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Ask HN:I'm selling all my stuff and moving to SF to work on my startup. Advice?
47 points by il on Aug 8, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments
I finished college in the Midwest this year, and I've decided San Francisco will be the best possible place for me to live as I build my business. I don't have any serious commitments, I paid off all my student loans and my company is bootstrapped and profitable, so moving to SF shouldn't be very difficult, and I'm not too scared of the cost of living increase. I plan to fly to SF in about two weeks and then look for a place to live once I get there.

That said, I still need your help if you live in SF or have gone through a move like this before.

My questions:

1. Where should I live? I would like to live somewhere close to the startup scene, with a vibrant neighborhood and safe enough that I don't have to worry about walking around alone at night.

I'm leaning heavily towards the Mission right now, maybe SOMA if I can find a nice place there. Is there a specific area of the Mission I should focus on?

2. Where should I stay as I look for a place to live? A hostel? Are those $150 a week hotel postings on Craigslist legit?

Or, if anyone is interested in letting me crash on their couch for a few days in exchange for marketing/SEO/PPC/getting traffic consulting that would be great :)

3.What events/meetups should I attend once I get there to meet like-minded people?

4. Any other advice about living in SF that would be helpful to a newcomer? What do you wish you had known when you moved to the bay area?

Thanks in advance for your comments. Hopefully this thread could become a good resource for others looking to move to the Bay Area. It would be great to get in touch with others doing something similar, please email me at ilya[at]unviral.com.

(2.) I just moved to SF ~4 weeks ago. I lived in one of those antique hotels while looking for a place the first week I was here. I probably should have gone the AirBnB route instead, but it was still cheap and not all that bad.

(1.) I kind of lucked out by finding a good roommate situation through college friends. We ended up getting a really good deal in the Nob Hill area, which I like a lot so far. If it weren't for my roommate who is more into the "Marina bro" scene, I probably would be living in Cole Valley, Hayes Valley, Duboce Triangle, or the Mission with a rando off CL (which I hear isn't weird like it is elsewhere - I'm from Dallas).

(3.) I have no idea... When you find something cool, let me know. I actually met the guys/startup I work with/for at a YC event. Twitter, HN, and even blogs are always good places to meet new people, though.

(4.) I never realized how urban/densely populated SF was. Parking, grocery shopping, doing laundry, and receiving packages are all huge hassles (for me at least).

I walk to get around way more than I ever have. Invest in comfy socks and walking shoes and adjust your diet accordingly?

I also never expected it to be so cool out here. I wear a jacket every morning on my walk to work and a fleece or sweater for the rest of the day.

The food out here is really good. Every restaurant seems to take their food/service extremely seriously, which is cool.

There are tons of tourists everywhere - many from Europe.

I'm still a noob to SF, but it's pretty cool so far. I kind of just jumped in and am figuring everything out as I go...

Good luck! :)

By cool he means cold - it's best to wear layers in SF because you'll be adding / removing them throughout the day depending on where you're at. The Mission is hot and Outer Sunset is freezing. Spring, Summer, and winter are cold, fall is warm.

But yeah, SF is also cool...

my roommate who is more into the "Marina bro" scene

Can you explain what "Marina bro" is? I did google it w/ no luck. I know where the Marina area is, but that's about it. Sorry, East coast here.

This explains the "Marina bro" better than I could: http://uptownalmanac.com/2010/07/wont-you-be-my-bromate

1. San Francisco, as a city, isn't that big. I don't think its worth focusing on having to be in one particular area of it, simply because everyone else is. You don't have to worry about traveling to/from the city until you're in Berkeley or Mountain View or elsewhere in the bay area. Worst case, you take a cab. And I can't think of a scenario where it would cost over $20 (tip included) to go somewhere within the city by cab.

I spent the summer in the Bernal Heights area,(pretty close to the southern edge of the city - just south of the Mission). Its somewhat far away from SoMA (30-45m by muni + bart -- made this trip daily to go into the office, its not that bad). I've really never had any problems getting around the city whenever I need to go somewhere.

2. It'll take more than a weekend to find a place, but likely less than a month. I'd suggest to sublet for a month, but, no reason why you can't use AirBnB or something similar on a weekly basis.

3. Most of the events/meetups I follow are for iPhone/Mac dev-type things, not marketing (which seems to be your area of interest). So I can't help you there, sorry. But, if that is your cup of tea, there's weekly NSCoder night, an iOS Dev Camp coming up in a few weeks, and so on. Github has one, the Cappuccino folks do, etc. Lots of stuff going on.

