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My fellow Valleywaggers Owen Thomas and Nick Douglas were banned from the TechCrunch40 conference, and, odds are, I would have been banned from the afterparty at Fluid nightclub, had I asked permission to attend. So, I didn't bother asking, and scrounged up a ticket though back-channel connections, instead. Specifically, through the generosity of my new crush, the mysterious "TechCrunch40" Twitter guy, who left an envelope with an extra ticket and a cryptic note with the bartender at the House of Shields around the corner from Fluid. (Turns out "TechCrunch40" is a group effort — the note was signed by Rick Diculous, El Guapo, Mr. Gray, and Harvey Farquard.)

So, how was the crowd? Michael Arrington was there, of course, holding court and greeting well-wishers. TechCrunch CEO Heather Harde overviewed the event. Lots of TechCrunch40 presenters and DemoPit participants showed up, including Powerset CEO Barney Pell, who declined to take credit for his company's vodka giveaway, though he was a fan of the fun schwag.

I asked Pell about his company's participation in TechCrunch40. Powerset has gotten a fair bit of press in the past year. Wasn't the whole purpose of the conference to show off undiscovered companies? Pell told me that the conference organizers had actually come to him and asked Powerset to present. Interesting.

I, unfortunately, missed MC Hammer, though fellow TechCrunch40 "panel of experts" member Sarah Lacy (pictured above, with Arrington) was there. No Jason Calacanis, though. When asked about his partner's whereabouts, Arrington guessed Calacanis skipped the event. Running a conference does tend to tucker people out. So much for his treadmill workouts.

As the night went on, the over business agendas came out. One startup founder talked to me about his desire to sell for "at least $20 million" and started strategizing about potential buyers to target. Another presenting company was a bit more level-headed about the event. When asked about his reaction to being selected as one of the 40 lucky ones, he demurred. "It's not going to make us or break us, but it's nice," he said. Nice. Oooh. That hurts. Somehow I doubt, of all the words Calacanis and Arrington might be hoping to have carved on their tombstones, "nice" was on the list.