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Why I Moved My Startup to Oakland (brennenbyrne.com)
67 points by brennenHN on Sept 24, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 60 comments

As a long time resident of Oakland, I'd like to relate some awesome things about Oakland, none of which the author touched on. Well, I guess the diversity and "Real-ness" count.

Oakland is a hell of a lot cheaper to live in. Groceries, restaurants, rent, drinks, office space, hotel rooms, air fare: everything is cheaper.

In Oakland, we have a burgeoning uptown scene, punctuated by the Art Murmur, an event which started in 2005, and has blossomed into a giant street festival that very accurately reflects the diversity of Oakland. It's a First Friday roll call for the city, and the Bay Area.

That "Beer Garden" mentioned elsewhere, was a hipster coffee shop before that, and a cheap cafe before that, all willingly handed with great care from owner to owner. Gentrification has room to spread in Oakland, so while some complain about it, it mostly removes empty lots and vacant windows, not mom and pop businesses.

The Mission, on the other hand, sees gentrification at the cost of existing businesses. And speaking of the Mission, Oakland's Fruitvale district is the cheapest, most active place you can live for under 4 figures, while still being 30 minutes from downtown SF via BART or car. Fruitvale has become quite the destination, for the adventurous.

I could go on: The Chapel of Chimes is a Julia Morgan masterpiece, a labyrinth of death located in the hills. The Rose garden has a resident turkey. There's a couple breweries that host quiet BBQ's, Jack London Square, the various parks in the hills. The Hills.... The Fox and the Paramount. Van Kleefs.

And my own personal favorite: http://www.themade.org

It's easier to make this work when the company is smaller.

One of the big advantages of SF (and especially the financial district) is that it's possible for most people in the city, the East Bay _and_ the South Bay to get to work in less than an hour. I want to make the commute decent for as many employees as possible.

"It's easier to make this work when the company is smaller."

Oh jeez. The way people talk about it now, you'd think that San Francisco was some sort of eternal pre-requisite for founding a startup, rather than the flavor of the moment. Startups didn't want to be here until a few years ago, and it isn't exactly a practically motivated decision today. Startups get founded here mostly because a certain subset of 20-somethings want to live in the city.

That cracks me up too. nothing has convinced me more that you can be successful outside of the valley than coming to the valley.

I don't know what SF is like now, but CNet, Wired, Craigslist, and a few other companies started out there. There was also Hyperreal and SF.NET, the ravers, and Mondo 2000 up in Berkeley too. Maybe it wasn't the same kind of startup or the same people, but there it was.

Anyway, I was almost instantly burned out on that hype almost before it happened. It wasn't the tech but the whole utopianism that was tiresome. Technoids in fantasy land. Ugh.

I couldn't afford SF and liked Oakland a lot more, especially Chinatown and the area around the lake, and the swap meets, and the tiny computer stores. The Black culture, southern culture, Black Muslims, all that was new to me. The crime, not so cool, but whatever. SF had hella crime too.

I guess my old San Francisco and old Oakland are no more.

Then do not commute! If you were in Oakland, you workers could actually afford to live near work and...walk. Commuting in SF is horrible because it is packed. Oakland has enough problems without memes about non-existent commuter issues. PS you could live downtown SF and Bart to downtown Oakland in less than 20 mins. PSS downtown Oakland is a great place to live. Or Go Uptown

As someone living in Oakland with friends on the peninsula, I've gotta say that particular haul is a bit more of a pain than it seems like it should be. Of people who are somehow anchored (partner, property), you'll reach more of them in SF than in Oakland or Mountain View - their commute will suck, instead of being basically impossible. Of course, most startup workers are not terribly anchored, and picking an end gives more of an option to affordably have a commute that doesn't suck. So it's certainly a question of tradeoffs.

From someone who lives in Massachusetts, how difficult is it to commute between Oakland and San Francisco? On a map they're about as close as Cambridge and Boston. Is there a huge difference between, say, driving a car and taking the BART?