4. There's no such thing as a weekly muni/bart pass. Maybe its because I'm used to NYC where the MTA has these, but, this really surprised me.

There's a weekly Muni pass, though it's harder to find and intended for tourists.


BART has no passes, but if you pay $10 extra for a monthly Muni pass, it'll work on BART within the city (only). That's what I did before I decided the mission was too grim'n'gritty.

To the original poster: Muni buses are notoriously unpredictable, as in sometimes they just don't show up and the next one is filled to capacity. Muni trains are pretty reliable (except for some complaints that the N-Judah can turn back before the outer sunset), and BART runs like clockwork (off grade FTW).

I do marketing for a living but I'm also pretty technical, so tech/startup events are definitely something I'm interested in. Something like Hackers and Founders would be exactly what I'm looking for.

Bernal Heights to Soma on foot: 30-45 min

Bernal Heights to Soma on bike: 10-15 min

1) the mission is great for living, but soma is better for getting work done (and closer to most things startup related)

2) if you find someone who lets you crash on their couch, go for it. give a few neighborhoods a try before you settle down! my first place that wasn't a friend's couch was a warehouse listed on airbnb. worked great and gave me the time to figure out where i really wanted to live.

3) it feels like people here are perpetually busy and barely have the time to hang out even with their closest friends. there's a seemingly endless supply of interesting people too. few strangers will throw a welcome party for you even if you are awesome (unlike where i am from). that makes people seem unwelcoming to a certain degree initially, but don't worry, it just takes a bit to grow into a social circle here and then you'll be perpetually busy and socially oversaturated too.

4) it's much easier to approach people when you have something to talk about. unless your project is in full gear, you might have an easier time getting to know interesting people through doing interesting things or sports. startup meetups and such work too, but being active together or even just picnicking together in dolores park gives you an entirely different connection. there's a lot of fun and cool stuff happening here that's not startup focused, and it's easy to join in and offer to help, and you'll be surprised how tightly connected this town really is.

5) a lot of people use hackerspaces as some of the first places they visit in a new city to meet people. depending on the space and the moon phase you might meet truly awesome people and/or complete weirdos. give it a try, cowork there for a bit and see who you get to know along the way.

6) get a bike. i've resisted initially, but there's simply nothing that works better here (including cabs, muni or your own car). see jwz's advice on bikes in sf: http://jwz.livejournal.com/883988.html

Congrats! I am in the process of doing the same thing. I sold all of my stuff and moved out of Austin a couple weeks ago. I'm traveling/couch surfing right now but will be in San Francisco soon. Looking forward to some great answers from people who have done the same thing...

Im in Austin too. What is your name / company? What made you decide to leave Austin? It does have a growing tech hub.

I'm wondering the same thing as well. After scouring the country for quite a while, I'm planning on moving my company down (or starting my next one) there in the next year or so.

Wondering if you can briefly explain why you picked Austin? I'm considering a visit.. if that goes well maybe a move..

For me, it's the whole package. Tech hub, low cost of living/high salaries, nice people, warm.

I read this twice. Being that I currently live in Austin I can't ever imagine leaving. It's pretty much perfect. SF, on the other hands, makes my insides crawl. Each to his own, I suppose.

I have an old friend who lived in SF his whole life. He moved his family out to Austin 5 years ago and now has a house, pool, and a dog (as opposed to the 2 bedroom apt he had in SF). He loves both cities, but Austin works best now.

SOMA is either very expensive or very sketchy. Mission is a better place to live IMO.

Look up Craigslist and get a sublet.

Get a friend who's pretty active in the startup scene and friend that person. You will discover all kinds of interesting events that person's attending.

When I moved to SF, I (fortunately) had a couch to crash on for a week. The city is eminently walkable. I spent the first few days just walking through neighborhoods and looking at whatever apartments on Craigslist I could schedule walkthroughs for. I walked the Mission from 26th and Potrero back and forth to 14th and Dolores, all of SOMA, up and down Hayes Valley and the Haight. I knew from doing a little research beforehand that the Marina and North Beach weren't my scene.

Once I found a neighborhood that felt comfortable, I narrowed my focus and drilled down on finding a place.

If you can do something similar, I highly recommend it.

I moved to SF just a few months ago and wrote about my experience in-depth. I hope this post answers a lot of your questions!


I moved from Atlanta, sold all my stuff and drove out. Definitely a great feeling to not be tied down to many posessions. I live in the Mission and love it. My email is in my profile if you want to ask any questions.

