Entrepreneurial activity inspires many
These tech start-
There’s a burgeoning tech industry in Oakland, with a host of startups joining a dozen midsize tech companies and Oakland’s two technology giants, Pandora and Ask. Oakland is becoming a place where tech happens, not on the scale of San Francisco or Silicon Valley, but enough to be a contender when startups figure out where to locate.
What’s more, and a potential game changer in technology, is that Oakland’s tech industry appears to be more diverse than the largely white male and Asian male tech industries across the bay and down the peninsula, based on the concentration of start-
“You see a lot of education start-
It’s also no accident that his non-
At a time when the tech industry is sometimes vilified as elitist and indifferent to the housing needs and community ties of the average Bay Area worker, Oakland may be spearheading a more inclusive chapter in technology industry growth. The firms mentioned above are just a partial list of those started by people outside of the usual tech demographic.
But for Oakland’s tech industry to continue to grow, and do so in the quintessentially Oakland way as a diverse and social mission driven sector, will take intention, many experts say.
“Oakland is still iterating, the story is still largely being written,” Young said. “In terms of maintaining diversity and social impact, that definitely has to be nurtured,” he said. Otherwise, it could just be a San Francisco spill over.
Cedric Brown, managing partner of the Kapor Center for Social Impact, which moved here to pursue its mission of fostering diversity and opportunity in technology, agrees. He sees Oakland’s “rich social justice culture, its Silicon Valley proximity, its racial and ethnic pluralism and its open ended sense of possibilities,” as its strengths. But they won’t drive business.
“The fact that this will become a hub for black and brown tech innovation will not be by accident,” he said. “This community is working deliberately to ensure that Oakland has – and keeps – the resources talent and vibe that empowers people of color in the innovation economy. The Kapor Center certainly aims to play a catalyzing role in that vibrant community.”
Plain supply and demand economics of commercial tenants pursuing cheaper rents drove many Oakland tech companies to launch here. “Rent is substantially cheaper here than in San Francisco which is where most startups are. People are starting to choose here instead. I see more people moving to this side of the bay,” said Rockbot founder Ketu Petal, whose firm chose Oakland for its affordable rent. Rockbot sells an app that allows restaurants to offer customers the ability to choose ambient music from their iPhones.
“I am seeing techies move out here, in large part because it is cheaper to live here than in San Francisco and more convenient than living in the South Bay,” said Kurt Collins, founder of virtually-
“There are minority entrepreneurs moving to Oakland, so it is more diverse than, you know, San Francisco and more diverse than the Peninsula,” he said.
“The thing is, there‘s a difference between a start-
What Oakland does not have yet is well developed networks of moneyed investors and experienced entrepreneurs, that is, a critical mass of people ready and able to invest in what they see going on around them. Start-
“You have entire networks, like the PayPal mafia,” of PayPal employees who cashed out their stock options when PayPal went public and then put their money into friends start ups, said Collins.
Then, if a startup idea proves minimally viable as a business, it can turn to angel investors as it grows, and on up the investment pipeline to venture financing and eventually to the public markets.
“There’s a Facebook mafia and a Twitter mafia,” Collins said. “YouTube wouldn’t have happened without the PayPal mafia,” that provided the start up cash, he said.