< 15 minutes to downtown SF on BART, nearly the same drive if you're going off-peak.

It is actually faster to get to downtown SF from downtown OAK on BART than it is to get to downtown SF from the Sunset, Richmond, or even lower Haight on Muni.

This is very true. I live in inland east bay (Walnut Creek) and my BART commute is still a few minutes shorter than my MUNI commute from when I was living in the Outer Richmond district.

I cannot figure out why more startups are not based in Walnut Creek - lots of office space, a great downtown & there are two BART stations within 5 mins + the contra costa transit center.

During non-peak hours. In contrast, it will take an hour or longer to drive over on a weekend afternoons.

I said BART. BART is even faster from Oakland during peak hours because there is less time between trains. I gave away my car when I lived in lower Haight because I had no place to park.

However I hear that because BART shuts down early every night, you can't go to a nightclub, or even out to dinner, or work late(!) on the other bay, because once BART's closed, you're out of luck. No bike or pedestrian access on the bridges.

Is this true in practice? How big of a hassle is it if you don't have a car (and don't want to spring for an expensive taxi/Uber ride)?

(This reputation is a big reason why I don't want to ever move to the Bay Area. I currently live in Brooklyn, and can easily get home from Manhattan in 20 minutes... at 3am if I want to. In Cambridge/Boston the T shuts down, but not until around midnight and you can still bike or walk.)

(Edit: I was misinformed. I'd heard the BART shuts down at around 10pm, but it seems it's actually more like midnight, similar to the Boston area, and I didn't know there were all-night buses providing service between SF and Oakland when BART is closed.)

You could absolutely work late (not sure why you'd want to be at the office past 12, but whatever), The new eastern span of the bridge that went up put a pedestrian/bike lane on one side of the bridge, although it only goes to Treasure Island. The long term plan (apparently, which is a surprise to the taxpayers) is to put a connecting version of it on the western span, but it'll be about 500 million bucks and who knows how long. I've been to Brooklyn. It's what I liked most about visiting my sister in NYC, to be honest. It's the total beta city and Manhattan is the alpha. Oakland is the beta here, and obviously the alpha is SF.

You could take the all nighter AC transit bus (get a clipper card) http://transit.511.org/accessible/schedules/routeinfo.aspx?c... which runs from SF to the east bay.

Nice. It looks like I was misinformed, and I now have much less reason to avoid the Bay Area. Thanks for clarifying.

Though biking a 5 mile long bridge with no bike lane on half of it sounds terrifying, so I'd probably consider it still not bikeable for now.

I live in Emeryville and have the exact same concerns.

After midnight, I took lyft back from Polk for $35.

Around 11pm, I took uber back from Mission Bay for $29.

Around 2am, I took AC transit bus back. The people taking it were cool, but it was a hassle for two reasons: finding the right bus stop in the city (and timing it) and its stopping about 15 minutes away from my place (not ideal at 2am).

The regular transbay busses that depart from the transbay bus terminal are much better (the F stops right in front of my place), but they don't run during the wee hours of the morning.

That being said, I really like living in Emeryville because of the gentrification of nearby Oakland and Berkeley.

There's a thing called a bus. Who the hell wants to bike across the Bay Bridge?

There are actually bike tour rental things expressly for biking across the bridge, its their advertising.

That's the Golden Gate Bridge, which is shorter and has ped/bike lanes (separate from traffic, IIRC).

The Bay Bridge's western span has no such thing.

Welcome! Breezy's been based in Oakland since starting in 2009 (or 2011 if you prefer to count from initial funding), and it's great.

There are more people than you might think who are happy to live and work here here, and you just can't beat the rent or the weather. Feel free to swing by sometime and say hello - we're always happy to meet others in the small club that is the Oakland startup world.

Another fellow Oaklander checking in here (working in Mountain View though). You, myself, and Jared should all get a beer sometime (and whoever else).

Awesome! Definitely will do.

Actually the rent is rapidly going through the roof, so don't expect it to last long.