Since you haven't moved yet... you may want to consider some other cities that have startup culture, even if on a smaller scale, that could be more fun and where you would be competing against a smaller group of people for the capital available. Cambridge Massachusetts is affordable and has a lot of tallent (MIT, Harvard, Tufts, etc.).

Some ways to save money:

* Avoid SoMa

* Ditch the car - use ZipCar

* China Town for cheap produce

* SafeWay delivers groceries

* Costco! It's downtown so you don't need to go far.

* Goodwill for simple things (just bought a replacement keyboard there for $3)

And some ways to save time:

* Wash and fold laundry service! Most of the US is missing out by not having this.

* You can get a good cleaning person on CL for not too much. I get it once a month to do a deep clean.

When I first moved here, I stayed at this place: http://www.kenmorehotelsf.com

Its a long-term stay hotel. They give you a room, breakfast and dinner for $50 a night. People are nice and its a good location (as far as checking the city out).

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF&msa=0&msid=111... This map was posted here some time ago. Might be helpful for newcomers

I made the move over 4 years ago now (wow).

Quite honestly, you can only do so much pre-planning before you you arrive. Really, you gotta spend time here and work out what works best for you.

On where to live, quite often it comes down to price. Check housingmaps.com to see what a 1BR works out with in different parts of the town and compare to your budget. You might want a different living arrangement if you are up for sharing and/or want to run a business from home.

2. AirBNB and other couch surfing sites. Do know anyone in SF - staying with them will help you get to know the city quicker than staying on your own. Honestly, I lived here for over a year before I really got to know anyone who had spent time living in the city for sometime (most of the other people I was working with also moved in recently at the time). Point is, I learnt so much more about the city once I spent time with being who had lived here for 5 years+.

Also be aware we have a large homeless population, and so as those folks pull themselves out of homlessness, the hostels and residence hotels are their half-way-house/first foot on the ladder. You might not want this to be your first experience of SF.

3. Check Plancast, Facebook events, Meetup.com for SF

4. I could write a book on this subject, gosh...

* Consider up front whether you want to run a car or not (I assume you do now living in Mid West) - and price in your budget and where you live accordingly.

* SoMa is a great to live because it's close to startups and lots of amenities... but it's not a "neighborhood" in the true sense, dangerous + skuzzy in the middle (5th - 12th streets) and when I lived there I'd go for weeks without ever leaving the area. So consider whether you really want to work + live in the same place.

* ...Assuming you are not going to live in SoMa, consider what kind of person you are - as the other neighborhoods very much cater to different types of personality. For every person who tells you to live in Mission (hipsters living in grittyness) you'll find someone who'll tell you to live in Marina or Pac Heights (LA-wannabe party scene in more up-market living). If you fit into one of those personality types you probably won't want to live in the other, etc.

* Getting a network of friends + contacts going is really important. I actually spent 6+ months doing this BEFORE I moved here by visiting back and forth (from London, UK no less).

* Don't live in Tenderloin or Bay Shore (dangerous) and while Richmond and Sunset areas are much cheaper, they're so far out from anything.

(sorry if the above is kinda random and all over the place. Honestly, I've written this out several times - have you tried searching for other threads on this subject?)

I think I've read every single thread on the subject, but they either don't apply to me or have conflicting/vague information. Here's a few for reference for anyone else researching a move:





Inner Richmond and Inner Sunset are both awesome - lots of great food, plus they're near the park. Outer parts are both so far away you can't get anything done.

I've heard the east bay is a good option because it is much cheaper (though it will take a ~45 minutes* to get to SF for whatever meetups you'd like to attend).

* From Berkeley, by BART

1. Mission. Try to be near a park, and away from BART.

2. http://www.elementssf.com/

3. Github drinkup.

4. Too general of a question.

I would disagree with 1. from above...

If you don't intend to run a car in SF you prob want to be within a few blocks of a BART of MUNI Street Car stop.

Let me clarify. You can't be in the Mission and not be within a five minute walk of BART. BART stations attract crazy homeless people, which kills the livability of the surrounding block.

You can generally describe property value, livability, etc of the Mission knowing only the proximity to bart and parks.

...or don't just live in the Mission.

Honestly, most of the Mission has those kinds of social issues - and to choose to live there is to choose to accept (and embrace) them ...

* Homeless and crazy people around the BARTS and most of the Mission St corridor,

* Sureños and Norteños turf battles around 21 street

* The projects in the middle

* Drunken hipster fucks riding around with pointless fixie bikes with no breaks and no gears (dude, didn't you study physics at school? can't you see we have hills in SF?)

Where in Mission can you live without any of these issues before you are getting into Noe Valley, Bernal Heights or Potrero?

