Looking over SoMa from the rooftop at KLP
Guest Post: Shannon Brown
SoMa district in San Francisco has absorbed thousands of tech startups since 2010. But why should NZ high-technology companies come to the denser urban district of SoMa instead of focusing solely in the Nerdistan Silicon Valley?
Catherine Robinson, Director at Kiwi Landing Pad explains that New Zealand entrepreneurs tend to be generalists and build products that reflect NZ’s market – wide but very shallow. “Building a global business means adapting and segmenting the market to be an inch wide and a mile deep. SoMa provides NZ entrepreneurs easy access to all the specialist skills and capabilities that are required to scale operations. And – all within a couple of square blocks.”
1. Access to investors and advisors.
According to The Martin Prosperity Institute Report “Startup City” 2014, the Bay Area as a whole, including San Francisco and Silicon Valley has accounted for nearly $11billion in venture investment. However San Francisco actually tops Silicon Valley attracting nearly $7 billion, a quarter of the national total in venture investment, compared to $4 billion for Silicon Valley.
Mike Neumegen, CEO of Cloud Cannon said “being centrally based at Kiwi Landing Pad lead to meetings with Google, Facebook, Dropbox, HubSpot, Optimizely, and VC’s in the area. Being in market highly contributes to your credibility.”
2. Talent clusters
High tech has become less focused on hardware, which requires factory-sized setting, to cloud computing that allows companies to succeed quickly and shrink their footprints.
With this, a new generation of tech talent has emerged where designers, composers, marketers, and copywriters are needed just as much as engineers. And this talent pool want to live in denser, livelier and less car dependent urban locations where society and technology can inspire each other.
This has pushed tech giants like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Zyna to locate their head quarters in San Francisco. “Specifically for NZ high-technology companies there is a need to focus on recruiting and retaining top talent that have specialized skills designed for growth. San Francisco is where you will find them.” –Catherine Robinson.
3. Sense of community
With these talent clusters comes a strong sense of community built around work-life balance. Business is not limited to the office, they live and breathe the startup culture through constantly networking, throwing launch parties, attending demos, awards shows, and conferences. Along with nightly events- more bikes and pedestrians crowd the streets, food trucks float to the area daily, and the debate on kombucha or drip coffee continues in boutique coffee shops.
With the assortment of top tech companies blocks away from Kiwi Landing Pad, it’s not uncommon to overhear conversations from tech celebrities at Sight Glass, or have a drink with a founder at events like Startup Tech Mixer.
4. Proximity to amenities & public transport
Besides the Caltrain in central SoMa, the $1.59 billion ‘Central Subway Project’ is set to be finished in 2019 and will stretch 1.7 miles with stops at 4th and Brannan Street, the Moscone Center, Union Square and Chinatown.
Previous Kiwi Landing Pad resident Modlar recently moved into their own office just blocks from the Caltrain and AT&T Park. CEO Scott Barrington said that he was very set on securing a spot in SoMa due to its great mixture of cafes, bars and public transport. “There’s a great community of tech companies in SoMa. It’s handy to everything making it a great place for our employees.”
However securing a spot in SoMa is not easy. “You’ve got to move very fast, it’s like an auction process here. We put offers on multiple places before we secured this office.”
5. Role of local Government
Contributing to the clustering are city initiatives that focus on maintaining the area’s vibrant economic and physical diversity, and sustaining growth. Programs like the ‘TechSF Workforce Training Initiative’ to train and re-skill San Francisco residents, and tax incentives that reduce payroll tax for technology startups.
Pam Ford is from ATEED and is based at Kiwi Landing Pad to build on the relationships established during last years America’s Cup. “The support for a sustainable start up technology sector here in San Francisco is impressive. The city recognizes that a considerable share of talent and founders of high tech start ups in San Francisco are from many other countries, like New Zealand. They are welcoming and are conscious of this in their planning of areas like SoMa, making it easier for New Zealand companies to build and scale a company here.”