Many people in tech balk that this kind of fun culture stuff, both the reporting of it and the doing of it, is not “serious,” arguing tautology. It’s not serious for a reason dummy, it’s what people do for fun. You wanted a tautological argument, so there you go.
I for one am in love with the culture surrounding startups as well as the bumbling, subjective “journalistic” coverage of it. The fashion, music, memes, parties, artwork, literature, etc of tech, love it all — And I especially love the fact that taking it seriously pisses people off like no other.
From this post about VC socks, to this post about swag, to this post about mogul fashion, to most of Quora, to hell, even the specious brogramming trend pieces, I find the cumulative behaviors of our community fascinating, namely because getting a bunch of geniuses in one place makes for a lot of creativity. And, whether you admit to it or not, you do too.
Which brings me to an interesting Valley dichotomy, that Jay Yarow put most succinctly in this mock exchange, “Silicon Valley: We’re changing the world, give us millions of dollars. World: Really? Let’s film a show about it. SV: Ummm, we’re boring!”
So why, if we’re actually in the middle of transforming the way people live and do business, are we so quick to say we’re bores? Because well, in a sense, we are — faux humility aside.
This hotly contested Nick Bilton article is a heavy-handed interpretation of what’s happening: Yes, there are more billion dollar valuation companies than there were four years ago, and those companies use some of their cash to hire Snoop Dogg. There exists a cheesy-looking reality TV show. One founder bought a fancy pair of jeans. The sky isn’t falling
Sorry Nick, while there are some riveting things about The Valley, the tech parties as a whole are not one of them. In fact it’s almost amazing how dull most “official” startup parties are in Silicon Valley; Rooms full of pale, doughy guys in khakis and blue shirts drinking bad wine and talking about the challenges of mobile.
A few outliers a bubble does not make. Parties happen in good times and bad, and Sean Parker model parties are an exception, not the rule. That’s why people talk about them. No one is going on about those raging Friday afternoon pizza parties at TechCrunch neighbor ShopItToMe. And I’m willing to bet that Bilton’s ridiculous Monkey/Tiger fete was an enterprise thing. ;)
Jokes aside, this really isn’t 1999, which is everyone’s baseline for insane. Apparently there was coke around in 1999 (I was still in high school so I don’t know), a pretty accurate bellwether for excess. What I do know is I’ve never even SEEN cocaine at a Valley tech party, compared to the almost every time I see it in NYC.
“We’re definitely not in 1999 land on the parties,” Founders Fund partner Brian Singerman told me when I asked him to contrast today’s party scene to then over the phone, “In 1999 when you went to a random Silicon Valley party, there would be dudes on stilts and lobster. And this wasn’t Google and Amazon and Yahoo, this was bitlocker.com.”
TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, who used to throw some celebrated backyard parties himself, gave Bilton the following hilarious advice, “Stop going to parties. Then use all that free time to start spending time with the serious people, doing serious things. They aren’t at those ridiculous parties. So, why are you?”
Even this is sort of wrong. The “serious” people do in fact party, just at different kinds of (ridiculous) parties. The really interesting parties in The Bay Area aren’t lavish or douchey, they actually have good music, and just so happen to be thrown by people in tech. Usually they have (gasp!) a cover charge.
“Some of us work in tech, some don’t,” Johnny Hwin, co-founder of popular SF event space The Sub tells me, “A lot of people who come to our events are entrepreneurs, but a lot are artists too. If anything, we’re in a creative bubble. I think we’re seeing more creativity applied to parties and events.”
I agree with him (the last party I attended at The Sub was a strange kind of futuristic art auction, and the attendees ranged from Mission hipsters to Thiel fellows), and will add my observation that the coolest parties have only a tenuous relationship to the “tech scene,” and usually involve some sort of costume.
Company parties usually suck, no matter which company: I ended up leaving that Snoop Dogg party Bilton refers to because I was bored and had lost my voice.
“At the best Silicon Valley parties, it doesn’t matter who the entertainment is or what there is to drink,” says our resident TechCrunch party expert Josh Constine (seriously, ask him how he just got a concussion), “The true makers end up on the back corner of the dance floor dreaming. The soirees fade to colorful backdrops, and the visionaries take the little time they have together as a chance to help each other unravel their most burning questions.”
And there are no caged tigers.