Photo: The French Laundry
After we posted a photo of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Apple SVP Jony Ive, and 10 other powerful and connected Silicon Valley executives having dinner, a couple of sources mentioned that these dinners are a monthly event and have been going on for a while.Sometimes they’re posh events at restaurants like The French Laundry. Sometimes they’re more homespun affairs at an executive’s home.
These CEO dinners, it seems, are one of the tech world’s open secrets. There’s a regular crew, centered around Nextdoor CEO Nirav Tolia and Google executive Mike Cassidy. Both Tolia and Cassidy, as it happens, have been entrepreneurs-in-residence at Benchmark Capital.
A March 2012 profile of Tolia mentions a “supper club” of influential tech figures. This appears to be the fruition of that plan.
Tolia is a veteran networker, having cofounded a less hoity-toity business-networking group, Round Zero, which flourished during the first dotcom boom. He subsequently drew scrutiny for making up an academic degree and a stint at McKinsey on his resume, which led him to step down from his job as COO of Shopping.com, a product-search company later acquired by eBay. That blot on his career history, which led him to spend a few years in exile from the tech world in the middle of the past decade, has not hurt him with Silicon Valley insiders.
Cassidy has frequently chronicled these dinners on Facebook. Regulars include Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, PayPal cofounder Max Levchin, LinkedIn chairman Reid Hoffman, and SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg.
We find it fascinating that the group has even drawn founders who are reputed introverts, like Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann and Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo.
Here are the dates, captions, and guest lists Cassidy published, with our annotations.
January 16, 2013: “Super amazing CEO dinner hosted by Nirav Tolia with special guests Jony Ive, Marissa Mayer, Dick Costolo, and Dave Morin! — with [Dropbox CEO] Drew Houston, Trevor Traina, [Path CEO] Dave Morin, [Twitter CEO] Dick Costolo, [entrepreneur] Dion Lim, [Nextdoor CEO] Nirav Tolia, [Yelp CEO] Jeremy Stoppelman, [Bebo cofounder] Michael Birch, [Yahoo CEO] Marissa Mayer, [Apple SVP] Jonathan ‘Jony’ Ive and [Quip CEO] Bret Taylor.”
December 13, 2012: “Drew Houston, [PayPal cofounder] Max Levchin, [Square COO] Keith Rabois and [LinkedIn chairman] Reid Garrett Hoffman. December CEO dinner at KR’s awesome pad with beautiful view of SF! — with [SurveyMonkey CEO] Dave Goldberg, Nirav Tolia, Max Levchin, Jeremy Stoppelman, Michael Birch, Reid Garrett Hoffman, Dion Lim and Drew Houston.”
November 14, 2012: “This month’s CEO dinner – at SOMA Streatfood Park (thanks Bret Taylor for a super fun time!). — with Nirav Tolia, Trevor Traina, [Salesforce.com CEO] Marc Benioff, Jeremy Stoppelman, Max Levchin, Bret Taylor and Dion Lim.”
September 24, 2012: “CEO dinner – another fun one!! — with Dave Goldberg, Michael Birch, Dion Lim, Nirav Tolia, Dick Costolo, [Netflix CEO] Reed Hastings, Max Levchin, [Pinterest CEO] Ben Silbermann, Bret Taylor, Reid Garrett Hoffman, Drew Houston, and [Quora CEO] Adam D’Angelo.”
August 15, 2012: “CEO dinner at French Laundry this month! Thanks Dave Goldberg!!! — with [former Yahoo executive turned entrepreneur] Lorna Borenstein, Jeremy Stoppelman, Dion Lim, Trevor Traina, Nirav Tolia, Drew Houston, Dave Goldberg, Bret Taylor and [HP executive] Bill Veghte.”
April 18, 2012: “With [PayPal CEO] David Marcus, Michael Birch, Dave Goldberg, Trevor Traina, Drew Houston, [celebrity chef] Gary Danko, Max Levchin, Marc Benioff, Dion Lim, Jeremy Stoppelman, Bret Taylor, Nirav Tolia and Reid Garrett Hoffman at Gary Danko’s house.”
February 22, 2012: “This month’s CEO dinner – thanks Max. Special guest [Daily Mail chairman] Lord Rothermere! — with Bret Taylor, [TrialPay CEO] Alastair Rampell, Reid Hoffman, Nirav Tolia, Max Levchin and Marc Benioff.”
January 31, 2012: “This month’s CEO dinner. LOTS of exciting things happening for many of us. :) — with Dion Lim, Michael Birch, Trevor Traina, Marc Benioff, Jeremy Stoppelman, Max Levchin, Bret Taylor, Nirav Tolia, Dave Goldberg and [oDesk chairman] Thomas Layton.”
December 14, 2011: “Another fun CEO dinner. Jeremy Stoppelman was amazing host at AT&T park – drinks in the dugout and dinner in the locker room! — with Dion Lim, Nirav Tolia, Dave Goldberg, [then-FCC chairman] Julius Genachowski, Max Levchin and Reid Hoffman.”
Octoer 19, 2011: “Fabulous CEO dinner thanks to Trevor Traina tonight! Special guests [Microsoft CEO] Steve Ballmer, [DST founder and Facebook investor] Yuri Milner, [Zynga CEO] Mark Pincus, Dick Costolo, and more! — with Bret Taylor, Reid Hoffman, Dion Lim, Yuri Milner, Trevor Traina, Drew Houston, Steve Ballmer, Michael Birch, Nirav Tolia, Max Levchin, Yen Lee and Marc Benioff.”
September 21, 2011: “CEO dinner this month…. at Fleur de Lys. :) — with [Simply Hired chairman] Gautam Godhwani, Bret Taylor, Michael Birch, Nirav Tolia, Trevor Traina, Drew Houston, Marissa Mayer, Dion Lim and Max Levchin.”
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