Yea, the gentrification is spilling over from SF to the east bay. Long time residents are being pushed out while "beer gardens" and other businesses that cater to 20-something yuppies are popping up all over.

What's there after Oakland. Richmond?

There was a story last week about a startup moving to Berkeley. At this rate, there will be startups in Vallejo to revitalize that city's economy.

I'm not from San Francisco and never been into, but I cant understand how is this something important. Oakland is a bridge away from SF, is there a real change?

I live in the Mission, and I agree with you. Oakland is 30 minutes away from SF. This is like moving to South San Francisco and claiming it makes a makes a substantial difference to your business. You're still in the middle of the bay area.

In terms of diversity, socioeconomics, density and weather: absolutely.

You'd be amazed at how attached to the city some people are here. Not to say that's a bad thing - but it's definitely obvious.

Why not just not partake in all of these startup events and meetings instead of moving? I have the same opinions as the author about all the startup noise and groupies here in KC. Which is why I avoid most of them.

This is a good question, and I have two answers. 1) You are paying a high premium in San Francisco for the privilege of that stuff and it's simply not worth it. 2) The culture is pretty affected by the echoing and it gets kind of hard to escape. For example, going out to bars people frequently start conversations with things like "what startup do you work for"

The fun will really begin when the question becomes "What startup did you work for?" Those conversations are a lot more interesting.

Let me start by saying I like the sentiment here. The hardest thing about living in NYC is knowing too many people. They distract you and give a false sense of comfort towards your situation. I get that.

But, I have a problem with this, is moving an hour outside of a city really relocating? I'd argue if you don't want to be comfortable move to a city where you have no connections. Focus on somewhere not particularly welcoming to tech entrepreneurs and really get out of the comfort zone. Otherwise, I don't think you really moved your startup anywhere.

LOL, yeah, move to Fresno or Kern County.

We started in Oakland and it was great from a community and creativity perspective.

Did y'all move away? If so, would you mind giving a little insight into why?

If you want me to leave Fruitvale to take the Bart to SF, you better be paying me to do so.

INFO: https://www.commuterdirect.com/cdimages/commutercheck.jpg

Companies, especially tech, in SF usually offer these cards. I think it's the law'ish. It's a mix between the company straight giving you money + pretax deductions. I have the purely company-paid-for option, it covers about 10 days of me going from Concord to montgomery and back.

Move to Texas!

Did you factor in the risk of dying when you made this decision?

This kid is naive.

Do you know anything about the crime in Oakland beyond the superficial 'oh man there is a lot of crime in Oakland!'?

Most of the crime is isolated to a few specific areas. You realize there's a lot of crime in SF, too, right? And that crime is concentrated in the areas where a lot of startups have their offices (e.g. the Fidi). Do you factor that in to your search when you look for a job in the City?

New user + clear flamebait = obvious troll. Let's not go about feeding them unnecessarily.

Just downvote and move along. The lack of responses would hurt way more than any clear appeals to logic, I assure you.

Why the downvotes for the poster?

Most of San Francisco is safe, with just one or two neighborhoods being dodgy. Most of Oakland is unsafe, with just one or two neighborhoods being safe.

Oakland is one of the most dangerous cities in the USA. Just because you live there and haven't been gunned down yet, doesn't mean it's not happening to many other people.

It's literally your life, so do your own research and don't listen to me or anybody else.

The basic problem with making generalizations about Oakland is that it is geographically huge. The "good areas" and "bad areas" are each bigger than all of San Francisco.

There are some really bad areas of Oakland and of SF, and they're fairly near the popular-for-startups areas (the Mission, Downtown Oakland and areas adjacent). Pac Heights and Oakland Hills/Piedmont are both quite safe, but are not really startup areas.

The biggest problem with Downtown Oakland is that it empties out at 5pm. The areas with more activity are either lacking in office space, or are more dangerous (particularly if you don't drive). And the other problem is that Oakland is quite spread out, so things are in different neighborhoods.

