Another Year in San Francisco

Here's to another year in the most magical shithole in the world. It's been about a year since I returned to San Francisco, and it will be at least another year for me here in this mystifying place. I've just signed a new lease in the Outer Richmond. I'm looking forward to the quiet relative to my current spot above a bar in the heart of North Beach, but it's hard not to wonder about the future of this controversial city.

On one hand, Silicon Valley is a playground for innovation. The density of brain power here is unmatched. And San Francisco should be the epicenter for this, but it seems that the talent is leaving in droves. While housing prices are coming down, this is still an extremely expensive place to live—especially if you're now doing all of your work from the couch of your tiny apartment. Corona has forced tech companies to go remote, and many of the offices in San Francisco may never open again. So why not move to Austin, Las Vegas, or Miami where housing is cheaper, quality of life is higher, and the taxes are much lower?

As the months of stay-at-home mandates wore on with no clear end in sight, I couldn't help to ask myself the same thing. But unlike many of these newly created remote workers, I was already working in my underpants. What brought me back to San Francisco was not the chance to get paid boatloads to work at a Google or Facebook, but to be around the people that do. But with many of these people leaving, why did I chose to stay? 

I think there's a purge being undertaken in San Francisco. Those at established startups and tech companies will probably leave, and they probably should. But I think the entrepreneurs will stay. The capital for starting a company is still here, and while VCs seemed to be managing surprisingly well on Zoom, I think there's an edge to be had in being local. I don't know that when or if an effective vaccine will come, but I do think that eventually we'll figure out testing. If the UFC and NBA can do it, why a can't a city? Although if anybody could fuck it up, I wouldn't put the inept leadership of San Francisco past it.

Running a company that's already raised money, staffed up, and found product market fit will likely do just fine with a long-term transition to remote. But I think the earliest stages of a company are best done in person. This isn't a rule that I've yet put into practice myself, but I continue to come into contact with the many problems that can arise with a small remote team. In my mind, the most important part of building a great business is nailing down the foundation, and getting the core team aligned via the web is tough.

I think the crazies will stay, because honestly you'd have to be a little crazy to want to stay here. Homelessness is getting worse, corona continues to linger, taxes are probably rising, and while housing prices are coming down it's still a hard pill to swallow if you don't need to go into an office here. And yet, there's still something magical about this place. Every time I find myself on the top of one of San Francisco's many hills, and I can't help but be impressed by the gall of this city's founders. It almost feels like a big fuck-you to mother nature that there could even be a modernish city built upon this daunting landscape. And for their work, I'm grateful, for from the tops of any of these giant inclines comes a collection of views that can't be matched.

Is this place a shithole? Absolutely. But it's my shithole, and I'm here to stay.

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