Bay Area Coworking Spaces: The Xconomy Guide

Building a company is hard enough—there’s no need to do it in lonely isolation.

That’s the realization hitting a growing number of tech entrepreneurs seeking desks at the coworking spaces scattered around San Francisco Bay. The appeal of these spaces goes well beyond the free coffee and the Internet access: proximity to other creative people is almost guaranteed to generate serendipitous collaborations, sales leads, or even employment offers.

“If you are launching a startup or have one that is just one or two people, you should really try to get into a coworking space,” New York venture capitalist Fred Wilson wrote in a blog post surveying the coworking phenomenon last fall. “It can be more cost effective, but that is not the best reason to do it. You’ll get knowledge sharing, energy, and a lot of camaraderie. And you can’t put a price on those things when you are doing a startup.”

Yet despite all that goodness, there is, as far as I can tell, no complete list of coworking options in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Berkeley, Oakland, and environs. That’s why I’ve set out to compile the list below.

Part of the problem with cataloging coworking spaces is that they tend to come and go. Some lose their leases; some suffer management turmoil. One of the oldest and most famous coworking spots, San Francisco’s Hat Factory, disbanded last year after a management changeover. On top of that, technology is making it easier to work from home, and rents aren’t at a historic high right now, meaning it’s relatively easy for startups to find their own affordable spaces. So the economics for coworking spaces are unstable at best. One space in San Rafael, CA, Bzhive, opened in February 2010 and had shut its doors by April.

But at the same time, there seems to be a growing thirst for camaraderie among startup types and other creative professionals. There’s an effort underway to start a new coworking space in Palo Alto, there’s a whole wiki devoted to the worldwide coworking craze, and there’s even going to be a Coworking Unconference during the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, TX, next month.

The list below is as complete as I could make it after one day of research. I’m focusing here on spaces that seem friendly to tech startups, that have a strong community element, and that aren’t simply rental-office operations. I’m including venture incubators with competitive admissions, but only the ones that offer desk or office space.

FYI, we’ve also got lists of coworking spaces in Boston, Detroit, and San Diego. And if you just need to rent a desk, but aren’t necessarily interested in joining a formal coworking space, there’s a new online directory called ShareYourOffice; it’s been described by BusinessInsider as ChatRoulette or AirBnB for office space. In a recent search I found about 30 listings for the San Francisco Bay area.

Please help me correct, update, and add to this list by writing to wroush@xconomy.com.

[Updated 2/11/11 with an added listing for Studio G.]

[Updated 3/21/11 with an added listing for CO-Spot.]

[Updated 9/11/11 with a new listing for Hatchery.]

[Updated 11/20/11 with a new listing for Regus.]

[Updated 3/30/12 with a new listing for Studio Nine.]

[Updated 4/3/12 with a new listing for Comfy Chair.]

[Updated 8/2/12 with a new listing for Hanhei Investment Inc.]

[Updated 12/11/12 to correct the listing for Citizen Space.]

Berkeley Coworking

2930 Shattuck St., Suite 305, Berkeley

$400 per month for a permanent desk

Located near the Ashby BART station, Berkeley Coworking allows free drop-ins. The catch: it’s a little unpredictable whether the space will be open on any given day. To find out, follow them on Twitter.

Catalyst Collective Oakland

1901B Poplar St., Oakland

8:00 am – 6:00 pm weekdays

Probably the largest coworking space in the Bay Area—heck, make that the whole world—Catalyst Collective has nearly six acres under one roof on Oakland’s Mandela Parkway. “Sure you can shell out up to $450-$650” for a desk at at San Francisco coworking space, the organization’s website says, but “here you get some real Oakland smack down value.” Catalyst Collective offers shared workspaces, private “pods,” and private offices. The groups says it plans to open additional locations in Berkeley, downtown Oakland, SoMa, and the Mission district.

Citizen Space

425 Second St., San Francisco

24/7 access for residents; 10:00 am – 6:00 pm for dropins

$25 to $425 per month

[Updated 12/11/12] A Co-founded by marketing guru Tara Hunt, BarCamp creator Chris Messina, and software engineer Brad Neuberg and recently rescued from shutdown by social media evangelist Toby Morning, Citizen Space was one of the birthplaces of the Bay Area coworking movement. It specializes in serving startups, software engineers, web developers, social media strategists, designers, writers, and consultants, and offers an open work space with communal tables and dedicated desks. There’s also a kitchen, a living room area, a phone booth, and a conference room. Costs range from $25/month for virtual mailbox service to $8/hour ($20/day) for drop-ins, all the way up to $425/month for a dedicated desk. Citizen Space also has a location on South 1st Street in San Jose, and a third location in Las Vegas is in the works.

Comfy Chair

735 Montgomery Street, Suite 120

9:00 am – 5:00 pm weekdays, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm Saturdays

$60 to $600 per month

Comfy Chair says its target customers are “start-up companies that specialize in digital arts, animation, and game design.” Services include: “Open work space with over 16 work areas, flexible hours to fit your needs, mailing address, story area with white boards and bulletin boards, conference/meeting room; screen and projector to view projects, computers with fully licensed software for final production, spare monitors, printer/scanner, high speed internet/wi-fi, kitchenette with hot beverages, a fridge, sink, and microwave, fantastic location close to lots of food, shops, and drinks, events to enable networking.”

CO-Spot

350 Townsend Street, Suite 210, San Francisco

8:00 am – 6:00 pm weekdays

$275-$375 per month

CO-Spot is a brand new coworking space just steps from the Caltrain terminal. It’s go co-working desk space for itinerant workers and dedicated desks for folks who want something more permanent. All spaces come with Internet, printing and copying, mail services, an on-site receptionist, and access to conference, lounge, and kitchen areas. Plus free coffee, tea, and baked goods!

Dogpatch Labs

Pier 38, The Embarcadero, San Francisco

Waltham, MA-based Polaris Ventures opened the first Dogpatch Labs location at Pier 38 on the Embarcadero in 2008 (and Xconomy’s Bob Buderi visited in 2009). Described as “frat houses for geeks,” the spaces offer “desk space, bandwidth, coffee and … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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