The average (mean, per capita) crime in Oakland is higher than in SF, but in both cities, there are a few pockets of extreme violent crime, and fairly widespread property and nuisance crime over a large area. Neither SF nor Oakland is a particularly well governed city.

Please HN'ers, ignore these people. These comments have confirmed a pattern I've been seeing on various websites' comment-section.

<BIGconspiracyhat> Any attempts to show Oakland, Africa or African-americans in any kind of positive light or as victims will always, _ALWAYS_, get troll'ish/meta/hyper-pedantic comments that derail the main topic and/or meaningful discourse of the subject at hand, completely blowing up the comment threads. It works well on places like HN because almost everyone here likes to debate & discuss. But their arguments will become so spacious that you'll need 5 screen-lengths to debate with them and thus ruining the comments for anyone else who actually wanted to talk about the article. </BIGconspiracyhat>

Please let's ignore these guys. We know they're wrong, no point debating with them. We'll never convince them and the comments will get bloated with arguments back-in-forth about crime stats, someone will eventually use the "R" word and then BOOM, all meaningful discussion nullified by 5+ pages of of debate about some non-significant detail. Example: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6365495

NOTE: An idea for the comment section, a way for users to flag a thread as "superfluous". If it gets enough of these, the whole thread is moved off to a small link on the side labeled "Superfluous thread started by $USER" where clicking on it give you a little scrollable window to view it and easily dismiss it when you're satisfied the thread had no real value. Perhaps each user's profile even shows how many superfluous threads were credited to him/her.

This is about Oakland, why bring race into it?

If the original poster had moved his startup to Stockton, we would be having the same conversation.

Race is always a factor for anyone who knows anything about the history of Oakland. For example, the Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland. There has been class war and racism at the heart of Oakland for many, many years.

This post is another example of a long history of gentrification, which also has a racial component. Race is absolutely on-topic here.

That doesn't mean I expect said discussion to be productive.

The BPP starting at Laney is one of the cool things about Oakland. There's history around the corner when you're roaming the city. That and the Oakland Museum and Chinatown. And Flints BBQ, and E&J, and Doug's. And the markets in Fruitvale. And the anarchist and communist stuff in Berkeley. I'm getting all misty-eyed.

That has to be BS. I used to walk around Oakland at night in the 90s during the crack days. Whatever. It was unsafe, but there's unsafe... and unsafe. Put on the city face. Besides, if you're not Black, the cops won't mess with you. People think anyone walking at night is crazy. And don't go to the really dangerous spots where gangs run the street, unless they know you. You can see it by the drug dealing. That's just common sense.

OK yeah I got mugged once. But nonviolently, LOL. Only cost me $20. This was near Downtown.

Yeah, folks, living and working in Oakland is literally a death sentence. Don't come here.

Indeed - my colleagues and I, here at Pandora, are murdered here regularly. But that's what happens when you try to run a tech company here.

Yeah, you're naive.

Yes, there are slightly more violent crimes in Oakland than San Francisco (and there's more property crime in San Frnacisco)[1], but on the whole they are pretty equivalent in terms of safety; especially if you stick to the 'nicer' areas of both.

[1] http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Crime-up-in-Oakland-much...

Oakland has the 3rd highest violent crime rate per capita in the country:


And according to the link you posted, Oakland has less than half the population of San Francisco, but 37% more violent crime.

Parts of Oakland are terrible, but Oakland is flippin' huge.

Risk of dying? Have you even been to Oakland? The area around Jack London Square is just as safe, if not safer than many of the parts of SOMA where startups setup shop.

You're getting downvotes because of how you phrased your comment - but the base point is still there.

I've driven to Oakland once, and it was to pick up a friend after he missed a connection on BART - Within that 30 minute window of me driving to pick him up he was nearly mugged by a group of 3, jumped in a black windowless van as an escape route - and somehow managed to have that driver be an ex-taxi driver who noticed he was in trouble.

There's obviously some more dangerous, and some safer areas of the city - but it's still known as having an extremely high crime rate.

That depends greatly on where in Oakland.

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