Start-up decadence: It’s just a new way of thinking about ‘work’

A replica of a California “tree dome” listing on Airbnb at the company’s headquarters. Photo: Geoffrey A. Fowler/

Billion dollar valuations. $41 million funding rounds. There’s been a lot of talk about if we’re in another bubble or not, and articles like Geoffrey Fowler’s recent Wall Street Journal piece tend to extol the uncanny resemblances to the 1999 tech boom.

But I think Mustache Mondays, in-office pool tables, and parties DJed by M.C. Hammer aren’t so much a reflection on the extravagance of the space as a reflection on the start-up attitude and its intense expectations of employees.

Work Hard, Play Hard
For many start-ups, like Airbnb and social monetization company Peanut Labs, it’s about putting in the hours, but knowing when it’s time to let loose and have a good time. And although it’s a great way to make employees happy, it’s not all about them.

At Airbnb’s party celebrating its new headquarters yesterday, champagne, beer, and wine were free-flowing. Guests got to take a look at the company’s swanky new digs, which include a number of conference room replicas of their listings across the globe, including a quirky SoHo loft and a stylish apartment in Berlin.

In June, Peanut Labs provided a fun-filled evening aboard a yacht. The “Pirates of Silicon Valley” cruise, as it’s known, not only lets employees wind down, dance, and ogle the San Francisco skyline from the bay; it’s a great networking and recruiting opportunity (for those who can swallow the $600 ticket price, if they didn’t get an invite).

Other start-ups regularly hold launch parties, house-warming parties, and events to celebrate big milestones, but that’s just it — parties of this calibre are a special occasion, not the norm.

M.C. Hammer djs at Airbnb headquarters

It still may seem extravagant to outsiders, but throwing such “epic” parties is a way for start-ups to get their name out there and make contacts with potential employees and investors. Good talent is hard to come by; good talent that’s available for hire? Forget about it. Start-ups and larger corporations alike are always hunting and recruiting new employees.

You want to show the talent how much they’re missing by not being a part of your team. And as for investors: Well, if you can afford to throw this shindig, you must be doing well, right?

It’s All About the Atmosphere
“It’s amazing how much more inspiration comes from sitting and chatting on a couple of couches instead of hunched over a cold conference table,” Airbnb employee Emily Joffrion said about one of her favorite conference rooms in the office.

Read More »

Posted in Culture, Tech | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Robogames 2011: Flame throwers, rocket launchers and endless robot mayhem

Texas Heat, a lightweight combat robot, shoots its 6-foot flame at its unfortunate opponent.

Walking into the arena, the first thing you notice are the noises: booming, clanging, the sound of metal crashing upon metal a short distance away. Followed by the smell of flames and burning rubber.

Welcome to Robogames.

Robogames is an annual robotics competition that features more than 50 different events, including combat, sumo, hockey and mech warfare. Dubbed “the Olympics of robots,” this year’s event took place April 15 to 17 in San Mateo, California, with a colorful array of robots in attendance.

The three-day event has much to see and learn, with electronics, robotics and educational-toy distributors’ booths lining the path to the back of the auditorium, where the largest fighting stage is located. The completely enclosed structure separates spectators from the carnage within by a scratched-up sheet of Lexan polycarbonate over aluminum support beams. Other competition areas included a maze, a mini soccer field and a smaller, enclosed “ComBot” stage with four 2-foot tall buildings. And of course, plenty of bots were just mingling with the public.

Read more (and check out the video footage from the event) at Wired’s Gadget Lab.

Posted in Event, Robotics | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

The office can be a dangerous place.

My first review for Wired! Check out the video and an excerpt below.

Here at Wired, we take things very seriously. Correction — we take protecting our desks and planning sneak attacks on our coworkers very seriously. We put office-warfare gadgets to the test…

For more details about the products we waged war with (and how they fared), check out the rest of the review.

Posted in Gadgets, Review | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Apparently, the discerning gadget afficionado is swathed in ostrich leather.

