TechCrunch are childish dicks.
And it sucks for (some) startups.
‘You blew the exclusive, so we’re not going to cover your app.’
In December, while preparing for the beta launch of my one-word messaging app ‘Babl’, I had a pretty civilised coffee with one of TechCrunch’s London-based writers. As any app developer knows, getting publicity is one of the hardest parts of succeeding in a world where there is so much competition for the eyes and minds of smartphone users. TechCrunch is probably the widest-read tech blog around, and having them write about a product launch can put that product in the stratosphere in minutes.
In previous dot-com or app launches, I always went to TechCrunch first. When I launched Menshn// (which has subsequently ceased operations) with Louise Mensch in 2012, we decided to go to TechCrunch first, because we wanted to hand the — rather large — story to a team who could handle it, and we also wanted to support TechCrunch’s growth in the UK. I got a lot of stick from friends at other major tech blogs for deciding to go with TechCrunch for the launch of Menshn, but I knew it was right.
I came up with the idea for a single-word messaging app in October last year, and got to work coding a beta. It was ready in December, and I thought I’d tell TechCrunch, and ask them to write about it, to — ya know — give it a decent boost out of the gates. They seemed interested, and all seemed to be leading to a story. I left it on the assumption that they were friendly toward Babl, and favoured writing something small about the new app around the launch.
Just a day or two before launch, one of TechCrunch’s rivals (The Kernel) got wind — through no action of mine — of Babl’s coming launch, and wrote about it first. This was incredibly annoying, as I’m not exactly friendly with The Kernel folks, and I would have preferred slightly more professional coverage. The cat was out of the bag, but I still assumed my friends at TechCrunch would cover Babl’s launch anyway, considering it was newsworthy based on my previous work and reputation, and considering the number of times in the past that I’d handed TechCrunch exclusive — and valuable/widely read — stories that they profited from. Maybe I was expecting a bit much…
When I followed up with TechCrunch a few days after the launch, to see if they’d write it up as they said they would, I got a fairly curt response along the lines of: ‘You blew the exclusive, so we’re not going to cover your app.’
Honestly, I was genuinely surprised that they would be so petty, and I was pretty annoyed that the local TechCrunch team in London wouldn’t be more supportive of a native London start-up, which needed all the coverage it could get in order to succeed. Not once was an exclusive discussed, and if it had been, I’d of course agreed to those terms. I liked the guys there, I worked with them previously on other projects, and I had no problem giving them yet another valuable exclusive.
Fast forward a few months, and Yo launches to huge acclaim — or bafflement — all around the Internet. Of course it was, and still is, covered to death by TechCrunch, as well as most tech sites. Babl still exists, and we’ve evolved it over time with user feedback. We have just under a thousand users to-date; not much compared to major apps, but this was my target number for the first six months, and I’m happy with it. In fact, we’re at about the same size userbase that Snapchat had at this stage in its development.
I went back to TechCrunch about a month ago to offer them an exclusive on version 2 of the product. I was explicit this time with my offer, but they no longer deem it polite to even answer my emails.
It would be nice if TechCrunch would drop its pettiness and cover a good, local app, which has no PR budget, no start-up funding or VC, and which deserves as much support and coverage as at least 95% of the questionable stuff they cover on there. This isn’t just about me and Babl, this is about every bootstrapping start-up entrepreneur out there deserving equal footing when it comes to coverage. It’s about the market leaders in a packed tech media world employing cliquey, elitist tactics, and holding childish grudges against their sources.
TechCrunch need to grow the hell up.