Let's face it — San Francisco is not a cheap town.
It's a challenge to find reasonably priced office space. Obviously, this isn't a plus for tech startups on shoestring budgets.
However, the benefits of building your company in San Francisco outweigh the costs. So, don't let high commercial real estate keep you away. With more than 30 coworking facilities in the Bay Area, finding an affordable office space is easy — if you're willing to share.
Some people, who are unfamiliar with coworking, assume the environment might produce unwelcome distractions. While that may be true in some instances, surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals most likely will lead to innovations, mentors, and beneficial connections.
Although many factors will undoubtedly influence your ultimate decision, here are seven that will help guide you toward choosing the best co-working option for your startup's needs.
How to Choose a Coworking Space for Your Tech Startup
1. Evaluate Space Needs + Budget
How many people are on your team right now?
If it's just yourself, or two to three others, you may do well with either a general seating membership or dedicated desks in close proximity. Considering the number of remote work teams in existence today, sitting right next to one another may not be necessary. Conversely, if your startup already has several team members onboard, you may want to invest in a private office space.
For companies just starting out, it's important to ensure a flexible membership option. Check with your preferred coworking space to make sure you can add, or subtract, desk space as needed on a month to month basis. Most SF coworking spaces include hot desks (or surf desks), dedicated desks, and private office options, allowing teams to mix, match, and move around as needed.
Pricing may vary, but you can usually expect to pay the following:
- Open seating memberships between $300-$600 a month
- Personal desk memberships between $600-$1,000 a month
- Private office memberships are generally $2,000 and up
For more info on top coworking spaces for tech startups and more, get The Silicon Valley Startup Guide.
2. Determine Your Ideal Location
Location is tricky — especially in a city as diverse as San Francisco. With so many great neighborhoods, choosing a work location is challenging.
If you want to be central, with easy access for commuting: SoMa, The Financial District, and Embarcadero are all excellent choices.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, San Francisco County has among the highest number of commuters coming from another county in the nation. In 2011, 10 percent of SF workers spent at least 60 minutes transporting to and from work. Most likely, that number has only risen.
The average daily commute in the U.S? About 25 minutes. Anything longer and you are looking at a serious quality of life issue. The Bottom Line: Whether driving yourself, carpooling with a friend, or taking public transit, try out the commute before committing to anything for longer than a month.
3. Seek Cultural Compatibility
As you are building your startup, it's important to consider the culture you want early on:
- What do you want to be known for?
- How will team members communicate?
- How will people feel working for your company?
Company culture is essentially cultivating a team of people who share similar values and have fun working together. It's about hiring the right employees and taking the initiative to connect everyone beyond routine tasks.
For example, Warby Parker has an entire team dedicated to creating events, programs, and breakouts that strengthen camaraderie. You can do the same thing on a smaller scale by choosing a coworking community with a culture you want to emulate.
Beyond the obvious physical differences — color schemes, furniture styles, and floor plans — there is a palpable difference in feeling among coworking spaces. Much of this comes down to the personalities, attentiveness, and helpfulness of staff members and coworkers.
Check-out these Quora reviews of two different spaces:
Intersection for the Arts (IFTA)
One the major benefits of having access to IFTA is that I can always count on seeing something interesting. Whether that's a new gallery opening, the stage set for a new play, or just one of the quirky artists doing their thing, IFTA finds ways to keep it fresh.
Sometimes it does feel too quiet, especially when there aren't any new events going on. And on the flipside, when there are events going on it can get a little congested in there (but not necessarily noisy). That aside, I've found it to be a very productive space for me.
—Charles Brown, Schaffer&Combs
RocketSpace is a great community with a genuinely helpful team and support staff, everyone is super friendly, and it's an all around great place... We moved here in March and couldn't be happier... Also, I liked that I had to basically pitch the RocketSpace team in order to get in.
—Marc Hoag, co-founder Twibble.io
Two different spaces; two totally different vibes. While RocketSpace has no "official pitch process," it's worth mentioning that we don't accept everyone. We work hard to cultivate a community of like-minded tech entrepreneurs and founders to give our members a valuable work environment to help them succeed.
For this reason, we mostly accept Seed to Series C funded technology-focused companies with MVPs.
4. Physical Environment
If you are coming from a traditional work environment, and are not used to collaborative space, coworking can feel strange. Where are the walls? Won't I hear my neighbors?
In recent years, much has been written about the pros and cons of open workspaces. From our perspective, it's not so much about working in an open space, as it is about cultivating an environment of courteous professionals.
The best coworking spaces take different project needs into account by supporting their bullpens with privacy nooks, breakout spaces, phone booths, and reservable meeting rooms. Ideally, your coworking space should have no shortage of work location options. Studies actually show workplace flexibility leads to happier, more productive employees.
More Qualities to Prioritize
Good Lighting: Quality of light plays a major role in a work environment. Choose a space with lighting that makes you feel comfortable and productive.
Air Quality: Does the workspace feel stuffy? Breathe deeply, clear your mind. Your coworking location of choice should change their air filters regularly and possibly provide air-scrubbing plants.
Comfort: Are the chairs ergonomically pleasing? Can they be adjusted to accommodate your frame? Monitors and keyboard placement should ensure wrists, necks, and shoulders stay comfortable all day long.
Impressiveness: Will this space impress potential investors, clients, and employees? Look for modern features that feel more upscale lounge than washed-out corporate.
5. Evaluate Amenities
Amenities are a nice bonus to coworking. The best coworking environments have one goal: to create a workspace that helps you reach your goals. To do this, they may provide helpful services, cafes, or even yoga classes. Amenities will vary depending on the price of the space, the size, and the niche.
At RocketSpace we offer:
- Lightning Fast Wireless Internet
- Reservable Event Space
- Free Snacks + Beverages
- 24/7 Office Access
- Reception Services
- Mail Distribution
- Complete Kitchens
- Unlimited Printing
Amenities exist so you can avoid dealing with time-consuming details. So, you have to ask yourself: "What would really help me be more productive?"
If you are someone who holds a lot of meetings, that might mean always having a conference room ready to go. If you are a night owl, that might mean prioritizing membership plans with unlimited access.
6. Learning + Networking Opportunities
Finally, prioritize coworking spaces that fulfill your networking and community goals. Whether you want to learn more through regular events, network with other coworkers, or attend courses and talks, look into the community happenings at your perspective spaces.
Tech startups can benefit from coworking spaces that have:
1. Educational courses and talks
2. A robust VC network and community
3. Mentors and prominent alumni
4. Regular networking and social events
At RocketSpace, we offer member-only events meant to provide advice, resources, and inspiration regarding common struggles (i.e. raising your next round of funding, pricing your product, recruiting an all-star team). We also offer tech + startup events that are open to the public. In the past, we've hosted speakers like Steve Blank and Steven Ballmer.
Find What Works For You
What works for one startup might not work for another.
If you want to scale fast, choose a coworking space that understands your unique needs as a tech company. Find a space that offers a rich community, flexible working options, and amenities that fit your company's needs.
We hope this article has given you a better idea of what to expect when evaluating coworking spaces in San Francisco.
If you have any questions, we're here to help. Come by, and see if RocketSpace is a fit for your tech startup!