From skate ramps to chocolate fountains: Why dotcom offices still party like it's 1999

It used to be company cars, pensions and private healthcare plans that lured bright young things in to otherwise dull office careers.

Now, with the second tech boom in full swing, a new generation of companies is luring talented people in rather different ways.

Skating ramps, tents for napping, indoor treehouses, chocolate fountains, gourmet meals and "Yoga Tuesdays" are among the latest examples of the "perk bubble", as emerging tech companies compete for the hottest coders in town.

Airbnb.com, founded by 29-year-old Joe Gebbia, is a website where people rent their homes or rooms directly to holidaymakers. At the centre of its San Francisco offices is a two-storey tree-house, as well as an Eastern mysticism-themed "peace room", and a section of an out-of-service jet.

Staff regularly work late into the night, and at weekends, so playtime needs to be taken seriously. "Moustache Monday" is regularly declared on a social calendar stuck on the wall, encouraging staff to wear false moustaches for the day. Yoga sessions are before a company lunch on Tuesdays.

Thursday is the day for "recess", with accompanied fun and games. Last Friday there was a rooftop barbeque, on Saturday an air-guitar contest. This month, rapper M.C. Hammer is visiting.

Technology companies maintain it is a crowded marketplace for young talent, and the esoteric perks are necessary to attract, and keep, staff. Although California is the centre of the perk bubble, it is a phenomenon increasingly seen in the UK. Music streaming website Last.fm, a British company founded in 2002 and sold to CBS for £140m in 2007, often throws parties in the giant ball-pit in its east London office.

Back in the US, at Yelp.com, a user review site which passes verdict on everything from rock concerts to supermarket pies, three beer kegs sit in the "break-room", with inbuilt iPads informing staff what brew is inside.

Online storage site Dropbox features a "rock-room" where employees play guitars and drums. Another is used to play dance arcade games. At Google's Zurich office, staff descend to the canteen down metal slides.

Yet worryingly, the extravagance of one's office is by no means an accurate barometer for a company's success. The iPhone app Color launched in March to much fanfare, promising to revolutionise the way photos were shared, but four months later, the president has gone and the revolution has not been forthcoming. Yet the staff still sit on beanbag chairs, indulge in nap-time in special tents and take turns on a hand-built half-pipe skateboard ramp in the middle of the office.

Airbnb is faring rather better. Bookings have increased by 800 per cent in the last year. "I think it feels like home," founder Joe Gebbia told the Wall Street Journal, perhaps because the entire 25,000sq ft office is based on his own apartment.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat