A launch party is thrown by a company to celebrate the release of a new product or service. It has become associated with software and the technology industry due to the lavish and costly launches thrown by companies in the Silicon Valley. A company will throw a this type of party to draw in potential new customers and to increase public exposure for their brand name, using a open bar, catered food, and a variety of entertainers. Most of these events represent a substantial investment for the company, with some parties costing as much as $250,000 US Dollars (USD).
The dot-com launch party which has come to symbolize the elaborate launch industry emerged in the early 1990s, when software companies held small internal parties to celebrate the acquisition of a domain name, an initial public offering, or the successful release of new software. These parties expanded to include other companies in the computer industry, and became an excellent way to network, exchanging ideas and sometimes staff as well.
In the late 1990s, the launch party took off, with some cities such as San Francisco hosting upwards of 20 such parties a week in spaces ranging from exclusive venues to rented convention centers. As more companies started to have these events, the pressure to have a catchy gimmick or draw increased, with most companies consulting with party planning firms for their expensive soirees. Many firms also hoped to use the launch party for new employee recruitment, projecting a forceful, trendy image of the company to prospective new employees.
At a minimum, an event like this has freebies for guests such as branded clothing or bags, while some upscale ones have gift bags filled with expensive branded items. The launch party also includes high quality catered food and drink, and entertainment. Circus performers, famous musicians, and everything in between can be found at these parties, as companies struggle to differentiate themselves from the competition.
With the increase in popularity came an increase in size, and most launch parties do not serve as a networking venue anymore. Critics of this practice have suggested that it is an expensive and outdated ritual, with many guests simply crashing the party in search of food and drink. The goal of brand promotion is not often accomplished, with some companies being famous for their launches, rather than their brand.