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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
[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.]
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!
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 lunch to aspiring entrepreneurs.” Companies apply for free six-month stints in the space, and they benefit from frequent networking events, but Dogpatch isn’t a classic incubator—Polaris doesn’t require an equity stake in resident companies. In San Francisco, Dogpatch sublets space from Social Media, which produces rich-media Web advertisements; from what I can tell, there are also quite a few other small organizations sharing the space, which makes for a lively time.
665 Third St., San Francisco
Founders Den is an invitation-only operation that bills itself as a “shared office space and private club for experienced entrepreneurs and their friends.” You can only get a desk in this 8,500-square-foot facility through a referral from a Founders Den advisor, sponsor, managing partner, or existing tenant. The managing partners, who include Friendster founder Jonathan Abrams, say the space is designed to appeal to entrepreneurs who would sooner work from home than join one of San Francisco’s existing coworking spaces.
140A South Whisman Rd., Mountain View
$100 per month
Hacker Dojo calls itself “a community center for hackers and thinkers to meet, discuss, learn, create, build, and play.” Members use the space for coding, electronics fabrication, robotics demonstrations, and even quilting and baking. “Any activity that can be safely done indoors and doesn’t require heavy equipment or ventilation is encouraged,” the organization’s site says.
97 Brokaw Rd., San Jose
$100 per month
Hanhai Investment Inc. tells Xconomy that it is looking for tech startups that have an interest in China to rent space in its “plug and play” office environment. The company writes: “Today a growing number of small to mediums size businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs wish to enter the Chinese market, but more often than not lack the resources. For small businesses and developing ventures, needed resources vary greatly: experience, staff, office space, equipment, wisdom, connections, tax incentives, legal counsel, knowledge and training, funding, a professional work environment that promotes progress. Perhaps the biggest perk is that you will be in a stimulating work environment that surrounds you with mentors, investors and fellow startups companies.”
625 Second Street, San Francisco
$550-$650 per month, $1,500-$4,000 for private offices
Hatchery occupies a 21,000-square-foot space just two blocks from AT&T Park and South Park and a short walk to CalTrans and MUNI. Members have 24/7 access to the space, which will include up to 180 desks configured for four, six or eight users in a highly flexible format, with lockers available for storag. Twelve shared conference rooms and telephone rooms accommodate from four to 20+ people with Polycom phones and whiteboards. Other amenities include broadband internet (wireless and wired optional) and networked printer, scanner, fax and copier, on-site management, mail-handing service, voicemail system, on-call administrative and IT support, two shared kitchens with daily free coffee, tea, water and catering services for member functions. Hatchery says its members “will include a range of industries, from start-ups to established firms, including technology and social media, legal, advertising/public relations, product development and design firms, among others” and that membership will come with “unparalleled connectivity with some of the Bay Area’s leading investors and business, governmental and philanthropic leaders, the result of the founders combined 50 years experience working across a range of industries.”
2150 Allston Way, Suite 400, Berkeley
9:00 am – 6:00 pm weekdays
$25 to $295 per month.
Hub Berkeley has 2,000 square feet of desk and event space in the David Brower Center, a LEED Platinum-certified building that’s home to 30 social and environmental enterprises. 30 work spaces are available, but no permanent desks.
901 Mission Street, Suite 105, San Francisco
9:00 am – 6:00 pm weekdays
$25 to $545 per month
Hub SoMa has 8,600 square feet of desk, meeting, and event space in the San Francisco Chronicle building—part of the 5M project to revitalize a four-acre area bounded by Mission Street, Howard Street, 5th Street, and 6th Street. Desk space available for as little as five hours per month or as many as you want. Permanent desks available.
780 Valencia St., San Francisco
Like the next organization on the list (Kicklabs), I/O Ventures is both a co-working space and a venture incubator. Startups apply for a three-month term of residence and turn over 8 percent of their common stock in return for office space, mentorship, and investments ranging up to $25,000.
181 Fremont St., San Francisco
A venture incubator run by Transmedia Capital, Kicklabs opened in June 2010 at 250 Brannan Street in SoMa, and is relocating its companies to offices managed by RocketSpace on Fremont Street. Transmedia funds 2- to 8-member startups in areas like social gaming, mobile apps, and online advertising, in return for an equity stake that varies depending on the size of the company and its term of residence.
972 Mission St., 5th Floor, San Francisco
$2 per square foot or $300 per month
Mission*social is intended specifically for social enterpreneurs and enterprises—companies working in some way for the public good. Dedicated work space for social enterprises is available for about $2 per square foot, while solo workers can rent desks for $300 per month. Drop-ins are free.
28 Second St., San Francisco
$50-$1545 per month
Nextspace’s SoMa location is an offshoot of its original operation in Santa Cruz and provides business services in addition to the usual workspace, Internet connections, and conference rooms. The company charges $50 per month for a mailbox, $235 per month for “cafe” membership, $475 per month for the “workstation” level, and $1,545 per month for a dedicated office. Freelancer Deborah Gage profiled Nextspace for Xconomy last October.
2169 Misssion St., San Francisco
$80 per month
Not so much a coworking environment as a non-profit, collaboratively run hackerspace, Noisebridge is nonetheless used by people pursuing all manner of software and hardware projects, with a special emphasis on free and open-source software and “the crossover of art and technology,” according to the organization’s wiki. Members pay dues of $80 per month ($40 for “starving hackers”) and there’s a community meeting every Tuesday night at 8:00 pm.
1436 Howard St., San Francisco
(moving soon to 169 11th St.)
