BOOM AND BUST

If ping-pong table sales are falling, then Silicon Valley is clearly doomed

If you’re a cool, hip tech company, you need a ping-pong table.

The game has become synonymous with global startup culture. Organizations like Startup Ping Pong and the San Francisco Ping-Pong League have popped up across Silicon Valley. In Australia, a ping-pong table is tax-deductible for certain businesses.

But can they be used a leading indicator on the state of Silicon Valley—a place where startup employees keep $100 Butterfly-branded paddles in their desk drawers? Maybe, according to The Wall Street Journal (paywall).

In the first quarter of 2016, sales of ping-pong tables dropped by 50% compared with the previous quarter, according to Billiard Wholesale, a store in San Jose, California that supplies tech companies in the area. In the same period, venture-capital funding of startups dropped by a quarter, the WSJ noted.

The drop in sales also be explained by the growing ire to perks like ping-pong tables, which are now being seen as overrated. It’s been described as “a patchwork repair covering foundational problems.” With workers now more likely to get free food than health insurance, it’s no wonder the tables are starting to turn.

Billiard Wholesale’s owner Simon Ng—who is obviously doing well as he drives a Porsche Boxster—said that in February, when the tech-heavy Nasdaq index fell to its lowest in more than a year, he sold the fewest ping-pong tables to companies since at least 2014. He told the WSJ he believes the drop in sales reflects a “general slowdown” in Silicon Valley.

Ng noted that Twitter was buying a lot of tables, and then suddenly stopped in the last quarter. (Twitter is not doing so well, at least as far its stock is concerned.) And even-more troubled Yahoo hasn’t “bought stuff in a looong time,” he told the WSJ, not since a purple foosball table.

Though he advised against making any investment decisions based on ping-pong table sales.

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