As many of you may have observed, we’re in the midst of something of a tech bubble, in which two-letter apps have the potential to sell for billions and dick-pic messaging services are king. A lot of people are worried about said bubble and, sure, maybe you should be too, but before it bursts, you might as well take advantage. If you’re stuck at the drawing board and/or don’t currently count yourself among the upper echelons of the tech community, there is an alternative: try landing a last-minute gig as a “Sherpa” to a well-connected million or billionaire at this month’s Burning Man, where peyote-laced ideas apparently abound.

If you have never been to Burning Man, your perception is likely this: a white-hot desert filled with 50,000 stoned, half-naked hippies doing sun salutations while techno music thumps through the air. A few years ago, this assumption would have been mostly correct. But now things are a little different. Over the last two years, Burning Man, which this year runs from Aug. 25 to Sept. 1, has been the annual getaway for a new crop of millionaire and billionaire technology moguls, many of whom are one-upping one another in a secret game of I-can-spend-more-money-than-you-can and, some say, ruining it for everyone else…

Tyler Hanson, who started going to Burning Man in 1995, decided a couple of years ago to try working as a paid Sherpa at one of these luxury camps. He described the experience this way: Lavish R.V.s are driven in and connected together to create a private forted area, ensuring that no outsiders can get in. The rich are flown in on private planes, then picked up at the Burning Man airport, driven to their camp and served like kings and queens for a week. (Their meals are prepared by teams of chefs, which can include sushi, lobster boils and steak tartare — yes, in the middle of 110-degree heat.) “Your food, your drugs, your costumes are all handled for you, so all you have to do is show up,” Mr. Hanson said. “In the camp where I was working, there were about 30 Sherpas for 12 attendees.” Mr. Hanson said he won’t be going back to Burning Man anytime soon. The Sherpas, the money, the blockaded camps and the tech elite were too much for him. “The tech start-ups now go to Burning Man and eat drugs in search of the next greatest app,” he said. “Burning Man is no longer a counterculture revolution. It’s now become a mirror of society.”

A Line Is Drawn In The Desert [NYT]

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Comments (11)

  1. Posted by guest | August 21, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    I will be her sherpa.

  2. Posted by guest | August 21, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    once a tech nerd, always a tech nerd

  3. Posted by guest | August 21, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    these people sound absolutely insufferable, and that's coming from a finance guy who knows just how insufferable his own industry is.

  4. Posted by Narcissus Bellicose | August 21, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    Aside from the anal fissures, being a Sherpa was a great gig!

  5. Posted by Kent Brantly | August 21, 2014 at 2:26 PM

    Thank god I was discharged just in time for Burning Man.

  6. Posted by guest | August 21, 2014 at 2:30 PM

    I guess you're not really wealthy these days until you can get the approval of thousands of desert hippies.

  7. Posted by Jon Shazar | August 21, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    Anal fissures > Being a virgin? Please discuss.

  8. Posted by Guest | August 21, 2014 at 4:12 PM

    That's a dude in that pic, right?

  9. Posted by Guest | August 21, 2014 at 5:04 PM

    Not by silicon valley standards, He's hotter than most of the chicks and buffer than most of the dudes.

  10. Posted by guest | August 21, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    “The tech start-ups now go to Burning Man and eat drugs in search of the next greatest app"

    Call me old fashioned, but I don't like to mix my work with my acid.

  11. Posted by Tree falling | August 22, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    If a bunch of hippies tore apart tech 'moguls' in the desert would anyone notice?