$50-$500 per month
Owned by Paris-based faberNovel—a sort of French equivalent of product design shop Ideo, but with a focus on user experience engineering—Parisoma opened three years ago in a funky third-floor space on Howard Street. The space is now crammed full of entrepreneurs, so it’s a good thing that the organization plans to move around the corner at the end of this month to a much more elegant and modern space currently occupied by the Great Places to Work Institute. Prices range from $50 per month for a mailbox to $100 a month for 1-day-a-week access, $275 per month for full-timeaccess, and $500 per month for a dedicated desk. (The 11th Street space will also feature private offices for $1100 to $2000 per month.) I recently interviewed Parisoma manager Julian Nachtigal and will be writing up an article soon.
440 N. Wolfe Rd., Sunnyvale
540 University Ave., Palo Alto
370 Convention Way, Redwood City
The diversity of small, independent coworking spaces in San Francisco and Berkeley is missing in Silicon Valley, where Plug and Play dominates the market. Over 280 companies rent space at its six locations (three are in Los Angeles); a variety of leases are available, from cubicles to private offices to lab space. Plug and Play isn’t an incubator, but it has relationships with individual investors and venture firms, and partners from firms like Norwest Venture Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Sequoia Capital, Menlo Ventures, and Accel Partners often get a “first look” at Plug and Play companies.
179 11th St., Third Floor, San Francisco
The Reactor is home to a variety of Web, software, and design firms. It has 2,000 square feet of office space with private desks and a 3,500-square foot common area, including a conference room and full kitchen. One intriguing recent resident was Bynamite, which built a Firefox and Chrome plugin that you can use to see what types of information Internet advertisers are able to glean about you.
795 Folsom Street
1 Market Street, Spear Tower, 36th Floor
201 Mission Street, 12th Floor (opening early 2012)
Regus says it owns the world’s largest network of flexible working and co-working centers. The Folsom Street location, in the same building with Twitter, provides a high-tech atmosphere with an attached cyber-café. Rates start at $25 per day.
181 Fremont St., San Francisco
$385 to $550 per month
Opening its doors on February 17, RocketSpace offers shared workspaces customized for teams of 1 to 30 people. It has a dedicated space called the “Mir Project” specifically for tech, media, and gaming companies—but they have to be graduates of Bay Area venture incubators such as AngelPad, Dogpatch Labs, 500Startups, Kicklabs, I/O Ventures, and Y Combinator.
404 Bryant Street, San Francisco
$50-$1950 per month
[Corrected 2/21/11 with input from Sandbox Suites] With two locations in San Francisco and one in Berkeley, Sandbox Suites is one of only two coworking chains in the Bay Area (Plug and Play Tech Center being the other). In addition to open coworking areas like those found at most other coworking spaces, the organization offers private rooms set up for 1 to 6 people. Members are free to use space at all three locations. Sandbox Suites also offers 12 meeting rooms across three three locations for hourly rental by members or non-members.
[Update 8/5/11] Sandbox Suites is adding a South Park office in the startup-infested SoMa neighborhood. Here’s the announcement: “Set to open September 7, Sandbox Suites South Park will serve as a nexus for startups and independent professionals looking to establish a presence in the bustling SOMA neighborhood. Located at 404 Bryant St. on the corner of Second Street, the modern 8,500 square foot coworking space will be the company’s fourth location in the Bay Area, adding to its successful locations in SOMA, Union Square and Berkeley.”
12 South 1 St., Suite 318, San Jose
Semantic Seed, set up in 2008 by the founders of Urban Technology Ventures and Breakthrough Ventures, calls itself a hybrid co-working space and startup accelerator. Like classic venture incubators, it provides tenants with mentorship, but unlike other incubators, it doesn’t require an equity stake. Heads up: thanks to its location in San Jose’s Enterprise Zone, Semantic Seed companies are eligible for big tax breaks.
153 Townsend St.
SOMAcentral isn’t really a classic coworking space, but rather a couple floors of very startup-friendly offics and cubicles in a modern office building. Offices with windows go for $1,500 per month, and bullpen areas and offices without windows go for $1,000 per month, according to Daniel Odio of PointAbout, one of the startups renting space there. Offices fit four to nine people. VentureHacks has an office there, as do Rapportive, Twylah, CoTweet, and StageIt.
1261 Howard St., San Francisco
Cloud Nine Media is a provider of advertising and sponsorship opportunities for public Wi-Fi networks. The company has a large workspace in SoMa and is looking to rent some of it out to “creative, entrepreneurial people and small companies long on ideas but short on desk space.” Cloud Nine’s Lauren Oliver writes: “We are a fully operational small company, not just a coworking space (we just happen to be operating in a very large space). We’re currently looking for 6-12 people to join us.” Cloud Nine is asking $375/month for shared 8-foot desks and $500/month for single desks.
806 Winslow Ave., Redwood City
Studio G is a new invitation-only business accelerator and coworking facility founded by technology pundit, consultant, and conference producer Chris Shipley. Offering “drop-in” space rather than permanent desks, Studio G has many of the features of a venture incubator: “We help companies understand where they are on the road to success, focus their strategies, execute on their business plan, and credibly connect them [with] the investors, partners, customers and service providers that will help their businesses grow,” the organization’s site says.
268 14th Street, Oakland
11:00 am – 7:00 pm weekdays
$200 per month
Located in a former storefront in downtown Oakland, Tech Liminal was founded by Anca Mosoiu, an MIT graduate and Oakland native who’s written software for Razorfish, Sony, Juniper Networks, and Cisco Systems. The facility offers a basic desk and chair with Internet access for $5 per hour, $25 per day, or $200 per month. Configurable desks accommodate one, two, or more people. There’s also a conference room with room for up to 16 people that can be rented for $50 per hour or $400 per day.