Walking home from the fourth annual f8 conference earlier this week I kept wondering why I hadn’t gone over to the massive Sean Parker/Spotify after party. Over the past few years, Facebook’s f8 after party was an opportunity to schmooze with people of all levels within the company. This year however, the “A-List” and “B-List” along with the press were shuttled over to listen to Snoop Dogg, Jane’s Addiction, and others.
While I actually could have headed over thanks to my f8 press pass, I decided just to head home. There was something about this exclusivity that was genuinely frustrating me. Walking around the f8 after party, I had the opportunity to chat with Facebook employees, but none of the “important” ones appeared to be there. What’s just now starting to sink in is how tasteless the over the top party actually was. While Sean Parker spent tons of money earned from his Facebook shares on a Spotify party with top tier talent, the majority of Facebook employees got to listen to a second-rate artist screeching through the speakers in the main concourse center.
The ironic part is that the hard work of the individuals in the official f8 party are what helped make Facebook the company it is today. I can guarantee you that any of the people at the official event weren’t feeling too positive about the experience. People who literally created some of the content that Mark Zuckerberg showcased on stage weren’t invited. They also sounded pretty ticked off.
This sort of exclusive mentality is exactly the opposite of what has built Silicon Valley. I remember going to one of the early unofficial Facebook developer conferences and Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus, came to chat with developers who were building some of the first apps. Talk about being a humble billionaire. Having access to these people is exactly why I found Silicon Valley to be so incredible. Yet over the past couple years things have changed. At Techcrunch Disrupt Erick Schonfeld asked me naively, “You would actually meet with other strangers?”, referring to the Holler application. Correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t that the purpose of the very conference he was hosting?
As an employee who has felt both included and excluded from major organizational events, you have no idea how much more valued being included made me feel and how being excluded made me feel devalued.