Oakland is gaining momentum as a top startup city, appealing to entrepreneurs seeking lower rent space in the Bay area and a diverse and mission-focused environment.
The movement appears to be more than a “San Francisco spillover,” according to the online news platform Oakland Local.
Oakland Local cites several examples, including GoldieBlox, a woman-led toy store designed to get girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math. Qeyno Labs is another. Founded by African Americans, it targets underserved kids who need mentoring and exposure to careers in science, technology, art design, engineering, and math.
In 2015, Oakland was named among the 15 hottest American cities by Business Insider and No. 3 among the best startup cities by Popular Mechanics. According to the U.S. Census data, Oakland is ranked third in the nation for its ratio of women-owned businesses.
Best known as the home base for Kaiser Permanente, Oakland is also home to technology giants Pandora and Ask.com. Recently, BriteHub, a software company that matches manufacturers with makers and inventors, moved to Oakland after completing the Techstars accelerator, a premier mentoring and training program for entrepreneurs.
Lower office rent plays a key role in the Oakland startup trend, says commercial real estate firm CBRE’s Vice Chairman Dan Harvey. He told Upstart Business Journal that 16 tech companies have moved to Oakland in the last several months.
“What we’re seeing is a tremendous move of the restaurateurs, of the artists, of the musicians, of the entertainment scene that was deeply embedded in San Francisco that has made a move east across the bay into Oakland,” Harvey said.
Oakland offers other incentives too, such as the Tenant and Façade Improvement programs, which provides architectural assistance and matching grants for improvements to commercial property on targeted streets.
Some have said that Oakland lacks the investors and experienced entrepreneurs needed to sustain the growth. But OBDC small business finance is creating startup opportunities by providing access to micro and small business loans with competitive interest rates.
Other startup resources in Oakland include coworking shops like Impact Hub Oakland, which has a Business Academy with several accelerator cohorts, and The Port Workspaces that operates out of four historic Oakland buildings.
For entrepreneurs seeking more opportunities, there’s Vator Splash Oakland, a two-day event and competition with workshops and special sessions dedicated to women in technology and closing the diversity gap.
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Caren Burmeister is a retired newspaper reporter turned freelance writer who enjoys yoga and caring for her two fat cats.