Andrew Vecchio checks his phone at the Startup and Tech Mixer in the W Hotel.

Andrew Vecchio checks his phone at the Startup and Tech Mixer in the W Hotel.

Culture


Andrew Vecchio, the co-founder and CEO of Startup and Tech Mixer, wanted to make it absolutely clear that his Friday night event — with 2,500 attendees, a bouncy blowup game of Twister, and a mechanical bull in downtown San Francisco’s W Hotel — was not a party.

mixer map

“We don’t use the word ‘party.’ We’re bringing consciously designed spaces and innovative thinkers together to inspire,” said Vecchio, who is 26 and formerly worked at Apple and J.P. Morgan. “This is our fifth mixer. People are like, ‘Andrew, what could be next?’ And it’s like, ‘Oh. Done.’ We have a mechanical bull. Game-changer. Innovate.”

The Startup and Tech Mixer, which was free for attendees, and paid for by sponsors like Uber and and GoPro, spanned two stories of the high-end, modern hotel, with elaborate programming, games, and “Tech Talks” by entrepreneurs. Topics included “The Future of Giving,” “The Kindness Economy” and “Secrets of Startup Success.” Guests wore name tags with their Twitter handles, and stood elbow to elbow, while a DJ spun pop and electronic music. Every hour, a guru led a meditation session in a room called the Serenity Space.

The line between work and play is blurry in the tech world. And as more young people flood into the city for work and look for friends, networking events have become a new sort of party circuit, one that mixes the trending startup lingo (“iterate,” “game change,” ted talks) with more traditional fare (booze, games). The team behind the Startup and Tech Mixer events think the demand for raucous and potentially career-building events is huge, and they might be right: This was their biggest work-centric rave yet, by far.

Vecchio, who was chewing gum, blew a bubble and then said he would be leading his friends, two young women named Jessica, on a tour of the mixer. The Jessicas, who were playing Anki Drive, a racing game made famous when its founders debuted it at an Apple conference, agreed.

The Serenity Space had terrariums and a projected starscape on the wall. People lounged on the sofas. Representatives from Kind, which makes healthful snack bars, were handing them out for free.

Upstairs, Vecchio, whose day job is at “a stealth startup,” nodded when he saw the packed crowd in the expansive Workroom 2. A mechanical bull tossed startup founders off its back. A few women were giggling in a nap pod. People lined up to play the row of classic arcades like Donkey Kong and Street Fighter. There was a costume parlor with wigs and pharaoh hats hanging by a photo studio.

Aaron Saari, 29 years old and the founder of a startup called Vase of Fire, said this was a lot more interesting that the average startup mixer in a bar — and that it would probably bring attendees closer together.

“Most startup mixers are like, “Let’s go to a bar and get f—ed up.” Here, there’s a mechanical bull. There’s an arcade. This is actually how people make deeper connections. After this, they’ll be like, ‘Yeah, man I fell off the mechanical bull before you did,” Saari said. “I invited a lot of my friends who aren’t in tech. Like you, Tony.”

“Actually, I am. I’m in wine tech,” said 33-year-old Tony Nguyen. “I honestly didn’t have a specific plan coming here, but, hey, I am having fun.”

Mike Vladimir, 34, said that since everyone was a potential target for networking, the event felt like a gay dating event.

“A straight dating event, you only want half the people. But everyone’s here for the same purpose. You could want anyone.”

Vladimir was, however, uneasy about the business-casual dress most of the attendees wore.

“I see a lot more button-downs that T-shirts, which makes me suspicious. People dressed up.”

As the night wore on, I asked Vecchio if there was an after-party.

“We don’t call it an after-party. We call it after-hours.”

Vecchio led the Jessicii — one of whom decided to be called “Jane” to make it easier — to an inflatable Twister mat at the center of the after-hours room. He set down his Corona Light and leaped onto the bouncy cushion, making a few flips and pointing to a friend before sitting down in the middle of it and checking his phone.

“Upstairs is the real after-hours,” he said, leading the group to the 31st floor of the hotel. And so it was. There, against an expansive view of the Bay Bridge, a small group of venture capitalists and older entrepreneurs quietly sipped wine and nibbled nuts and cheese.



9 comments
NotAChance
NotAChance

BOOM. Game-changer. Innovate! These people are just so unbelievably cool!! I wish to innovate in meaningful ways like they do.  Why am I not in tech yet?  Oh yeah... ppl like these dudes. *__*

Abid Chaudhry
Abid Chaudhry

Is this satire? What did I just read? What is this? 

Dtoid Niero
Dtoid Niero

Next time everyone should wear Hawaiian shirts and jeans!  Wacky!


Seriously though, this would have been way more enjoyable in a more casual friendly setting, maybe at an outdoor beer garden. Get down and dirty.  Wrap bacon on things and give attendees a chance to genuinely plug their company in some kind of embarrassing self-effacing way. Don't just put a bunch of childish crap around with no context. Give it some soul.


Nobody wants to be in a night club setting with 999 versions of their dad and bank teller.  San Francisco does this all the time and it makes me want to basket weave.

NotGonnaRevealThisYet
NotGonnaRevealThisYet

This is why I hate San Francisco enough where I had to leave the country for a while. For so many other reasons I love the city, but these vapid parasites seem to be taking over the city, with little resistance and a fair amount of support.


Maybe it's time to fight back. It's not about buses. It's not about the availability of housing. It's about cleaning up the mess in our own tech community that stands to promote and reinforce values that are antithetical to the spirit of innovation and engineering.


Start calling it out when you see it. In person, not online. No one cares what you write on HackerNews when you're in the real world. If we all just let it slide, we're going to be left with nothing but these idiots because everyone else will be gone.

Jspepper
Jspepper

Was it on the rooftop at the Industry Standard??

maireadoconnor
maireadoconnor

This might just be about who agreed to be on the record for the article, but the men mentioned all have full names, ages and something about their jobs. The only women mentioned are merged into one entity, 'Jesiccai' about whom nothing more is known. One"decided to be called “Jane” to make it easier". You can't possibly 'network' to build your career if you can't use your own name. 

Cat
Cat

@maireadoconnor  I also noted that the article mentioned "a few women were giggling in a nap pod". Were they *really* giggling? Or were they laughing? 


One would never see the phrase "a few men were giggling in a nap pod". 


Word choice reinforces stereotypes, no doubt.

mburtis
mburtis

@maireadoconnor  Seriously. My only consolation is that the men in the article all sound kind of like idiots. 

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