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Pranks as Prologue

One day while looking out at San Francisco Bay from a fourth floor window in the American Industrial Center, engineer Adam Rodriguez tossed one of Ardica Technologies' Moshi battery-based power systems to the ground to see if the Moshi could withstand the damage. It did. When another engineer went to retrieve the Moshi, he was bombarded with water balloons.

“Oh no, they haven't grown up,” said Miriam Dower, Ardica's office manager and marketing coordinator.

The laughter that followed the water balloons seemed to echo from a nearby place – a former California horse farm that was converted in 1891 into Stanford University. Ardica Technologies – like Yahoo, Google, Hewlett Packard... and The North Face – incubated at Leland Stanford's old ranch. The founders of Ardica, former Stanford students, brought a joyous fraternity-like culture into the company.

The Ardica Technologies' traditions included pranking employees on their birthday. When CEO Dick Martin's birthday came up, every employee dressed the way Dick dressed every day – black Izod shirt and white khaki pants. Each of the young engineers carried an overflowing briefcase, just like the CEO, who was more than twice their age. There is a photograph of several employees all standing next to Dick, dressed just like him as if all were his clones. Halfway though the day after seeing all the employees dressed this way, Dick, oblivious, turned to one engineer, Martin Corpos, and he told him that he thought Martin was dressed “rather sharp.”

Pranks weren't just for birthdays either. The engineers at Ardica Technologies liked to play with fire, literally. Setting a flame to follow a precise line of ethol alcohol to startle a fellow engineer was considered a riot.

“The most memorable prank? Well, outside of our CEO, I have the biggest propensity for falling asleep at my desk,” said Martin Corpos. “We were working and I was sound asleep when the guys laid down a ring of ethol alcohol around my desk and then lit one end while a ring of fire surrounded my desk. It's a crazy feeling to wake up that hot.”

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