The wild, wacky world of TechCrunch50.

So here I am pulling into the parking lot of the building where TechCrunch50 is being held, and racing into this shiny multi-story building. I stop a passing security guard and ask him where the conference is being held. “Over there,” he says, pointing across the lot at a row of squat, burnt-red structures that look like what the British army used to call Quonset huts – lightweight prefabricated structures of corrugated steel. Yurgh!

Noticing my expression, the security guard hastens to cheer me up. “Its really nice inside,” he says. So I trudge dutifully across the parking lot and, surprise! He’s right. Cheered up, I go over to pick up my registration tag. Hmmm. Not available, I fell through the cracks, but the staff were nice enough to make up for that oversight.

Well, okay, time to trundle off to listen to the presentations and I do. Excellent. Superb. But marred by erratic Web access, which manifests as the hapless candidates make their presentations, and dogs everyone the rest of the day.

Otherwise, it wasn’t bad. Ashton Kutcher of That 70’s Show, and Punk’d! fame is one of the presenters, putting forth his Website, BlahGirls, for the teenaged girl market. I get to chat briefly with him and his good buddy Jason Goldberg, both cool guys who act like ordinary Joes, no hulking bodyguards around to crush questioners who fail to genuflect. Nice.

So we get to the afternoon panel, where the judges are good friends with each other and it shows. CEO and chairman Marc Benioff speaks in Japanese to the presenter from Renin; Israeli entrepreneur Yossi Vardi of ICQ fame says, “I can speak Japanese too,” and rattles off a couple of sentences in Yiddish. Throughout the Q&A, Vardi bugs Benioff to remove his jacket. “This is Silicon Valley, don’t be so formal,” he chortles, and Benioff finally complies. And, after listening to the presentation from FairSoftware, which lets companies incorporate virtually, Vardi cuts loose with another joke. “It’s a terrible thing that 97 percent of the lawyers give the rest of them such a bad name,” he says, cracking up the entire room. Oy gevalt!

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