If you have ever lived in San Francisco, you are certainly familiar with how the term “micro-climate” relates to the city’s neighborhoods.

While the Golden Gate was fogged in, it was likely sunny back home in Bernal Heights.

You can insert “micro-climate” when talking about which San Francisco neighborhood is the best for working in a startup as well. Each neighborhood has its own distinctive flavor and style, as well as advantages and disadvantages.

I heard from hundreds of San Francisco startup employees this year who told me what was most important about where they work. The main criteria people shared includes: knowledge, lifestyle, and convenience.

Here’s my take on San Francisco’s Best Startup Neighborhood through the eyes of all of those I’ve met with in 2011.

I suspect many of you will have your own take.

The Marina/Cow Hollow/Presidio

First off, it’s harder to get to this area than most neighborhoods. That is, unless you live nearby. The bottom line though is that the area is separated from other startup clusters.

Union Street is definitely a cozy place to work, especially if you live close by.

A high point to working in the Cow Hollow/Marina/Presidio area includes plenty of coffee, shopping and watering holes to fit your lifestyle.

A second downside is a lack of other startups and meetups to share knowledge with. It can be harder to host hack nights, or mixers that would attract new employees.

There are certainly encouraging signs for this neighborhood though with the growth of tech companies in the Presidio. The addition of several startups in the Presidio should boost knowledge sharing in the area.

Cool companies working in the Marina/Cow Hollow/Presidio include JustAnswer, PolitEar, and Weddington Way.

The Haight

I had the most pleasant surprise of the year when I visited companies working in the Haight. They have a central location for commuting, and a very at-home feel.

In addition to a homey atmosphere, the Haight is dotted with cool spots to relax.

While the Haight has a very at-home atmosphere, it also boasts easy transportation.  Easy as long as you are taking public transportation or riding your bike that is. Parking is another issue at times.

The Haight is still emerging as a neighborhood for startups, so the access to knowledge and partners could take a little more work as well.

If the Haight is a good spot for you, check out hot companies like ZeroCater and HelloFax.

North Beach

Not many neighborhoods say “true San Francisco” like North Beach. While being a bit north of BART and away from most other startups is a challenge, the ambiance is tough to beat.

North Beach workers enjoy a view of a San Francisco icon.



















If you are the type that enjoys coffee meetings, check out the Jackson Place Cafe. It’s a cool spot tucked in amongst an old warehouse. You can get a good haircut nearby too I hear.

While the lifestyle and ambiance are hard to beat, transportation and parking in this neighborhood is difficult. It is one of the hardest neighborhoods to enter or exit in the city. This is a challenge for hosting or attending events.

The neighborhood has cool startups popping up in the Jackson Square area. You may argue that the Square is its own neighborhood as it is taking on an identity of its own.

Interesting North Beach companies to check out include Tacit Knowledge and zozi.

Financial District

The Financial District isn’t just for bankers. Some of the top startup companies in San Francisco enjoy awesome views, camradarie, and easy access much like the financiers.

The Financial District isn’t just bankers, hustle, and bustle.

The Financial District brings all of the convenience and knowledge share, with a melding of economic cultures.

I’ve seen everyone from top corporate executives to Occupy Wall Street protestors while walking between meetings. Thus, you can find an interesting conversation no matter where you turn.

You’ve also got simple access to BART and the Ferry Building. On top of that, you can easily attend meetups and events in the surrounding neighborhoods. Collaboration with other startups isn’t too hard either.

Some awesome companies that call the Financial District home include Dijit, FitBit, and Venuetastic.


Most will immediately associate SOMA as the signature neighborhood for San Francisco startups. It is difficult to disagree when you add up the ingredients: BART, Caltrain, Coffee, Giants games, meetups, mixers, etc.

South Park is the calling card for all things startup and SOMA.

SOMA could easily be separated into 3 or 4 “boroughs”: AT& Park, Design District, South Park, and the ever-emerging area between 9th and 11th Streets.

I acknowledge that SOMA is the flagship neighborhood of the San Francisco startup movement. It is the first neighborhood that most think of for startups whether you live in the city or elsewhere.

It is hard to find any fault whatsoever with the neighborhood, except for perhaps…saturation.

Luminaries such as One Kings Lane, Klout, Plum District and Qwiki call SOMA home, but look out for up and coming SOMA-ites like Getaround, Identified, and Prescreen too.

Potrero Hill

Okay, so I have not actually visited a company in Potrero Hill. However, there is a specific reason that I include it in this list.

Chez Maman is an excellent spot to meet up in Portrero Hill.

I include it on the list because I have met 3 of the smartest engineers I know in Potrero Hill. Each of them works in the city, and from home at least part of the time.

The amenities and lifestyle of the neighborhood includes the fantastic fare and views from 18th street. Parking is fairly easy here too, but be prepared to climb a hill if you’re on the bike.

This neighborhood may prove to be better for living while working in the easily accessible SOMA or Mission areas booming with startups.

Dogpatch/Mission Bay

I ride my bike through the Dogpatch/Mission Bay neighborhood on 3rd Street several days a week, and see this as a real up and coming spot.

The future is bright with the Muni running through, construction booming, and classic hotspots like The Ramp (a must visit for all San Franciscans).

Look no further than Salesforce.com for the vision of this neighborhood. They are building a facility capable of housing 15,000 people on 287 acres. Their goal is to be one of the top 5 tech companies in the world, from right here in this neighborhood.

Did I mention 3rd Street Gym? It’s sure to bring one of the best workouts of your life.

The Mission

[Full Disclosure: I live in Bernal Heights and work in the Mission =  I’m biased]

I have had some incredible experiences in the Mission this year, and it is abound with awesome companies, edgy culture, diverse amenities, and simple transportation.

The Mission has a vibrance unlike any other neighborhood in SF.

Most people will recognize that the Mission has a certain amount of grit that provides the edgy culture. That said, it is hard to find a more creative neighborhood in San Francisco.

The rising amount of startups in the neighborhood has made places like Coffee Bar an ideal destination for meeting people. Walk in their front door, and you are guaranteed to see at least 10 Macbooks open and working.

The neighborhood is easy to access by BART, bike, or Muni. Parking can be a challenge though.

Restaurants in the Mission lay claim to being some of the best in the city. They also come in all size, shape, and variety. From the quaintness of Mission Pie to gastropub-feel of Hogs and Rocks. Don’t forget one of the best bars in the city in Shotwell’s either.

For the adventurous type, you can even challenge yourself at Mission Cliffs. There is plenty of active lifestyle in the Mission to match the creativity.

The Mission is loaded with top name players like Asana, Milk, Posterous, and Tripit. Take a deeper look and see emerging companies like 8Tracks and StyleSeat calling the Mission home.

Inner Sunset

I’m still learning about the Inner Sunset as a neighborhood for startups. I’d officially have to mark the neighborhood with an incomplete.

What I do know is that the neighborhood takes some work to get to, has more clouds and fog than most, and does not house as many startups that I know of.

The good news is that working in Inner Sunset provides easy access to Golden Gate Park and all of its amenities. Irving Street kicks butt as far as restaurants and shopping as well.

One top startup that we do know about in the Inner Sunset is IndieGoGo.

And The Winner Is…

This is strictly my opinion based on what people told me, but the Mission gets it. There’s just an attitude that is different than any other, and all of the amenities a startup or their employees could want.

While this sets the Mission apart, the clear deciding factor is its combination of activity, creativity and knowledge. This makes it San Francisco’s Best Startup Neighborhood in 2011.



by in Start-Ups

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