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Oval Offices, Dot Zombies, jerks with perks -- is it simply déjà vu, or are we hurtling toward another Silicon Valley crash?
10 signs the dot-com tech bubble has returned
In Silicon Valley, nothing says success like excess, and nothing ever said excess quite like the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s. From the looks of things, though, it seems a lot of people are partying like it's 1999. Dot-com companies are rising from the dead. Venture capitalists are shoveling money at any company with a silly name and an elevator pitch. Company conference rooms look more like Romper Rooms.
1. Your office is oval shaped -- and you're not the president
What do you do if you've just received a fat $100 million check from your friendly neighborhood VCs? You build a replica of the Oval Office in your lofty San Francisco workspace. That's what GitHub did, complete with its own Official Seal of the Octocat for the United Meritocracy of GitHub. (We'll leave GitHub's Rat Pack room, Indoor Park, Eagle's Den, and Ladies Lounge for a future slideshow.) There is, however, no truth to the rumor the coders coven tried to get Bill Clinton to occupy the big chair to preside over another dot-com heyday. But we bet he would if they asked.
2. Dot-com companies return from the dead
Call them Dot Zombies. The original Kozmo.com promised same-day delivery of CDs, ice cream, cigarettes, booze, and virtually any other product to your door -- without collecting a fee. But the 1998 startup burned through $250 million of venture capital in three years without ever generating more than $4 million in revenue. Now, some 12 years after Kozmo became a symbol of irrational exuberance, the dot-zom appears poised for a comeback. Can Webvan and Pets.com be far behind?
3. New tech millionaires aren't old enough to vote
When Yahoo acquired Summly for $30 million last March, it put a nice chunk of lunch money into the pocket of 17-year-old founder Nick D'Aloisio (pictured). By comparison, then-26-year old David Karp was an old coot when Yahoo paid $1.1 billion for Tumblr last May. Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger were 28 and 26, respectively, when Facebook dropped a cool billion (now marked down to $715 million) on their photo-sharing service in 2012. You know what they say: Never trust anyone over 30 who doesn't have at least $100 million in their checking account.
4. Silly startups are raking in cash
Got a vague idea for a company with a ridiculous name? You too could win the VC lottery. Just ask the kids at Clinkle, a stealthy startup from Stanford dropout Lucas Duplin that just cashed a check for $25 million without having to tell anyone what it actually does. Earlier this week, though, someone spilled the beans to Valleywag's Sam Biddle: "It's another way to buy s*** with your phone." Damn. We were hoping it was a hoverboard.
5. 'IPO' stands for 'insane public offering'
Facebook's IPO was almost a fait accompli. Twitter's? We guess that makes sense. But when the folks behind Candy Crush Saga decide the market is ripe for a public offering, you know it's time to move that mutual fund you've been banking for your retirement into treasury bills. King.com, makers of the addictive if brain-dead mobile game, aims to raise a chunk of change for its founders by issuing an IPO this fall, according to multiple reports. We understand that if you line up three shares of Candy Crush Preferred in a row you qualify for a 3X level-up on your investment.
6. Nerds are finally getting some ... attention
How does Y Combinator partner and Loopt co-founder Sam Altman know a bubble is coming? When "hot girls [are] roaming bars trying to chat with any guy that looks like he might be an engineer and looking for a job," he wrote in his personal blog. Altman did not specify what kind of job, but later told Valleywag he meant the kind with benefits -- er, salaries. Calm down Poindexter, that Megan Fox lookalike wants you for your brains, not your body.
7. One wedding ring rules them all
So you're a hopeless nerd, you've got more gold than King Midas, and you're itchin' to get hitched. Of course you're going to engineer a $5 million "Lord of the Rings"-style fantasy wedding in the middle of an old-growth redwood forest. If you're Sean Parker, you'll invite 300 of your richest personal friends, slip the California Coastal Commission $2.5 million to make up for the environmental damage, then whine at great length about how mean everyone's being to you. And if the happy couple decides to breed? We predict a "Harry Potter"-themed baby shower in the Everglades.
8. Megageeks are buying up megamansions
It appears new money spends just as well as old money. As a truly retch-inducing portrait in Vanity Fair magazine reveals, the geekerati have been taking over San Francisco Gold Coast mansions built by the Gettys, Astors, and Vanderbuilts of a bygone era. The digital parvenus include executives with money to burn from Apple, Bebo, Facebook, Oracle, Twitter, Yahoo, Yammer, and Zynga. A 17,500-square-foot fixer upper for only $20 million? There goes the neighborhood.
9. Jerks are getting great perks
Remember when a job came with a salary, paid vacation, and (if you're lucky) health insurance? That's so 2006. If you're a hotshot engineer at a fast-moving tech company, it's hardly worth getting out of bed unless they're offering door-to-door shuttle service, gourmet chefs, a kegerator, and yoginis on call 24/7.
But why stop there? Google provides Razr Scooters to get you to your next meeting that much faster, Twitter hosts charity wine-making events, Eventbrite serves up trampoline sessions, and Dropbox (pictured) stocks its conference rooms with Legos. And, oh yeah, Valley geeks also get paid 15 to 20 percent more than the national average. Nice work if you can get it.
10. The Valley is wagging
When Gawker folded Valleywag in February 2011, few of us ever thought we would see its trademark brand of geeky snark again. But like the bubble it routinely punctures, the tech gossip site was reborn in April of this year, more bitter and disdainful than ever. It's about time. Somebody's got to keep these college kids and rich a *****s in line.
Ask not for whom the valley wags; it wags for thee.
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