Lava lamps in the foyer, random dogs running free down hallways, scooters, beer kegs in the garden and the Grateful Dead's chef serving up gourmet food on tap. This may sound like a hit-list of the crazy excesses of dot-com frippery that typified the tech boom years but if this kind of corporate culture was supposed to have died with Netscape or the UK's Boo.com it seems no one has told Google.
On a recent trip to San Francisco I got to see first-hand that for the zeitgeist setting search start-up the Silicon Valley dream is still very much alive and well thank you very much.
The Googleplex, as the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, is affectionately if slightly pretentiously known, is a sprawling nest of rather nondescript buildings set in the kind of landscaped gardens favoured by business-park architects and retirement home designers. The only thing to mark out the fact that you've strayed into the Google Zone is the company's familiar logo on a discrete sign outside the main building -- that and a 30-foot trailer flying a skull and cross bones.
This, I am later informed, is the kitchen where the aforementioned rock cook -- Charlie Ayers -- provides free round the clock meals to the 1,000 or so Googleites in the surrounding complex. Right now, the kitchen isn't being put to much use -- not because it's around 2pm and lunch is over but because to celebrate the end of summer Google has laid on a BBQ, complete with marquee, live DJs and beer keg. Not bad, even if it is Friday.