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MC Hammer appointed onto board of judges for TechCrunch20

I know the guy is launching some ‘stealth startup’ (according to TechCrunch20 blog), but why on earth has MC Hammer been invited to be a judge for TechCrunch20?

BTW I can tell you what Hammer’s ‘stealth startup’ – DanceJam – is all about. It’s apparently a YouTube meets American Idol where people film themselves and their friends street dancing and MC Hammer personally reviews and rates the performances. The best presumably go on to get professional dancing gigs or something. Excuse me, I just have to check it isn’t April 1st…

I’d love to hear Michael or Jason’s explanation for adding him to the panel and what credentials they feel he has to judge the potential of new startups.

Personally I really can’t see how being the master of baggy pants (yes I used to own a pair) and inventing a bland mass-market style of hip-hop really qualifies someone for being able to sniff out a good start-up. He also wasn’t very successful in the music business – he filed for bankruptcy in April 1996.

Jason + Michael – I hear Natalie Portman is also in the process of founding a startup. She has just about as much dotcom experience as Hammer. Any chance of swapping her out for Hammer instead?

Jokes aside…

But joking aside I really do feel that appointing MC Hammer has actually devalued the credibility of this event. The whole point, as I understood, was that TechCrunch20 would remove the bullshit DEMO garnered by asking people to pay to show off their stuff, and instead TC20 would be about genuine companies getting genuine, critical feedback and review.

I fail to see how a failed musician who went bankrupt and is still in the process of working on their first start-up can address a presenting startup with any meaningful credibility or authority.

I was considering laying down the $2000 to attend TechCrunch20 – out of my own money, no expense write off – because I thought the whole TC20 setup looked really interesting. I’m not a VC, I’m not another founder, I just wanted to support a ‘no bullshit event’.

But I think I’ll take Sofia to Hawaii instead with the cash, because suddenly the event looks like it’s turning into an showbiz spectacle and not the cutting analytical business event it could have been.

UPDATE: Re-reading my post, I regret calling it a ‘showbiz spectacle’ as that devalues the expertise of the other judges, the rest of whom I’m thrilled Michael and Jason have managed to get on board. I do hope Michael/Jason will explain further their reasons behind appointing MC Hammer.

Published in News Thoughts and Rants


  1. Personally, I think Nathalie Portman would have been a GREAT choice! Did you see her kickass video on YouTube? I think, if anyone, she understands the marketplace. MC? He’s a bit over-da-hill. 🙂

    I read in the comments on TC that Mike said, “This will put bums in seats” – if that is the goal, he’s messed up with you, eh? However, putting Nathalie Portman up there may have kept your interest, I’m assuming. 😉

  2. Miquel Hernandez Miquel Hernandez

    C’mon ben. You know why he did it. It will create buzz. And they need that to fill seats at $2,500 for an infomercial. And c’mon Hammer needs the money for his ride.

    That’s what this is if you really think about it. It’s an infomercial.

  3. Well, apart from old Hammer, I’m glad to see they finally managed to get one woman on their totally predictable board so far.

  4. what! you sayin this becos i am black…

    he he

  5. Our thinking on this (and we did think about it obviously) was that Hammer has done things in the entertainment industry that few people have done, and he is now embracing technology to chart the next chapter of his career.

    Technology and entertainment are becoming entwined to a level that very few could have predicted, and at a pace that is stunning. You’ve got folks like Amanda, Ze Frank, and Ask a Ninja getting more viewers than many TV shows, while folks like Portman, Hammer, and Will Ferrell more interested in the Web than their “day jobs” (at least apparently). You’ve seen yes?

    We’ve got such an amazing group of experts already–and who are sooooo deep in technology–we thought it would be both helpful and fun to have an outside perspective from someone who has lived the entertainment side of things to the highest of highs.

    Also, on the issue of diversity that is important to us and yes we are making an effort in that regard. However, we didn’t pick Hammer–and we wouldn’t pick Portman–based on race/gender. We would pick them based on–as I’ve stated–their experience in entertainment coupled with their interest (and growing expertise) in technology.

    Also… he’s Hammer–come on!

    Also, alos… Portman was in Star Wars–so that makes her a lock based on that alone. Plus, she’s Luke Skywalker’s mom!

  6. I agree with picking Hammer because as Jason said, he’s using technology as a way to launch the next phase of his career. I respect Hammer, not just because I was a fan of his back in the day, but because he’s triumphed and failed and he didn’t just roll over and go away. I believe he still has something to give to the music and entertainment industries.

  7. lori morningside lori morningside

    Absolute BS from Jason. What will hammer teach the startups? How to waste money, file for bankruptcy, and still live the life of a rich man? Has hammer paid back every single penny he basically rented before his bk? If I was able to attend, I would ask him how he can afford the lifestyle he does today.

    And I like how you call him “fun”

    I can’t wait to see who you pick next (maybe dwayne wayne or re run?). I guess at $2,500 a pop, you better have something to be the glue. Hammer is the glue I guess.

    If you wanted entertainment, why not pick someone who is a winner in the biz? There are hundreds if not thousands of those. You could have even picked say Debbie Gibson — I don’t think she has ever had the negativity that Hammer has.

  8. Personally I think MC Hammer is a refreshing addition. I think it’s important to add a different perspective instead of the same old people saying the same old things that you can read about on their blogs anyway.

    I don’t think it’s cool to be ageist.

    And I’m sure if someone just wanted to see Hammer there are cheaper ways to accomplish that. I don’t know all the details of his bankruptcy et al but I just can’t see that it’s a reason to stay away.

  9. ‘But joking aside I really do feel that appointing MC Hammer has actually devalued the credibility of this event.’

    Ben – wouldn’t you going along also do this?

  10. Ben Ben

    Thanks for all the comments so far.

    @Jason – Your explanation provides a lot more insight into your decision and I think it’s a shame that a bit more detail like this wasn’t included in the original announcement.

    You probably wouldn’t have got quite so much pushback as you did if there had been a little more detail along with some validity around his use of blogs, mobile multimedia, etc (how would the rest of us be expected to know this about him?).

    I am still minded that Mike responded in the comments on TechCrunch that Hammer would ‘put bums on seats’ which totally amazed me because I can’t imagine too many people who are weighing up for the $2.5k ticket price are going to be swayed by the presence of MC Hammer.

    @angela penny – I hope it was pretty clear why I was questioning MC Hammer’s invitation – because of his professional credentials and not because of his age. Or his ethnicity for that matter.

    @dinosaurus – thanks a bunch.

  11. IMHO, Hammer is a ridiculous choice that reduces the credibility of this event, but he’s not the only one. Most “experts” are chosen for their “currency,” ie., their temporal status and/or brand recognition that may or may not qualify them for their role as evaluators of start-up technology/business potential. These events, and there are many–all hearken back to former WSJ technology editor, Dick Shaffer’s Technologic Partners (now Dow Jones venturewire) . Venturewire is still ok, but what made Dick’s event so good, was Dick himself. A smart, hard-headed no-nonsense gentleman, who managed to navigate btwn truth and hype in a diplomatic manner that I’ve not seen since. If TC20 and other producers of their ilk were to follow his example, instead of using their events primarily as a promotional exercises for their own brands, ie. themselves, we might actually become more informed rather than more jaded.

  12. I was told, not so long ago, and by a not entirely reliable colleague, that if I wished to use a clip of “U Can’t Touch This” in a sitcom, I would need to individually contact each of (MC) Hammer’s creditors for permission. Until then, I was unaware that his financial reliability had been called into question.

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