Older tech workers may be leaving San Francisco, but the young and hungry — including those with startup dreams — are moving in

Kunal Gupta and Joe Ahearn, New Yorkers in 2018, began working on a startup called Withfriends. The idea was to help small businesses build revenue through subscription boxes, where customers would pay a monthly fee for merchandise like vegetables, flowers or shirts.

Once they decided the startup was legit, the two headed for San Francisco. This weekend, when Ahearn finds a place to live and Gupta moves into the Mission District, they won’t be the only newcomers. They’re part of a trend, according to more than two dozen people we interviewed, including real estate brokers, property managers, tech investors, tech workers and others with their finger on the pulse of the local tech scene. 

There are predictions aplenty on how the ascent of remote work will ultimately change the local scene, now that tech workers can avoid the city’s high rents by toiling remotely. However, despite a year and a half of news about a tech exodus — and with it, the narrative that San Francisco has become unappealing for the tech industry — interviewees said that, as California reopens, young tech workers, especially those in startups, are coming to San Francisco.

“You don’t lose the deep roots of Bay Area innovation overnight,” said Danielle Lazier, who’s a been selling real estate in San Francisco since 2002. “Young people are coming back or want to be here and, anecdotally, that’s what I hear about rentals.”

“You don’t lose the deep roots of Bay Area innovation overnight. Young people are coming back or want to be here and, anecdotally, that’s what I hear about rentals.”

Danielle Lazier, of Danielle Lazier real estate

Gupta, in fact, won’t be alone in the city or in his Mission District abode. He’s moving in with four other founders or co-founders of new startups. 

The reasons for relocating to San Francisco are not all that different from those that have been drawing tech aspirants since the late 1990s. They range from the general, more universal appeal of San Francisco to more tech-specific rationales, such as the wealth of venture capitalists here and a network of tech workers to engage with, particularly for those creating a startup.

 “You wake up, go to work, dream about it. Wake up, go to work, dream about it. It’s not work. It’s who we are. I don’t know many other places where you can be what you do in the way that we are besides San Francisco,”  said 22-year-old Mina Mortchev, who is launching a travel start-up after graduating from Duke University in the spring.

Changes In Real Estate

Real estate agent Mia Baldini said she saw an uptick in tenant applications once California’s June 15 reopening was revealed. 

She had two residential tenant applications from tech workers in hand when she picked up my phone call in early July. A real estate agent at Baldini Property Management, which oversees nearly 200 units mostly in San Francisco, she got only one or two applications a month earlier in the pandemic. Now she gets three to five a week. 

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