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Art by Clark Miller.
Art by Clark Miller.

San Francisco Is Back. Sort of. Maybe.

A comeback for hacker houses. Sunset yacht cruises. San Francisco’s most enthusiastic techies are trying to reinvigorate the city’s bruised startup scene—if the downturn doesn’t derail them first.

Art by Clark Miller.
June 17, 2022 12:00 PM PDT

Earlier this month, hundreds of Bay Area techies swarmed 5A5 Steak Lounge, a private dining venue blocks from San Francisco’s Ferry Building where patrons feast on Wagyu beef and sip $16 Japanese whisky cocktails. They were there for a spring party put on by Modernist, a members-only club in San Francisco tailored to the tech elite.

There was an ice luge in the shape of a Bored Ape Yacht Club non-fungible token. Reddit co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman DJed electronic dance music. Partygoers lingered on the edge of the dance floor, discussing startup strategy and the macroeconomic environment.

It felt like a tableau from the Before Times—prior to the pandemic’s myriad disruptions to work, social life and San Francisco’s undisputed status as the epicenter of tech. It was almost as though New York, Austin, Tex., and Miami hadn’t batted their eyes at San Francisco’s tech elite over the past couple of years and convinced a bunch of them to relocate to those cities’ burgeoning startup scenes and vibrant cultures.

Other green shoots are starting to emerge from San Francisco’s bruised tech scene. Hacker houses are making a comeback. While the city’s longtime venture capital and startup enclave, South Park, is still awash in office vacancy signs, a new hub for venture capitalists recently emerged in the Presidio, a verdant former military base that is now a national park. There’s a defiant spirit among the entrepreneurs and other techies who stayed behind in the city, a pride in having zigged while so many others zagged their way out of town.

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