Is Oakland is the new destination for startups? After talking to these founders, it seems like it might be.
By Ayesha Rizvi (Editorial Intern, Women 2.0)
In an article published in March of this year, Oakland was described as the newest location where the tech startup scene is starting to flourish. With rents in San Francisco up 10.1 percent, surpassing New York City, Oakland seems more affordable and quite diverse in terms of the kind of people that can be spotted there today. Due to the rise of the tech scene in the city, Women 2.0 is launching its monthly City Meetup in Oakland next month. But before we do that, we wanted to get the scoop of what makes Oakland’s tech scene unique and desirable for entrepreneurs.
Natalie Gordon, founder and CEO of BabyList, an online baby registry, moved her offices to Oakland in January of this year. She stated that although that was not the original plan, she has found it to be beneficial for the company.
“It’s close to San Francisco and Silicon Valley and you can still meet anyone, go to any talk or meet-up,” said Gordon. “Compared to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, it’s much more affordable and there is also great talent in the East Bay that would prefer not to commute,” Gordon added.
Edward West, founder and CEO of Hylo, an online platform that helps people connect, collaborate and create things within their communities, has had his offices in Oakland for 2 years. The company is located at one of the popular co-working spaces in the city, Impact Hub Oakland. In his experience, West prefers the tech scene in Oakland over other cities because it is “real, inclusive, and interested in solving real problems.”
“The community is more diverse, more open minded, more socially conscious, and less dominated by the ‘brogrammer’ culture that seems to have taken over the SF tech scene,” said West. “We are engineers and entrepreneurs, but we are also food activists, artists, and social justice advocates,” he said.
Heather Hiles, founder and CEO of Pathbrite, a cloud-based Portfolio Learning Platform,, and Women 2.0 City Meetup Oakland speaker, currently resides in Oakland but has offices in San Francisco.
“There is a palpable difference in the experience of living and working in Oakland, due to the people,” Hiles said. She said that Oakland is “the ideal environment for creating anything, including software, hardware, art, companies, community” because it has “a far better, more proportional representation of African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans, to match up with Caucasians, than in any other city or county in the Bay Area.”
Michael Appezzato, founder and director of marketing at clearspace, an online platform that makes the job application process painless and straightforward, opened offices in the heart of downtown Oakland in January of this year.
“The greatest thing about the technology scene in Oakland is that its not just technology companies that are starting up here,” said Appezzato. “This allows our team to interact with business people who have different ideas and values that can then translate to new kinds of thinking within our own company,” he added.
“Oakland has the greatest opportunity to develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem unique to the needs of the region and the community around diversity of thought and diversity of people, and from that will spur great innovation that can change our world,” Selassie said.
Selassie is a senior sales engineer at Salesforce in San Francisco and is always looking for opportunities to help strengthen the growing tech community in Oakland and other parts of the East Bay.
Jennifer Argüello, Senior Tech Advisor at Kapor Capital (who is sponsoring our Oakland City Meetup), commented on the growth of the Oakland Startup scene.
“Right now there are roughly one hundred startups in Oakland, and that number is only going to jump,” Argüello said. “As rents push companies out of San Francisco, and that city becomes more homogenized, entrepreneurs are looking at locations that are cheaper, yes, but that are also more vibrant. This is Oakland’s moment right now.”
Photo by Daniel Parks.