I find all the coverage of NY vs. SF rather strange. For the most part, we don't really compete for the same money or for the same talent. Quite often we don't even compete for the same users.
Since San Jose went from the gateway to Silicon Valley to the Heart of Silicon Valley, I feel like San Francisco, which is actually part of the Peninsula, can be part of SV.
South Bay -- Platforms, infrastructure, embedded systems, established technologies, emphasis on availability and reliability. This is what the San Francisco startups rely on to make sure their new web startup doesn't fall over at the first sign of traffic.
One might see this as the traditional Silicon Valley maturing and even stagnating in comparison to San Francisco's young, hip, fast-moving culture, but I don't think it's reasonable to treat them as a unified entity.
That said the Bay Area definitely has an OSI model going, with the lowest levels in the SE extreme (santa clara, san jose), higher levels NW (Mt View, Palo Alto), and software applications all the way to SF.
Many of the engineers/designers tend move around all over the bay area. Also, the investors are the same for a great portion of these companies as well.
It's just easier to refer to it as "The Valley", although it's technically not correct.
When I was first aware of Silicon Valley I literally pictured a road running through mountains, with big company X on one side, Y on the other, next door was Z... then after that I just thought of Silicon Valley as the techy nickname for SF. Then when I cared more, I grew to know more about it.
I know the real answer is that it doesn't matter where you are if you're the right person working on the right project.
That said, I want to be somewhere that the social environment is a positive one for someone living off his savings while trying to build a product and a company. Things like a good coworking space and people who keep you motivated and inspired can help a lot, in my opinion.
The only thing is, I want to move west for a nicer home life and standard of living, I just don't want to leave city life altogether. That's why I'm thinking of living in Oakland or Berkeley, and working in SF.
Bay Area residents, what do you think?
Even in the best of circumstances, it takes half an hour to get from Oakland or Berkeley into San Francisco, making it unlikely that you will go to anything without advance planning.
Oakland has some bright spots (particularly Rockridge) but you are still unlikely to have serendipitous encounters with anyone. I've never lived in Downtown Berkeley, but it is the one place in the East Bay where the streets are full of people.
A "nicer home"... in Oakland or Berkeley, that's the hills. Expect about $1MM or so: http://www.redfin.com/CA/Berkeley/938-Spruce-St-94707/home/1...
I hear you can get a fixer in Oakland's hills for around $500k though, an old coworker did that. You might consider going further east to Pleasant Hill or Concord -- PH if safety/schools are a concern (more $), Concord if you can deal with the hoodrats and older homes (less $). Both are fairly inexpensive in comparison to anything closer to the City, and both are on the BART line... ~45 min on the train to SF.
Don't count out south SF too, for example a pretty nice place in Daly City for $600k: http://www.redfin.com/CA/Daly-City/392-Bay-Ridge-Dr-94014/ho...
Personally I've found that commuting drains a lot of the get-er'-done energy from me. If I had the dough, I'd live closer to the City or the valley. YMMV. San Jose has lots of nice areas, but it's an urban wasteland... block after unending block of houses and strip malls in many areas. The nicer areas are $$$$$.
When I was working at a startup fresh out of college, I got a 400 sqft studio in the middle of the city, which was perfect. It was an ungodly $1k/month, but I walked nearly everywhere and spent all day coworking or at a cafe anywhere. If you're unattached, I'd highly recommend a setup like that, since proximity to the things you need (people like you, cafes, etc) is more important than living quarters. If you've got a family... well... I hope your savings account is large.
BART from Downtown Berkeley to Montgomery Street is 20 minutes in ideal conditions, but around 30 more typically due to waiting or a transfer at MacArthur. Expect to add to that 5-10 minutes for somewhere on Market and 10-15 minutes for somewhere in SoMa
If you don't mind the fog, think about SF's sunset district. It's cheap(er) and a little out of the way, but still within earshot of SF proper.
Berkeley is ok in some areas, but basically I'd choose between SF and Palo Alto/Mountain View if you want to do startups. SF if you want something closer to NYC, and PA/MV if you want something more suburban/small town and different.
I haven't actually ever lived in Oakland though, but I've lived in Berkeley for 5 years, live in SF now, and have many close friends who live in Oakland. Parts of it are very nice!
... you need to roll your sleeves, work hard, and don't give up. It's not the city that makes startups, it's you.
"The best one can say is: if you're in a startup hub, unexpected good things will probably happen to you, especially if you deserve them.
I'm not saying it's impossible to succeed in a city with few other startups, just harder. If you're sufficiently good at generating your own morale, you can survive without external encouragement."
We haven't published the updated figures through Q3, but the trend continues: NY is consistently outpacing Mass in venture tech investment and has been dating back to 2010. We don't publish a similar comaprison of NYC vs. SF/SV for obvious reasons: it's not very interesting. But NYC has made recognizable strides in building a tech ecosystem over the past couple years nonetheless.
I think there is something to be said about being in the valley and being part of the collective. But, I also think being in other places (ie: LA, ATL, etc) gives you a different perspective on what you're working on. And, for me, having everyone in the coffee shop be part of startup is a bit of a burnout. No escape.
As you say, NYC's tech ecosystem isn't as big. But its finance ecosystem is bigger. Also media, and fashion. I'm pretty confident that NYC can map out it's own path, playing to the city's strengths. I don't think it needs to have the same tech ecosystem that SV has.
California has "16600. Except as provided in this chapter, every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void." and without such employee protection in place I would be very nervous about trying to start a company which might compete with a former employeer. Similarly it seems hard enough to find talented designers and developers already without having to consider that the individuals with the most relevant experience might be barred from completing with their current employers.
It's the VCs that decides that, if they want you in fuckin' Kansas (no offense to Kansas) I bet you all would move there.
Or we could simply spend all that time and energy on building our businesses from wherever we are.
I'm doing the latter (from Chicago).
pg didn't say that at YC NYC. He said he thought that the Valley was still better than New York, but that New York was now good enough that startups could succeed there. He also said he no longer tries to convince founders to stay in the Valley if they're planning on moving back to New York after YC.