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Tech firms try to outperk one another

Silicon Valley companies hope to keep innovation flowing with freebies and fun, such as go-cart racing and cash prizes.

March 28, 2010|By Jessica Guynn

It eventually opened 16 cafes that serve up free, mouthwatering meals to the growing workforce at its Mountain View headquarters, which also boasts swimming pools and volleyball courts.

It offers other enticements such as free on-site medical care, laundry facilities and fitness centers as well as subsidized personal trainers and massages. Company shuttle buses equipped with wireless Internet ferry more than 1,400 employees to and from Google offices daily.

Not to be outdone, Facebook lured away one of Google's top chefs, Josef Desimone, who prepares 14,000 meals a week for his new employer. It also lifted Google's idea of shuttling employees through the Bay Area's congested corridors.

As its workforce exploded to 1,200, Facebook added family-friendly policies. Raquel DiSabatino, who manages consumer marketing programs for Facebook, recently returned from four months of paid maternity leave. Through a program called Baby Cash, Facebook gave her $4,000 to help pay for baby gear.

Zynga may have some of the more generous perks, said Amitt Mahajan, a lead developer on the company's popular game FarmVille who won a $5,000 quarterly award and took his girlfriend to Spain.

His colleague Ginger Larsen, an associate on another popular Zynga game, Mafia Wars, is hooked on the company-paid once-a-week acupuncture treatments, which appeared to cure stomachaches that had bothered her all her life.

Even with all the perks, Zynga's Chief People Officer Colleen McCreary says, the company is trying to work to prevent a potential fallout: a culture of entitlement.

"We do have a workforce for whom this is their first job out of school," McCreary said. "I worry if they ever wanted to go work somewhere else. What a shock to the system that would be."

jessica.guynn@ latimes.com

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