Silicon Valley’s elite have a number of upscale places where they can mingle, but come early next year, they’ll have another: The Cuckoo’s Nest.
A new club that is billed as the “ultimate indoor/outdoor dining, drinking, and special events venue” for “founders, CEOs, investors and artists” is scheduled to open near the headquarters of Facebook
. The goal: A techie version of the business clubs of yesteryear, where corporate scions wearing suits and ties lounged in big leather chairs to talk deals, puff cigars and sip bourbon.
Early members include billionaire investor Mark Cuban, Google SVP David Drummond and Tim Draper, managing director of venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, according to the club’s web site. As for the club’s name? It’s a riff off of Ken Kesey’s 1962 bestseller, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
The club, in Menlo Park, Calif., is the work of Tony Perkins, a Silicon Valley wheeler-dealer who runs the AlwaysOn tech conferences and is a venture capitalist with DFJ Frontier. BootUp Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in and advises startups, is also a partner.
While it’s unclear what the criteria is for becoming a member, early Cuckoo’s Nest members are predominantly CEOs, founders and venture capitalists — somewhat at odds with Silicon Valley’s supposed egalitarian ethos. Membership, which costs $2,500 annually, is capped at 1,200 with an eye towards diversity, which may be difficult to achieve given the tech industry’s heavily skewed demographics of mainly white and Asian males. For example, the Cuckoo’s Nest plans for 51% of its members to be women, according to a marketing pitch written by Perkins and obtained by Fortune. And to attract younger people, the club offers a discounted $1,000 annual membership to those under 30.
Although The Cuckoo’s Nest is still under construction and opens early next year, Perkins is holding several “pre-launch” parties. The club also has regular live entertainment and speakers like Cuban and well-known Benchmark Capital partner Bill Gurley scheduled.
“The Valley does not have a place where entrepreneurs can find each other and hang out at,” Draper says in a club e-mail soliciting new members, breathlessly titled, “CONFIDENTIAL.” He went on to describe The Cuckoo’s Nest as the “perfect vision and perfect spot to make this happen.”
Perfect or not, Silicon Valley execs, founders and investors already have plenty of options if they want to meet up. The five-star Rosewood Sand Hill remains a go-to spot for meetings and private dinners, even if is habitually overrun by “cougars” looking to land a wealthy techie. And the Epiphany Hotel’s Lure + Till restaurant in Palo Alto, Calif. has fast become a casual favorite for younger entrepreneurs since opening this spring.
Then there’s The Battery, the five-story San Francisco social club. The space, filled with dark wood and exposed brick, cost $13.5 million for entrepreneur couple Michael and Xochi Birch to buy and an undisclosed amount of money to renovate into a luxurious space to see and be seen. The Battery draws luminaries like Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and famed Apple designer Jonathan Ive, as well as execs from Twitter
, Airbnb, Dropbox and other tech companies. Members pay $2,400 in annual fees, $100 less than what The Cuckoo’s Nest is asking of many members.
Early Cuckoo’s Nest members like Brian Wong, CEO and founder of the mobile ad network Kiip, contend the Valley could use more hotspots like The Battery, which is why signed up early. Wong is also an admirer of Perkins, who founded the tech-focused magazine Red Herring in 1993. (The magazine ceased publication in 2003 after the dot-com crash.)
“I think he [Perkins] is one of the best candidates to do something like this,” says Wong, who apparently has a big appetite for schmoozing. “He’s a gatherer of people, and I use his events as a litmus test of how this club might be.”
Perkins did not respond to Fortune’s requests for comment.
Andrea Zurek, co-founder of the venture capital firm XG Ventures and a Battery member also, splits her time evenly between San Francisco and the rest of the San Francisco Peninsula. So the idea of a Battery-like experience in Menlo Park, 40 minutes outside the city, proved compelling. “Because I am a female person in venture, I also liked that they wanted a nice, healthy mix between females, males, startup folks and VCs,” Zurek added.
Not everyone is a Cuckoo’s Nest fan, however. A number of other execs and entrepreneurs Fortune spoke to for this story balked at the idea of paying thousands a year to hobnob with fellow techies.
“I mean, who has the time to go to a membership club?” argues one startup founder, who declined a membership offer from Perkins. “Entrepreneurs should be heads-down and building.”
(Clarification: An earlier version of this story cited Tinder founder Sean Rad as a member of The Cuckoo’s Nest. In fact, a Tinder spokesman said Rad is not a member, although he is listed as one on the club’s website.)