Houston, Kalanick and Zuck walk into a headline

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Houston, Kalanick and Zuck walk into a headline

And a bar called SPiN, where photos of them playing ping pong have the tech media in a great mood this Friday.

The reason? At the same time as Houston’s birthday fun, SPiN was also holding its own, separate “Babes & Balls” party with “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” as the theme.

Let’s start from the beginning:

Last weekend, Dropbox CEO and founder Drew Houston celebrated his birthday with a dinner at Babu Ji in the Mission District in San Francisco, which was attended by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

After the dinner, the group went to play some ping pong at SPiN in San Francisco. That’s where the “Babes & Balls: Breakfast at Tiffany’s” party comes into play.

Photos surfaced within the “Babes & Balls” Facebook photo album of the three CEOs playing ping pong, which is how they ended up in this shit-storm of unflattering optics.

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    Photo: SPiN
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    Photo: SPiN
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    Photo: SPiN
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    Photo: SPiN
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    Photo: SPiN
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    Photo: SPiN

It’s still unclear if Zuckerberg and Kalanick knew that the “Babes & Balls” party was going down at SPiN, but Houston was listed as Going/Went to the BAB party on Facebook. We reached out to Dropbox and the company did not immediately respond to our inquiry. We’ll update the post if we hear back.


We also spoke with Amy Chan, CMO at SPiN and host of the party, to ask if Houston’s birthday bash was connected to the Babes & Balls party.

She said that her friend (who was in attendance at Houston’s birthday dinner) knew about the “BAB” party and was the one who arranged to have space set up at SPiN for the group.

“The party wasn’t for Drew at all,” said Chang. “They just happened to come during our party. And since it was his birthday, we brought out a birthday dessert like we do for many of our guests.”

Obviously, it doesn’t look great when some of the tech world’s (and just… the world’s) most powerful men have their photos in the “Babes & Balls” Facebook photo album, especially if one of them actually RSVP’d to an event with that name.

One source who was at SPiN that night told TechCrunch that Zuck didn’t know that they were going to a club or that the party was called Babes & Balls. Other sources told Fortune that Kalanick didn’t know the theme of the party before arriving, either.

The Uber CEO is coming off a rough few weeks, especially with regard to sexism. The company has been under fire lately after allegations of sexual harassment and a culture that either protects or ignores it.

That’s not to mention the video of Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver over wages, or the recently exposed “Greyball” program that Uber allegedly used to thwart authorities across the world who were cracking down on the ridesharing service.

And so, when news surfaced that Kalanick, Houston and Zuck were at a party called “Babes & Balls,” the resulting headlines were inevitable:

  • Uber CEO Travis Kalanick played pingpong with Mark Zuckerberg at a party called ‘Babes and Balls’
  • Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Mark Zuckerberg Celebrate Friend’s Birthday at ‘Babes and Balls’ Party
  • Mark Zuckerberg and Travis Kalanick laugh it up at ‘Babes and Balls’ party
  • ‘Sexist’ Tech Moguls Under Fire For Attending Exclusive ‘Babes and Balls’ Party

It makes sense, while under so much pressure, that Kalanick would want to kick back and enjoy a fun night with his friends. He’s also known to play by his own rules and apologize later, if at all.

But you’d hope that the men who are shaping our culture, and setting examples for thousands of young founders every day, would recognize the public perception of being at a party called Babes & Balls. That they have a responsibility to represent massive workforces, an industry and entrepreneurs everywhere.

That said, if Zuck and Kalanick had no idea they were arriving at SPiN’s Babes & Balls night — which, aside from the name, is said to be rather tame — I’m not sure what the “right” course of action would be. Do they all leave? Do they refuse photos? Did they even know the name of the party until after they left?

There’s no evidence that Houston, Kalanick and Zuck did anything at SPiN other than play some ping pong (with Olympic table tennis player Lily Zhang!) and enjoy dessert.

Yes, Houston knew he was going to an event called Babes & Balls as evidenced by his RSVP. And sure, he should be more careful to avoid putting himself, and his friends, in this situation. But he didn’t name the party. So I’m reserving the lion’s share of my judgment for SPiN and Amy Chan for a name that is at worst sexist, but also the least clever alliteration ever.

The tech industry is currently “balls” deep into a public excoriation of its treatment of and outlook toward women, which is how a relatively lame birthday after-party made the news. It emphasizes how much more aware people are becoming of the optics and realities of sexism in tech. The community’s immune system is waking up — let’s hope it tackles some very real issues, like the way women are paid, hired and treated in tech workplaces.

Featured Image: SPiN