Thousand dollar speakers, high-end DSLRs, and paper-thin 3D TVs just aren’t enough for some folks. The gadgeteer who’s seeking serious luxury looks to adorn their equipment with ostrich leather.

Pictured is the Hoon Entertainment System, an arcade style gaming controller that’s compatible with the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. 10 glossy buttons and a joystick sit atop a–you guessed it–ostrich leather encasement. Pricing and availability aren’t known yet, but the setup is handmade in a Parisian workshop.

And as if Leica wasn’t already one of the priciest camera manufacturers on the block: For $12,950, you can get one of fifty limited edition silver chrome M9 wrapped in the formerly feathery stuff. It looks absolutely gorgeous, but it’s definitely over-the-top styling.

I’m eagerly waiting to see if these ostrich leather items are a coincidence, or the beginnings of a high-end tech trend.

Kotaku and Gizmodo

Posted in Devices, Tech | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

2010′s Top 9 Blacklisted Websites

So, what websites do governments and the people hate and fear the most? Porn sites? Social media sites that spread news, rumor, and misinformation like wildfire? Websites that support file sharing or piracy? Here’s the list below.

1. Facebook (social media)
2. MySpace (social media)
3.YouTube (video streaming)
4. (advertising)
5. Twitter (social media)
6. (advertising)
7. Redtube (porn)
8. Limewire (file-sharing)
9. Pornhub (porn)

This list was compiled by OpenDNS, the Internet’s largest source for navigation security and services. Not surprisingly, sites are typically blacklisted by networks–like business, school, or home networks–due to a combination of content and popularity.


Posted in Web | Tagged , , , , | 34 Comments

Happy Holidays!

It’s become a tradition at my family’s house to make holiday structures. Usually we do gingerbread houses, but this year we used sugar cubes (ice for pseudo-igloos).

I made “The Lincoln-Fish Memorial.” It’s made of: sugar cubes, gum drops, candy coated chickpeas, Jordan almonds, and jellybeans, as well as a healthy amount of frosting mix to keep everything glued together.

Lincoln-Fish Memorial Under Construction

The Lincoln-Fish Memorial Under Construction.

The Lincoln-Fish Memorial

The Lincoln-Fish Memorial complete.

Happy Holidays!

Posted in Photos, Random | Tagged , , , , | 40 Comments

Moxsie is partnering with Badgeville for real and virtual incentives on Facebook

Moxsie Badges Moxsie, the community driven, online fashion store, is partnering with Badgeville to create custom social rewards like virtual badges and buyer expertise levels for participants in their biweekly #BuyerChats.

#Buyerchats are a clever way to get the customers directly involved in Moxsie’s fashion buying process. They are regular events that involve Moxsie’s 115,000 Twitter followers, turning them into virtual buyers and providing real-time feedback for both Moxsie and designers. By posting twitpics of things like items they may sell or behind the scenes shots of photoshoots, the customers can express their opinions on the merchandise and styling, and have a hand in what eventually goes on the site or what quantity is purchased.

The new badge program will give a social media/game-play spin on the process. Based on the quality of feedback, participants can earn discounts, points and badges that progress with their level of expertise.

The first #BuyerChat to utilize this new badge-filled system will be on December 16 , starting at 11:30 a.m. PT. It will feature Moxsie’s favorite gifts and stocking stuffers, like Oclock watches, Urbanears headphones and Clocky and Tocky roving alarm clocks.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Redgirlsays’ top tech picks of 2010

There were a ton of awesome products and technologies that made their debut (or gained tremendous popularity) in 2010. I’ve gone through and selected my choices for the year’s top consumer devices and trends, as well as technologies and software that will be enhancing our life in the coming year.

