What I Saw At The Party Attended By 4,500 Techies, VCs, And Entrepreneurs In Downtown San Francisco

Startup and Tech Mixer is not your typical, boring, grab-a-bunch-of-business-cards and make small talk networking function.

Held on three floors at San Francisco’s W Hotel, the barely year-old event is part conference with a dash of networking, an exhibition for new startups, with lots of alcohol thrown in. And, it’s also a lot of fun.

“It’s important to create an all-inclusive vibe,” said Ari Kalfayan, who helped start the mixer a year ago with a few friends, having just 75 people showing up to the first event.

Now the event has certainly grown up, with Kalfayan telling Business Insider that the mixer on Friday hosted roughly 4,500 attendees, all mingling between speakers, bars, games, and yes, even a bounce house.

Just a short walk from Business Insider's West Coast offices is the W Hotel in the South of Market (SoMa) area.

It's in a pretty nice spot, right across the street from the Museum of Modern Art.

After a quick check-in and ticket scan -- no paper here, it's EventBrite QR codes -- we're in. Here's what people could expect.

The first floor was a good spot to meet new friends and get lots of free food.

After grabbing some grub and my nametag, I checked out what else could be seen on the other two floors.

One thing that couldn't be missed: bars everywhere.

The mixer had different sections, like the Gaming Lounge (pictured here), the BPM Lounge, and Wearable Tech Corner.

Inside the Gaming Lounge, there were some older classics ...

... But quite a few people were crowded around a demo of Anki Drive.

It looks like a typical race track with mini-cars to race, but the interesting difference with Anki Drive is it's controlled by iPhones.

A bounce house in the back drew a bit of crowd.

The people inside were tied up to the back and had to get balls into the holes in the center.

But these kids were a little big, so there were some technical difficulties at times.

Then there was this game, basically an updated version of 'Whack-a-Mole.' Ben Feibleman (left), of voice-cloning startup VivoText, was, well, intense.

I also found some interesting drones on a table, teasing of the next Startup and Tech Mixer event.

Besides the games, attendees could check out some speakers.

There were six talks/panels in total, with topics on leadership, how to build solid products, or learning stories of other startups.

And there were plenty of startups in attendance, showing off their stuff.

This was Maptiv8, a company that creates interesting visualizations of organisations. They have had success mapping graduating classes of colleges, for example.

GoBoldly built a smartphone app to let people connect with friends or strangers to have offline fun, like going surfing or hiking.

Ari Kalfayan, who helped put together the mixer, is also cofounder and CEO of GoBoldly, which he explained was all about finding 'participatory events.'

Bitpay, a payment processor for companies wanting to accept Bitcoin, had plenty of interest.

But even in Silicon Valley, John Dreyzehner, Bitpay's head of West Coast Operations, always first asked, 'Do you know what Bitcoin is?'

The folks from Pebble were also around. Robel Yemiru (left) was explaining their latest smartwatch.

And, of course, showing it off. Their latest version is called Pebble Steel.

Uber, one of the event sponsors, was also there ...

... Giving out free hats, sunglasses, and credits for Uber rides.

From talks, networking, or learning what's new in tech -- it was all here.

And if the mixer's crazy growth in the past year serves as any guide, it seems it's only going to get better.

You saw a bunch of cool Silicon Valley startups ....

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