Instead of doing boring team-building activities, Silicon Valley technology companies are doing scavenger hunts organised Joe Garvey, founder of a startup called Clash.
“We take drinking, competition, and technology, and combine them to make awesome scavenger hunts for companies like Google, Facebook, and Salesforce,” Garvey says. “We blow their minds.”
Clash evolved out of the California League Of Adult Scavenger Hunters, which Garvey organised to get people romping around different San Francisco neighborhoods doing goofy challenges.
After a few seasons of competition, a friend at Google hired him to do a hunt for its new interns. Then, Dreamworks called him up to set something up on the theme of the movie Shrek. That’s when it clicked for Garvey: Scavenger hunts could become a business.
He and his four colleagues now travel all around the country setting up scavenger hunts, often for tech companies. Clash has done ten hunts for Google, eight each for Facebook and Salesforce, half a dozen for Vox, and also counts Lyft, Eventbrite, Yelp, Pinterest, Fitbit, Cisco, Pandora, and Sony among its clients.
Each event is a combination of checkpoints and challenges, and everything is documented with pictures taken through Clash’s app. A team might have to squish all its members into an elevator, fist-bump a Lyft driver, or cartwheel down the street. Once, a hunt included finding a clue hidden on the tower of a San Francisco hotel (planted there without permission). Unfortunately, on the day of the hunt, Hilary Clinton happened to be staying at the hotel, and Garvey said that a lot of his teams were escorted out by the Secret Service.
Typically, an event will start with drinking, as teams meet at a bar (or on a party bus) to get decked out in neon headbands and war-paint. As hype music blares in the background, Garvey will lead employees through power-lunges and other stretches. Clash’s motto is “Team building that doesn’t suck,” and its ethos clearly appeals to Silicon Valley tech companies who are looking for new ways to boost team spirit.
“Doing workshops about communication, or going bowling… it’s lame,” he says. “We’re high octane.”
The average cost is $US100 a person, but a customised hunt can cost more (Google took its employees on a hunt through a winery that cost $US200 per person). Each one can include up to 1,000 people, but the largest they have done so far has been 400.
“We did 50 events in 2012, 130 in 2013, and if we don’t do 400 events (or about $US1 million in revenue) this year, I actually have to get my nipples pierced,” Garvey says. “I tried to motivate my team with some drastic consequences, but I sort of regret doing that.”