I don't plan to have a car... definitely looking for somewhere near BART.

The area around 24th Street BART isn't so bad, and trips downtown on BART are faster and cheaper than taking the 12, 14, or 27.

To eat: try the superstar shrimp at Burma Superstar on Clement and anything in Blowfish Sushi on Bryant.

SOMA is bland, IMO.

I actually just did this, been living in SF for a little over a month now. All of the advice in people's comments so far is spot on.

I ended up in the southern tip of the mission where Mission, Noe Valley and Bernal meet and love it. $800 a month in a nice 4 bed 2 bath, w/d in unit, new everything.

I had been watching the rentals/roommates space on Craigslist for 5-6 months while saving up to move. Unfortunately for both of us, we missed the bottom of the rental price market. They have definitely been trending up over the past few months as the tech scene is starting to get frothy again. So watch dates if you are reading articles on people moving here.

I stayed with 3 different hosts off of Airbnb.com for a little over 2 weeks while finding a place. I would book for 4-5 days. I lost two places to live at the last minute, and both hosts had other people booked so I had to find new Airbnb hosts last minute. BUT, it was super easy, Airbnb has a short notice/standby feature where they literally tell all of the hosts who want those alerts that someone needs a place fast. I had 6-7 host offer within an hour both times.

One interesting note on cost of rent that I just noticed...You very rarely have to turn the heat on and most places don't have AC. As opposed to the Midwest (I'm from Nebraska) where either one is cranked year round. This time of year in NE our electric bill would easily be $150+ a month (in a small two bedroom), and I've seen insane bills for heating with gas in the winter. So for me there is really $100-$200 a month that moved from HVAC costs to rent.

I cut my possessions in half before moving back home, and then again before moving out here. I boxed up all my stuff really good and left it at home. Flew out here with suitcases full of clothes, then had my 4-5 boxes shipped UPS once I found a place.

I sold my car. I've been extremely car dependent since I was 16. Adjusting to this change in transportation has been the hardest thing to adapt...but honestly it has been easier than I thought and not having a car is awesome. You said you come from the Midwest too, so I imagine you are car dependent has well so here are my quick tips to ditching it in SF.

   -  Sign up for the ZipCar program.  $50 a year, $8-$12 per hour (gas and insurance included) cars on demand.  I have never been more than 4 blocks from a ZipCar when I needed it for getting furniture off craigslist, big store run, etc.  Good phone apps

   - Get a Clipper Card (previously TransLink) and either load cash or passes.  I signed up to Autoload a Fast-Pass every month.  $60 for unlimited MUNI and BART every month, a little more than one tank of gas.  And they work smooth.

   - I use the built in Google maps on my iphone to plot a route and see what line I need.  I then pop over to an app called Routesy that is better for getting a complete picture of the stops and ETAs for any MUNI or BART Line.

   - Get a bike, I snagged an insanely awesome bike that was barely used and 3 months old with receipts off Craigslist for well under half price. Pro Tip:  Google maps for bikes will plot you around the hills as much as possible.
As for food costs, SF expands the high end options but still has plenty that is affordable. There will be tons of places you can eat for $20, $30, $40+ a meal if you want, but at the same time you can find plenty of places to grab a bite for under $10. And the $10 meals here are a lot higher quality than in the midwest.

Feel free to drop me a line if you want to chat more or grab a coffee/drink when you get here. schaecher.michael gmail

>Unfortunately for both of us, we missed the bottom of the rental price market. They have definitely been trending up over the past few months as the tech scene is starting to get frothy again.

I don't think that has to do with the tech scene, Bay Area rents are higher for summer move-ins and that cycle happens every year.

Interesting, you could very well be right. In Lincoln, rent prices fluctuated lowest during the summers and highest during fall and winter

Ah what, $800 for a 4 bed 2 bath in total? The low end for a 4bed 2 bath is something like $1300 in west coast canada :(

He's paying $800 for the room.

Yea, I have roommates in all the rooms.

Expect to spend at least $1,000/month in rent in San Francisco. The competition for anything less is fierce. Essentially you're competing with everybody who doesn't work in tech but wants a room.

Ignore the guy who said "avoid SOMA" because you can find some great deals here. There's a building in this small alleyway on Sumner that has huge 2-bedroom apartments which could comfortably be converted (and often are) to 3-bedrooms for $1800/month. If you realyl want to be cheap, my current building is filled with AAU students who double up the bedrooms and split $2825 4 ways to live in a building with a pool and a fitness center a cross the street from Twitter (sort of).

Why SF?

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