Sunday, June 23, 2013
Lunch is Served
The irony that this young lady/woman/girl or 5 letter other word that crossed my mind, has the audacity and ignorance to write about this further validates my belief that this is an industry plagued with self-indulgence, vanity and utter disengagement from this world they claim they are saving.
We are facing immense food insecurity in this country. A country well divided by how food is distributed, the chemicals added to it, the costs and differences to access as well as simply availability to those not lucky enough to work for such a company where a latte bar and massage are given perks. Most people would settle for a 15 minute break and health care let alone catered theme Fridays versus the once casual ones of yore, seems rather silly when you think about it. Clearly this moron did not.
I wonder if Venture Capitalists actually DO any due diligence and forensic accounting when they ask for financial reports or accounting records to see why and how these companies are not generating profit and what are the reasons, other than the uselessness and duplicity that most of them create? I think a food budget, entertainment fees and a full bar would raise my eyebrow if not my red line pen to stave off a loss of my money and in turn investment.
Is this what we are now? A country that thinks job creation is adding a food buffet to the lucky 1%er's who get to work creating a phone app while schools serve children and many of the Teachers and Staff in same schools utter crap for lunch? Really is that what we think is saving the world?
The private chartered buses, the versions of campuses and now Amazon's new building plans in Seattle to include domed facilities, similar to a Stephen King novel (a metaphor that is appropriate on more than one level living in the shadow of Amazon it is a horror novel), further segregates, isolates and makes an insular community that has little connection to the one outside of it. Can't save anything when you are not a part of it in any way.
The Calorie-Packed Perk
By MOLLY YOUNG
Published: June 19, 2013
Within my first week of working at a start-up, I acquired a gut. The reason was obvious: there was free food everywhere, it was delicious and I was nervous. Within five days I was heaving my stomach around like a kettle bell and crossly preparing, and then ignoring, cups of green tea.
It all started so innocently. On Monday, warm cookies from the Upper West Side bakery Levain appeared in the kitchen. Buttercream cupcakes followed; apparently it was somebody’s birthday. (It is always somebody’s birthday.) At noon, employees gathered for a catered lunch of barbecue. Two hours later, a Pinkberry station rolled into the office with the full battery of toppings. I helped myself to an incapacitating dose. By 5 p.m. my dress had grown so tight around the middle that I had to unzip it to my coccyx and put a sweater on top just to breathe.
My employer, the eyewear company Warby Parker, is not unusual. Small, high-growth tech companies have had a reputation for showering employees with lavish perks since the Silicon Valley bubble days. At Sun Microsystems, nursing mothers were provided lounges for breast-feeding and an on-call “lactation consultant.” Cisco offered dry-cleaning services and popcorn. Pinball machines lined the hallways at Excite@Home.
In his recent book, “Finding the Next Steve Jobs,” Nolan Bushnell, who founded Atari, recommends keeping toys in the office and allowing employees to nap on the clock — like Steve Jobs, who installed a futon beneath his desk.
But New York’s tight market for skilled start-up labor has produced an even more sophisticated arms race.
Take Squarespace, a Web publishing platform founded in 2004. On a recent Friday afternoon, employees sat serenely in the firm’s SoHo offices, the room silent except for rapid keyboard clicks. A slim woman wearing her hair in a topknot ferried dishes of shrimp gumbo and quinoa salad to a buffet; midday meals for Squarespace employees are prepared four days a week. (On the fifth day, they order out.) Gluten-free and vegetarian options are offered at each meal, as well as a fridge stocked with Tecate and Red Bull.
On another morning at Tumblr headquarters on East 21st Street, a young man in futuristic shoes poured a glass of seltzer (it’s on tap) and sat down to breakfast: a plate piled with bacon. His co-workers nibbled at pastries, sipped high-end coffee and rooted around the fridge for their favorite flavor of Chobani yogurt. Greek yogurt, in fact, is one of the most popular start-up perks.
“It’s eaten almost as quickly as it’s stocked,” said Cyrus Massoumi, 36, the founder and chief executive of ZocDoc, an online medical scheduling service. “I’m partial to Siggi’s Skyr, myself.”
The free lunches and self-replenishing pantries of New York’s start-ups can occasionally bring to mind Cockaigne, the mythical medieval land where cakes grew on trees, meat pies rained from the sky and fish leaped from rivers to roast themselves and fly directly into waiting mouths. In one 13th-century French epic poem, “Huon de Bordeaux,” a paradisiacal river restores health and youth to all who drink from it. Today’s version? Coconut water.
