At the annual Burning Man festival, the Silicon Elite are coming with air-conditioned yurts, high-security RVs and private chefs. They also have special servants for the festival called sherpas, according to reports.
The last two years has brought Silicon Valley to Burning Man and its immense wealth, so why roll around in dirt with the masses when you can have an RV three times the size of a typical San Francisco apartment? Burning Man, which takes place in the middle of the Black Rock desert, requires that event goers bring their own equipment, food, whatever and then to leave no trace when they leave. But if you're a Silicon Valley millionaire or billionaire -- that is open to interpretation. The New York Times writes:
[Burning Man] has been the annual getaway for a new crop of millionaire and billionaire technology moguls, many of whom are one-upping one another in a secret game of I-can-spend-more-money-than-you-can and, some say, ruining it for everyone else.
Apparently many of the tech elite have headed to the desert in the past including Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, but newer faces such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and many venture capitalists are making the annual journey.
Burning Man is known for its freewheeling atmosphere, sharing and reportedly recreational drugs. But the Silicon Valley elite aren't into mixing with the crowds. While a tent and sleeping bag works for most, some tech elite are actually building structures, having RVs and luxuriating in air-conditioned yurts.
“We used to have R.V.s and precooked meals,” an unnamed man sharing digs with "a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs" told the New York Times. “Now, we have the craziest chefs in the world and people who build yurts for us that have beds and air-conditioning.”
The cost of the tech elite camp that housed about 100 people? The fees were $25,000 a person, the Times reported.
“Anyone who has been going to Burning Man for the last five years is now seeing things on a level of expense or flash that didn’t exist before,” Brian Doherty, author of the book “This Is Burning Man” told the Times. “It does have this feeling that, ‘Oh, look, the rich people have moved into my neighborhood.’ It’s gentrifying.”
Those wanting a mixture of servant and concierge service can also spring for "sherpas" who often cater to those using theses luxury camps For those with even more money to squander, there are camps that come with “Sherpas,” who are essentially paid help to fetch food, costumes or drugs, the Times reported.
Tyler Hanson, a former Sherpa, said he didn't want to go back to Burning Man. “The tech start-ups now go to Burning Man and eat drugs in search of the next greatest app,” he said. “Burning Man is no longer a counterculture revolution. It’s now become a mirror of society.”
While some may see traveling to a hippie-dippy outdoor festival and luxuriating in air-conditioned yurts with steak and lobster as an odd choice, perhaps the tech elite are there just to say that they went as some sort of hipster cachet -- even if they don't partake in any of the partially naked communal fun.