Top Consumer Tech of 2010

In 2010, Apple reigned supreme. They delivered exactly what consumers wanted and needed, and what they didn’t realize they wanted or needed. A combination of sales, good reception (positive reviews), and innovation earned these products these spots.

iPad1. iPad—The iPad has changed the way we look at mobile computing. It initiated the tablet revolution, and is the candle to which all current and future models are held (at least for now). The selection of premium apps designed specifically for the device continues to make it shine over Android OS competitors.
2. iPhone 4—Retina display, FaceTime, Antennagate issues aside, it’s a magnificent phone that, again, is used as a benchmark for other 2010 smartphones.
3. New MacBook Air—It’s an absolute feat of engineering. It’s so light, so slim, while still providing a good quality computing experience. The 13” is powerful and speedy enough to act as the main machine for most folks; the 11” is better as a lightweight travel machine that offers a more traditional experience than a smaller netbook or tablet.

Most Popular Tech Trends of 2010

1. Wireless Technology—Wifi and Bluetooth have dominated the consumer electronics device scene this year. Apple TV, smartphones, portable speakers—just about everything is connected now so you can stream data to or from a device.
2. Capacitive Touch Screens—Nearly every touchscreen device that’s come out in the past 12 months has sported a capacitive touch screen. For now, it’s far superior than other alternatives, allowing for a high degree of responsiveness and multitouch capabilities.
3. 3D Technology—With the popularity of Avatar and other 3D releases—and their subsequent jump to 3D DVD and Blu Ray—3D tech in the home has seen a big push, primarily in the form of large 3D TVs. The technology still needs a lot of work (I mean, who really wants to wear 3D glasses in their own home?) but for now, there seems to be enough interest in the area to keep developing and improving it in the future.
4. Apps—Easy (and quick) to download and pay for, apps began gaining popularity with the revolutionary iPhone and have quickly spread to other smartphones, portable devices, laptops, and computers. Even smartpens, like the LiveScribe Echo, have a marketplace for apps. The app revolution has been fought and won: with three billion download just in Apple’s App Store by January 2010, app based user experiences are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.

Technologies to look forward to in 2011 and beyond

Projected Keyboard1. Projector technology—Pico projectors, projected keyboards, and projected touch interfaces started making a splash in 2010; I look forward to these technologies being more fully developed and available for consumers to enjoy in 2011. I think that the success of the Microsoft Kinect, and the wide variety of hacks users have performed, indicate that gesture based tech is in demand. Star Wars, Minority Report, and a dozen (or more) other sci-fi films have predicted the use of projected, gesture based technology in the future. We’re finally here. Let’s see user interfaces move from its passive place behind a screen in cyberspace to right in front of us: malleable, swipe-able, touchable.
2. Responsive Touch Screens—A step or two behind projector technology (coolness-wise), but nonetheless interesting, is touch screen technology that provides tactile feedback. A subtle rippling when the display is tapped, a slight vibration as an object is dragged across the screen—it’s another step towards a more interactive user interface. Patents from Microsoft and others hint that these may be appearing in devices in the not-too-distant future.
3. The Rise of Alternative Energy—At an engineering conference I attended a few months back, a keynote speaker likened our search for and progress in developing greener, alternative fuels to the space race of the 50s and 60s. This is our generation’s great engineering dilemma. Tremendous strides have been made in photovoltaic technology in 2010 alone, making the possibility of home appliances like refrigerators, washers and dryers, and water heaters, and entire homes, running off renewable energy far more viable. Other renewable energy sources like wind and water have also seen great strides and increased funding, as have biofuels. I hope that, in 2011, we’ll see larger, energy-hungry appliances and electronics running off of renewable energy sources.

Rising Stars in the Software Sphere:

Nexus S 1. Android 2.3, Gingerbread—Will the faster, more efficient successor to Android 2.2 Froyo be the saving grace of Android devices? The current batch of Android tablets made less of a splash and more of a dull thud into the market. So far, the Nexus S seems to be faring more successfully.
2. Windows Phone 7—The new kid on the block in terms of mobile operating systems, WP7 devices are gaining momentum with positive reviews. Products running Windows Mobile 7 are sure to gain an even bigger place in the market with continued good reception and increased app development.
3. The Cloud—With the recent announcement of Chrome OS and Google’s Chrome OS running netbooks, we can look forward to the cloud becoming an increasingly prominent part of our computing experience in the future. Cloud based technology isn’t anything new. There are plenty of online services that already utilize the cloud (Dropbox, Windows Live SkyDrive, Flickr, Simplenote, and XMarks, for example). However, that number is poised to grow. A lot.

