Hackers hit pay dirt in "underwear run" | March 23, 2012 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - March 23, 2012

Hackers hit pay dirt in "underwear run"

Dojo backers strip down to raise money for building upgrades

by Daniel DeBolt

A Saint Patrick's Day "underwear run" helped Mountain View's Hacker Dojo raise money towards getting its building code compliant after the city threatened to close the community center for computer programmers.

Just over 40 people dressed down for an outer garment-optional "Fire Escape Race" and bake sale at the Dojo, which raised $3,500, bringing total contributions over the last six weeks to $60,000.

The non-profit's leased building is in need of several improvements to meet codes, including fire sprinklers and exits to legally hold large events of 49 or more people. The Dojo has had to cancel such events following a city crackdown.

"We couldn't register more runners because we couldn't go over the limit," said Katy Levinson, development director for the Dojo. "We probably could have made more money."

The Dojo has become an incubator for tech start-ups, including media-sharing website Pinterest, whose CEO Ben Silberman reportedly spent long hours at the Dojo refining the site before it was launched a year ago.

The race, which was not billed as a competition, started at 1 p.m. and went for a mile down Dana, Pioneer and Evelyn streets while boom boxes played such songs as "I'm sexy and I know it." Runners included the color-coordinated "sparkling spandex brigade," which in true hacker fashion used a spreadsheet to ensure that each person wore different color underwear.

The last person to complete the loop had walked the whole way and was given a high-five by the rest of the group as he came in.

"I was really impressed and proud of the community," Levinson said. "We live in a community with really high standards of physical appearance but there were people of all shapes and sizes and everybody was cool with it."

Afterwards the runners enjoyed "an afternoon of drinking and merrymaking" at the Dojo. Members even came up with their own drink for the occasion, dubbed the "Fire Escape shot," Levinson said.

The Dojo is trying to raise $250,000 for building improvements, including fire sprinklers, fire exits and American Disabilities Act-compliant bathrooms after the city threatened to close the center down in February for not meeting city and state building codes. The city backed off when the Dojo began installing a fire alarm, the bare minimum to continue operating as a shared office space and "social living room," but the Dojo has had to cancel its regular job fairs and classes that bring in more than 49 people.

The Dojo's fundraising so far includes a $10,000 donation from Microsoft, $1,000 from tech startup Factual, $10,000 from Palantir Technologies and $20,000 from Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm behind Pinterest.

For more on the Dojo's fundraising efforts, go to hackerdojo.com/Assemble.

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com


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