Christmas is approaching and we can expect the most decadent office parties to be held in what’s been called “the epicentre of the Second Gilded Age” — Silicon Valley.
The technology sector may still boast many hyper-intelligent, workaholic young men who think nothing of arriving at the office in a bathrobe and flip-flops. However, in recent years a new strain of geek has emerged with money to burn, and a weakness for excess that would make Jay Gatsby blush.
One infamous party thrown by a technology company featured a caged 600lb tiger, and a monkey that posed for Instagram photos.
Another event, to celebrate a partnership between Facebook and Spotify, the music streaming service, was reported to have cost $1 million. Female models prowled the room while Snoop Dogg, the rapper, performed; journalists were each presented with a $300 bottle of DeLeón Tequila.
Such celebrations are part of a pattern of conspicuous consumption. In 2012, Larry Ellison, the billionaire founder of the software company Oracle, bought 97 percent of the Hawaiian island of Lãna’i for a reported $300 million.
The “big fat geek wedding” last year of Sean Parker, 34, the billionaire former Facebook president, symbolised the profligacy of a new breed of digital oligarch. He invited 350 guests, who were given fairytale costumes to wear, tailored by the Oscar-winning designer from The Lord of The Rings. The ceremony was held amid faux ruins in a forest in California, and the cake was 9ft high. It all cost about $10 million.
Such excess has fuelled fears that Silicon Valley’s new oligarchs are detached from real life, a perception they have struggled to rebut. When Eric Schmidt, the Google chairman, was asked about public anger against the elite during the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011, he said of Silicon Valley’s tech workers: “We live in a bubble . . . a bubble as in our own little world.”