Agree with my choices? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Image Source for Projector Keyboard

Posted in Devices, Science, Tech | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

What it’s like to be the SO of a start-up founder.

Early Sunday afternoon, my boyfriend and I were about to head to one of our favorite eateries when he received an urgent email–something on the site needed to be fixed, ASAP. He told me he’d need to bring his laptop to brunch to resolve the issue. I said no problem.

Mimosa We sat at a table towards the back of the establishment. He pulled out his laptop and began coding furiously, intense concentration etched on his face. Now was not the time to interrupt or make chit-chat. I sat my iPhone on the table and, after checking my email, began playing a quiet game of Hedgehog Launch, occasionally sipping on my mimosa once it arrived.

Within a few minutes, another couple sat down at the table next to ours (the table edges were separated by less than 2 feet, I would guess). The woman was sitting on the same side of the table as my boyfriend.

And that’s when the meal got interesting.

She quickly remarked to her boyfriend/husband/date that “he’s coding.” Nothing unusual there, just regular human curiosity and observation. But then I began to hear snippets of her conversation every few minutes… “Isn’t she offended? I would be so offended.”… “Look, she’s almost done with her food, he hasn’t even touched his.”… “What horrible restaurant etiquette.” I wasn’t offended, I just hoped her increasing loud comments weren’t impeding my boyfriend’s ability to work. They weren’t, and we had a good laugh on the walk home. Clearly she–and no one she knows–is involved in the start-up sphere.

For years I trained to be (and was) a professional ballet dancer, and my boyfriend showed me the same patience, respect, and understanding that I now strive to show him. There’s no room for being offended, for being irritated if plans get changed. Rehearsals run late, problems arise. If you want to spend time together, it can be just as rewarding to sit in silence, working side by side, as it can be to go out or have conversation.

To be in a relationship with someone heavily involved in a start-up, you need to put aside the “me” and focus on being a partner. Look towards the future and make the present, well, pleasant. There’s no room for bullshit. If you’re insecure, unhappy that you’re not getting to do what you want, slighted that the focus isn’t on you, it’s not going to work. Although all relationships should be partnerships, the added strain of late nights, early mornings, and heavy workloads really puts them to the test.

One of the best ways to combat this is to get involved yourself. Teach yourself to code, if you don’t know how to already, then you can either help with their project, or start something of your own. If that’s not appealing, then you’ll just have to find ways to entertain yourself sometimes. Having a support network can also be a godsend–network with their coworkers, or other friends/couples in start-ups. You’ve all got something in common and you’re all most likely fairly intelligent, so stimulating conversation shouldn’t be lacking.

I don’t imagine our Sunday brunch experience was the first, nor will be the last, time we get weird reactions from others not in the scene. We’ve popped open our laptops in all sorts of places, forgone drinks and dinners on multiple occasions in favor of working late into the night. We have no intention of stopping that any time soon.

Posted in Tech | Tagged , , , | 66 Comments

Lady D, the girly laptop case I’d actually use (maybe)

Lady D BagI’m not usually one for “girl-specific” designed items–the pink cellphones, the cutesy flowery iPad cases. But the Lady D iPad, Kindle, and Laptop covers from Etsy seller Helekstudio are pure class. Pure class with utility.

The kisslock closure is a lovely, feminine detail that pairs with the classic, sometimes retro fabrics to say “I’m a lady, who has some tech that needs protecting” rather than “I”M A GIRLY GIRLY GIRL!” If it came with a chain for over-the-shoulder storage, I’d be sold (and would have my gadgets on hand at black tie events).

The laptop, mini-laptop, iPad, and Macbook bags are $69, and Kindle covers are $46.


Posted in Accessories | 18 Comments