With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

When Jeffrey Wang posted Monday to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral. He said so many others wanted in, he could have ordered over 100 units.
 “I had way too many people than I could handle,” Wang, cofounder of AI research startup Exa Labs, told TechCrunch. “I wanted to order two nap pods for ourselves, and see how they turned out. I had 100-plus demand.”
I'm buying Japanese capsule beds as nap pods for our new SF office. If you want to bulk order with me, they should be something like $1000/bed.

Please DM me if interested!

Comparable products sold in the US cost like $15K pic.twitter.com/eker5y4LfZ
The post didn’t just hit a nerve with other X users who wanted a nap at work. Some people joked about the hygiene of sharing a bed with office mates. One replied, “The last thing I want to do is share bedsheets with my software developer coworkers.”
Many admired the particular features of these nap pods, or applauded the whole idea of office napping. “every modern office should have one    no different than napping on a 15 hour flight     some task require the better inference that rem sleep gets you [sic]” responded another.
A few pointed out the more obvious question. Why would an employer expect people to sleep in the office instead of go home? Or as one post responder put it: “Nothing is a bigger red flag that [sic] a potential employer showing off their ‘nap pods.’ I’d be outta there.”
The answer is simple: Silicon Valley startup hustle culture is back, especially in Cerebral Valley, the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco that’s filled with early-stage AI startups, often founded and staffed with 20-somethings who make their companies their whole lives. Hustle culture went out of favor in the post pandemic years, when people had moved away from both their offices and San Francisco. 
But Hacker houses in San Francisco are popular again. And Cerebral Valley is its own cultural phenom, where those who believe in the future of AI (or fear it) live in such houses and go the same parties.
In the case of Exa Labs, the need for nap pods is a natural extension of its hacker house history. Exa is a 10-person startup that was, until a few weeks ago, in such a house, where co-workers of tiny companies work and live together. 
“Like a lot of companies in that area, we worked out of our house. We converted two bedrooms into a big office,” Wang said, adding that everyone worked, hung out, ate together. “And that scaled to like nine people.” 
So the nap pods maintain employees’ ability to stop work and sleep, rather than the idea that “employees are slaves,” he said. 
“We live in a world where you don’t always get perfect sleep. As much as you prioritize it, sometimes you get a bad night,” Wang said. “If people are tired, they should be able to take a nap. Sleep is basic for productivity.”
But he also admits that, in his view as a founder, startup life requires an all-in commitment. 
“Startup life is not for everyone. My co-founder and I went to Harvard and experienced, like, really, really hard grueling semesters,” he said. “But this is something on another level, you know? This startup thing is, like, way harder than I ever anticipated.” 
The company is a Y Combinator-graduate that trains LLM models to perform search functions when they need to access sources of data, or the internet. Wang says its offering is being used by about 100 paying customers, and tens of thousands of developers, ranging from other AI startups to researchers and AI labs.
Employees at Exa Labs are “well paid” Wang said, and have equity. So the company’s attitude is, “if you’re not in, you’re out,” he says. “Maybe at some startups, it’s okay for the company to not be your main priority in life, but like, definitely not at a high-growth one.”
That translates into long hours and, if not living at the office, then at least napping there. As the saying goes, “Code, sleep, repeat.”
As someone who has covered the ups and downs of startups for many years, I can say definitively that there comes a time in a growing company’s life when such hustle culture has to be toned down, or what the company is really doing is poor project and employee management. 
The time for reasonable work hour expectations should come when hiring has grown beyond the ability to dish out handsome early-employee equity; or at a size when more employment laws apply. Or simply when the team starts adding people with families who want to go home to them every night.
As for clean sheets in Exa’s nap pods, that won’t be a problem, Wang says. “We had a toga party to celebrate a rebrand and we bought 30-40 sheets. We have plenty of sheets.”
Every weekday and Sunday, you can get the best of TechCrunch’s coverage.
Startups are the core of TechCrunch, so get our best coverage delivered weekly.
The latest Fintech news and analysis, delivered every Sunday.
TechCrunch Mobility is your destination for transportation news and insight.
By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice.
Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…
Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…
When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.
OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…
A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…
When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…
Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…
After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…
Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…
Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.
IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…
YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…
Featured Article
CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.
TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…
Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.
Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.
A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…
Featured Article
Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.
Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.
Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.
The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.
The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…
U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…
OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…
X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.
For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…
Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.
We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…
Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…
What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.
Powered by WordPress VIP


Leave a Comment

Vélemény, hozzászólás?

Az e-mail címet nem tesszük közzé. A kötelező mezőket * karakterrel jelöltük