Highlights From Silicon Valley’s Extravagant Holiday Parties

Artisan donuts, Champagne towers, and cocktails prepared by chief executives are a few of the ways tech companies celebrate the holidays.

How to Party Like a Tech Star

Some technology companies are starting to face leaner times, but you wouldn't know it from the holiday parties happening around Silicon Valley. While companies often take care not to advertise their parties publicly, word tends to leak out via hyper-connected employees.

Here's a taste: Dropbox rented the Masonic music venue in San Francisco for a live show with indie-pop artist St. Lucia. It hasn't been all cheer for the cloud storage company since Fidelity Investments and BlackRock wrote down the value of their holdings this year. Yahoo!, which recently reversed its planned Alibaba spinoff and faces a potential proxy fight, held a Roaring Twenties-themed bash. And Twitter, which cut staff in October, put up tents and a DJ stand on the AT&T Park baseball field where the San Francisco Giants play.

Fancy holiday parties have become de rigueur in Silicon Valley, where top-tier talent demands elaborate perks. But the companies don't want to call too much attention to extravagant parties, said Saar Gur, a partner at Charles River Ventures. When the industry is preparing for a Game of Thrones-style winter, the parties could look like an irresponsible use of funds. "When the theme is 'Winter is coming,' I don't think the story plays as well," Gur said.

Posts on Instagram and Twitter offer a peek into some of the most opulent tech parties. Here are nine highlights, broken down into easy-to-digest categories.

Most cinematic: Facebook

Facebook went all-out for its 1920s theme party, complete with a trapeze-swing performer evoking Nicole Kidman's opening scene in Moulin Rouge.

A video posted by Elena Ontiveros (@sweathogg) on

Best-dressed dog: Uber

At Uber's party on San Francisco's Pier 27, Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick showed up in a tux that matched the miniature one worn by his Goldendoodle. The dog, Yobu, is named after Uber's China brand.

Wealthiest bartender: Zynga

Zynga CEO Mark Pincus got behind the bar to serve drinks to his employees—at least, long enough for a photo op.

Most twee: Airbnb

Airbnb brought in a lettering and calligraphy professional to make the chalkboard menu at its holiday party look extra pretty. The home-rental company served artisan donuts, among other treats. The event was hosted at The Armory in San Francisco, where Square also held its holiday gathering.

Here's the sign in context, next to a fancy tonic bar.

A photo posted by Nika (@achocolateunicorn) on

Most awkward photo op: Yahoo

Champagne towers, aerial dancers, and chandeliers made Yahoo's party a much-talked-about event. The spectacle was especially striking in the context of the company's recent troubles and the pressure mounting on Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. At the event, Mayer put on a happy face while employees crowded around her for photos. In various shots posted online, she is pictured sitting regally on an ornate white chair adjacent—but not too close—to excited employees.

Most ... patriotic? Most aquatic? Salesforce

The Salesforce.com party, also held at the Masonic, was graced with people on stilts, including what looks like a sexy Statue of Liberty. Or maybe it's a mermaid?

A photo posted by Dany K (@danyekelly) on

Most heartwarming vice: Dropbox

One way to make gambling palatable: Do it for charity. Dropbox rolled out the craps tables at its holiday party. Yahoo also had charitable casino games, according to Vice.

A photo posted by Sonia (@sonias_instagram) on

Most Burning Man-iest: Google

Every summer, throngs of Google employees make the pilgrimage to the Nevada desert for Burning Man, an annual hippie retreat beloved by techies, including Google's founders. That doesn't mean they can't also enjoy a little playa inspiration during the off-season—in this case, neon-costumed dancers and a trippy jellyfish electro-garden at an "under the sea" party.

Timeliest pop culture theme: Lyft

Uber's U.S. rival celebrated the holidays with a Star Wars-themed event, complete with Stormtroopers standing by for photos. The hashtag: #maythefrostbewithyou. Get it?

A photo posted by StaceFace (@m0re_adventurous) on

Dolby had held a Star Wars holiday party at the same venue the previous night. (Timeliest, maybe, but not the most original.) Still, what self-respecting tech geek wouldn't want to take pictures with Yoda and BB-8?

A photo posted by Andrea Kane (@andi.kane) on

 Enjoy the holidays. Tech companies will.

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