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Bay-Area founders: City or Valley?

Stashed in: Founders, 106 Miles, San Francisco!, San Francisco (2012 - ) (The Ed Lee Years?)

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I've just moved to the area from Virginia, and am working on a web startup. I'm currently staying with a friend in SF, but am definitely considering re-locating to the Palo Alto/Mountain View area to build my company.

Founders I meet in the City seem to really love the City, and founders I meet in the Valley feel similarly passionate about starting up in the Valley.

So, Bay-Area founders, where are you located, and why did you decide to locate there?

The San Francisco thing is fairly recent because until the last bubble there just weren't that many internet startup friendly office spaces up there. I think it's still pretty hard to find good office space up there as you expand... frankly I thought Twitter's offices were horrid, for instance. Unsurprisingly the founders up there tend to be single and ready to mingle, and often without ties to the Valley aka first-time founders.

It's hard for me to imagine anyone feeling "passionate" about starting up in the Valley -- it's more a question of pre-existing ties. Adam and I both live in the Valley, and have/had spouses with jobs down there. We already know a lot of people down here, many of whom are helpful to a startup -- providing free office space or specialized services. There are certain technical specialties, like search or hardware, that are harder to fill in the City.

All that said, if I were young and new to town today, would I choose MV or SF? Probably SF.

You could also split the difference and choose something mid-peninsula, such as San Mateo. That would be particularly attractive if you were near the train, as some like to commute via public transit. As an aside, know that wherever you choose to start your company is where you will more or less always be. Moving as much as five miles north or south creates a great deal of controversy!

Speaking of public transit... I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday from SF, and he claimed that public transit was one of the advantages of the City over the Valley.

His argument? That Valley companies of any size run shuttle buses, either all the way from SF or from the Caltrain stations. I'm thinking to myself... how does that make SF companies better and more transit-friendly? It's the Valley companies who are willing to invest in transit!

City companies in my experience leave it entirely to the individual employee to get to the office using transit. Look at Twitter for example: it's an awkward distance from both Caltrain and BART especially in high heels, hard to get to by bus, and requires multiple strange street crossings. Is that really "transit-friendly" or more like "We're here in the City so it's all on the employee now"?

I will definitely say that 10 years ago, you could not get ANY engineers to commute from the Valley to SF or vice versa. Now the lines at Caltrain indicate that the expectations have been re-set so that engineers are willing to go both ways to maintain the career and lifestyle options they individually prefer.

Really interesting that moving 5 miles north or south creates controversy. It implies that as soon as you hire your first engineer, you're pretty locked in.

You sure are!

Twitter has a shuttle for south bay employees. I don't take it though.

Just out of curiosity, why not? And how do you get there?

Caltrain and biking combo.

The shuttle would require keeping to a far more regular schedule than what I'm capable of.

Oh, also I meet different people on the train. I have met an EMT, the Zerply advocate, and had pleasing interactions with many other random folks.

Neat! I also use Caltrain + bike, although in my case from Sunnyvale to Redwood City. I love it, sitting in traffic on the 101 never did much for me.

Yesterday, someone just explained to me about payroll and options taxes up in SF (this has gotten some exposure on TechCrunch, lately).

While I haven't gotten a full understanding yet, they sounded pretty heinous, FWIW. The cost of employing someone is more on the company and options are taxed more, too. Just at the city level.

I don't think it's a total dealbreaker for working in SF but it's something to keep in mind, at least.

I'd read all the controversy around options taxes, but wasn't aware of payroll. It looks like it's 1.5% and you have to file once your company payroll is over $150k. 1.5% definitely isn't trivial.

The thing is... no one that size actually pays the tax. You can "negotiate" with the city and get them to waive it I think.

I'm a fan of the Peninsula, but then, I lived in Inner City Chicago for 8 years, and I'm _all done with urban living.

SF: Many startups, great coworking spaces, good food, urban living, better public transit, hip, better entertainment, expensive smaller living spaces, worse weather.

Penninsula: Cheaper (relatively) living space, Yards and houses, Car friendly, more investors, less startups, but different kinds of startups (hardware, heavy algorithmns), suburban living, easier to find larger office spaces, more family friendly.

YMMV. We moved to San Jose when we came to the Valley 4 years ago, and we settled here primarily because of the cost of living. We like it, but we're spending _way too much time commuting to SF. I suspect we're going to have to move further North relatively soon.

Time and money commuting up north, too. ;)

If you spend a lot of time both in SF and on the peninsula, the middle is best. Millbrae is great because you have Caltrain and BART available, you're close to SFO, and 101, 280, and 92 are all close. Burlingame and San Mateo score points for proximity, too.

Personally most of my life is spent between Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale, so I located on the Mountain View / Palo Alto border.

The good news is you can figure out where you tend to spend time and then optimize. No need to pre-decide.

I just don't like I moved to the city. :)

There's something about walking in a city that allows for discovery of all sorts of fun things, stores, bars, people, etc. That process of discovery is just impossible when you're driving past at 40 mph while fighting traffic. You have to be introduced to places or rely on reviews.

On the other hand, you COULD live in downtown Palo Alto, and take bicycles or the Caltrain or buses or taxis to wherever you need to go.

Yeah, but I didn't know that when moving here. Also, Caltrain is not feasible if you're hanging out in the city late into the evening. If you miss the last train you have serious problems.

If you miss the last train you hang out in SF till 5am and take the early train. :)

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