“For a treat-loving man such as myself, the office is a great environment,” said Martin Mulkeen, 29, a senior editor at Birchbox on East 28th Street.
And let’s not forget the basics.
“We have cold-brewed coffee at all times,” said Dan Logan, 28, the director of product marketing at Bitly in the Union Square area. Bitly workers (“Bitizens,” they call themselves) may also prepare beverages from the office’s Jura Impressa X9 Platinum, which pumps out cappuccinos at the touch of a button. (The machines start at $6,495.)
“I was not a coffee drinker at all before I started StyleUp,” said Kendall Herbst, 29, a former Lucky magazine editor who co-founded the personal styling service. “Now it’s my lifeblood.”
As many employees noted, New Yorkers are picky about their coffee, so office managers can forget about throwing a can of Folgers in the freezer and calling it a day. Perhaps the most popular provider is Stumptown Coffee Roasters from Portland, Ore., whose Hair Bender blend can be found in many start-up pantries. As Mr. Logan put it, “You got to have good brew.”
That includes alcohol. Artsy, an art appreciation platform, hosts a weekly happy hour in its Chinatown office that features 360-degree views of Manhattan (and beer on tap). Birchbox keeps its fridge supplied with Champagne for celebrations, and Tumblr also offers beer on tap (this week: an aromatic, malty I.P.A.). But when it comes to spirits, the lifestyle publication Thrillist reigns supreme, with two fully stocked bars and a rotating schedule of liquor tastings.
“Whiskey, tequila: it’s always available,” said Devon Giddon, 27, the company’s director of communications. “Not to mention the kegerator.”
The what? “It’s a keg in the fridge, so it’s always cold.”
With start-ups subsidizing round-the-clock snacking and drinking, it’s easy to pack on weight. Rather than institute a dress code of elastic-waist pants, many companies offer free gym memberships, yoga classes and group SoulCycle outings to keep employees in fighting form. Birchbox has a mini-gym inside the office.
For those immune to the temptations of a Michael Phelps-style caloric regimen, other distractions are available. Spotify hands out free concert tickets and treats employees to performances from artists like Sheryl Crow, while Chartbeat workers play with office puppies in the puppytorium (also known as the back room). Birchbox employees can sign up to get manicures and haircuts in the office.
“We try to facilitate an environment where employees feel really comfortable,” said Andrew Burke, 28, the head of talent development at Squarespace. “It pays off in terms of the work that is done and the results that happen.”
But the escalation of perks can lead to sticky situations.
“Once you set a precedent, it can be difficult to take things away,” said Mr. Burke, citing an iTunes account that allowed Squarespace employees to guest-D.J. the office music. Trouble arose when employees began to play “random stuff that wasn’t necessarily on par with how others were vibing.” The account was disabled.
Unlimited vacation, which most of the start-ups in this article offer, also provides a clear opportunity to overindulge, though no employer seemed to have a problem with it — perhaps because daily life in their offices has much in common with an all-inclusive resort.
And not surprisingly, employees are quick to defend their perks.
“I don’t think having beer at the office is decadent,” said Mr. Mulkeen of Birchbox. Other employees made a convincing case that they spend more time at work thanks to the ambient luxuries.
And some even display “perks envy.”
“I’ve heard that one company has Juice Press juices in their communal fridge that you can take,” said Ms. Herbst of StyleUp, her voice wistful. “That’s quite a nice perk that I would love to have.” (A 17-ounce bottle of the company’s juice runs about $9.)
Mr. Burke of Squarespace said: “I heard that one place pays for someone to clean your apartment. The more we see companies escalating with perks, the more we’ll hear about things that seem outrageous.” <
Mr. Bushnell of Atari, a veteran of the start-up world, was asked where he draws the line between “productive perk” and “wanton decadence.” His answer: Well, he doesn’t.
“I’ve often felt that it is somehow wrong to have an engineer spend any time at all scrubbing his own toilet,” he said. “It sounds elitist, but these people are highly important to the economy and to the company. Offering maid service to them as a perk makes total sense.”
Katia Beauchamp, 30, a Birchbox founder, had a different perspective.
“I often think of the analogy between this and being a parent,” she said. “You want to give people every opportunity, but sometimes you make a decision to hold back because you know it’s better not to have a spoiled child.”
For me, the lesson quickly sank in. As much as I enjoyed vacuuming up cookies, I couldn’t afford to outgrow all of my new work clothes. Since then, I’ve kept a lid on my treat consumption. If I fail, a company-subsidized gym membership awaits me.