparently Mike didn’t know I’m from New York. I pushed him back, pretty hard. Mike’s a big guy, and he was pretty amused at all 155lbs of me leaning into his shoulder. He smiled, and continued on.
20 minutes later, the scene repeated (Like I said, it was pretty crowded…). A smile, a smirk, a slightly harder bump — and he moved on. I’m pretty sure I talked trash and said something to rile him up, but I don’t remember what it was.
About an hour later, the scene repeated yet again. This time he leaned his shoulder into me pretty hard as he passed by. And then we had this exchange:
Matt: (I got in his face.) “Hey Mike, I’m going to kick your ass.” He seemed to liked the challenge.
Mike: “When are you going to stop busting my balls?” He towered over me.
Matt: “When the %^$* are you going to actually look at my site?” (note: although TechCrunch has reviewed the site and we sponsored their event, Mike has never actually registered on the site as far as I know).
Mike: “Give me one reason I should bother.”
Matt: “Because I spent the last 3 years of my life and most of my savings on this startup.”
Mike: (Thinks for a second, takes my card and puts it into his shirt pocket) “Yeah, ok.”
And then….. Mike hugs me. It was a kind of sarcastic “I feel your pain” hug, and he held on as if to prove his point. I laugh and tell him that I won’t let him forget that moment…
Later, I’m downstairs and I tell Don Dodge about what happened upstairs earlier. And he insists on a picture between Mike and I to reenact the moment.
I’m sure Mike gets hundreds of emails a day — and my guess is that at least 80% of them are people kissing his ass and pitching for coverage on TechCrunch. I don’t know exactly what that’s like, but I have a good idea. When I was at Adobe, I got hundreds of emails a day. It was a constant battle to separate the noise from the gems. Eventually you turn cynical to just about everybody — that is, unless they do something to show you that they are different.
So what have I learned about what Mike Arrington and Matt Douglas have in common? Like me, Mike has a sarcastic sense of humor and enjoys a challenge. He’s got a soft spot for the “truth” about what it takes to start from nothing and build a startup. And while he geninuely enjoys recognition, he can laugh at himself and the absurdity of it all.
I’m not friends with Mike– but get us away from the tech/startup world and I think he and I would enjoy having a few beers and playing competitive air hockey. Just for the record, I’d win.
Here’s another shot of Mike and I at the end of the night:
So Mike… if you’ve read this far: when are you going to create an account and let me know what you think about MyPunchbowl.com? Don’t make me hunt you down — I may be small, but I pack a hell of a punch.
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