OpenVC Guide: The San Francisco Bay Area Venture Ecosystem

Posted by Shaun Gold | January 16, 2023

Entrepreneurship and venture capital are global. No matter where you go, each city has something to offer for founders and investors. But if you are a fresh arrival or just not an active member of the ecosystem, it can be difficult to navigate. This is precisely why we created the OpenVC Guides.

We reached out to founders and investors around the world and asked them where to go, who to know, and more. We hope that these primers help you navigate the ecosystem in your city and make your own mark. If you want to contribute to your city, click here.

Today we cover the San Francisco Bay Area.

Table of Contents

Intro to the San Francisco Bay Area Ecosystem

When you think of startup cities and even startups in general, San Francisco immediately comes to mind for most people. And it should be as it’s the world’s number one startup hub. Here are some quick facts:

  • Ranked #1 globally by both Startup Genome and StartupBlink.
  • Top verticals include ecommerce, fintech, and analytics.
  • Top startups that call the San Francisco Bay Area home include Instacart, Chime, Databricks, and more.
  • Top exits include Coinbase, Dropbox, Minted, DocuSign, and many more.    

We asked our friends in the San Francisco Bay Area for their opinions. Here is what they had to say:

Best thing about the San Francisco Bay Area venture scene

Our contributors had different opinions about the best things that the San Francisco Bay Area venture scene had to offer but they all agreed that it was great for networking and the sheer variety of founders, VCs, talent, and events.

  • VCs are hosting many events which is a great way to meet founders and other builders who can ultimately become your support network. The people you meet at these events could be a new friend, a potential partner or investor, or a new hire.
  • There is a great diversity of people and interests.
  • The scene is open and collaborative; most people are eager to share ideas and brainstorm about each other's innovations and company projects.
  • There are a ton of folks here that invest in all sorts of things.
  • The proximity to Y Combinator.
  • Accessibility for Silicon Valley based founders.
  • The local venture scene is pretty lit. The community is very well connected and people are happy to generally make strong intros.
  • The venture scene is bustling. There is always an entrepreneur's launch party, a VC party, an event at a university that you can meet and rub shoulders with almost anyone you want.

Worst things about the San Francisco Bay Area venture scene

You can’t have the good without the bad. The San Francisco Bay Area venture scene is no different.

  • Many of the VCs are based in the Peninsula – Palo Alto, Menlo Park, etc. Being in SF, it can be hard to get face-to-face interactions with VCs sometimes. In the era of Zoom, it is a serious differentiator to be able to build in-person relationships with investors.
  • The long drives and traffic to get around town are a real hassle and can be expensive. It's also hard to promote industry innovations and business models that are not solely software-based businesses.
  • Many founders and VCs believe they are all the smartest folks in the room. Sure, SF does a lot of deals but it's mostly the luck of being here.
  • Many startups are leaving the area to go to different hubs around the United States.
  • It can be tough for first time founders without a network.
  • There are a lot of surface people who I feel are focused on some trivial things. We spend way too much time and money on issues that don't really matter to the important issues on the planet. They get over hyped and over valued for a tech ATM machine. We need to redefine value in the economy and venture valuations.
  • It's a bit pretentious. The San Francisco Bay AREA is the birthplace of the venture world, however; I feel like it's gotten a bit elitist and caste-system-like. Only if you're a Stanford GSB grad will you get funded, and that's just problematic.
  • It can sometimes be a little difficult to know where to look. There is a lot of fluff and noise to break through to get to some really good venture action.

Best spots in the San Francisco Bay Area to work from your laptop

Every city has its own cool and hip spots to work from. Here is what our contributors said about the San Francisco Bay Area.

Atlas Cafe

3049 20th St

Great sandwiches for less than $15, vibes are immaculate, and the WiFi is blazing. There are always lots of people cycling in and out as Atlas became a central hub for many of the crypto meetups in SF.  

Blue Danube Coffee House

306 Clement St.

A chill neighborhood with a nice vibe, Blue Danube Coffee House is the place to work if you want good food and a good atmosphere.

Blue Bottle Coffee

2 South Park St

Blue Bottle Coffee is a San Francisco staple that has multiple locations across the city. But the South Park location seems to be the place for not only founders to meet, but VCs. A great location that offers delicious coffee and a great atmosphere.  

Haus Coffee

3086 24th St

Great coffee, great vibes, and a great spot to work and take meetings.

Plug and Play Tech Center (Sunnyvale) 

440 N Wolfe Rd

If you want a premier coworking space that offers great WiFi, events, and networking opportunities, then Plug and Play Tech Center is for you. Not only will you be able to get your work done, but the random encounters you have with other founders and investors could be game changing. A dedicated desk costs $350 per month with private offices available for $1100 per month but is well worth the price.


415 Mission Street

WeWork in the Salesforce Tower offers three floors of coworking space with floor to ceiling windows that offer beautiful views and great amenities..

Best place in the San Francisco Bay Area for an investor meeting.

Tartine Manufactory

595 Alabama Street

Tartine Manufactory offers great natural light, and a comfortable space to sit and have a long chat. Not to mention that it is constantly buzzing and has tasty baked goods.  


1 Ferry Building

A quiet and hip spot that is easy to get to, Shack15 offers plenty of meeting spaces as well as lots of food and drink options in the marketplace.

Caffe Greco in North Beach 

423 Columbus Ave

Located in North Beach, Caffe Greco is a cool and easy neighborhood spot for meetings.

Hyatt Regency

5 Embarcadero

It's quiet, it's large, the lobby is beautiful, and they have free wifi, and it's close to BART and has plenty of parking.


100 Brannan St

Socialite on the Embarcadero is a great spot. You can find parking nearby, good drinks, good food and pretty easy to find a table most days.

Anywhere along Market Street

Market Street

Market Street is home to multiple cafes and restaurants so you won’t ever be at a loss for a place to have a nice meeting.

That person in the San Francisco Bay Area every tech founder should know

Not only does it pay to know where to go in the San Francisco Bay Area, but also who to know. Our contributors mentioned the following personalities to know: 

Max Shapiro - PeopleConnect Staffing

Max Shapiro has a strong network and runs online PitchForce events that are great training for founders to pitch.

Kevin Holmes - Founders Network

Kevin Holmes is the founder of Founders Network, a network for tech founders that aims to help them achieve success through peer mentorship. 

Shawn Flynn -  Principal at Global Capital Markets

Shaun Flynn is a hyper connector within the region and worth adding to your network.

Cory Levy - Founder and early stage investor

Cory Levy is super plugged into the tech scene all over San Francisco. He is constantly hosting events, fireside chats, and helping founders get their first round of funding. He runs a program called Z Fellows that helps founders get $10K to explore an idea and take a week off from their full time job. At the end, they can get fast-tracked to pre-seed funding or choose to go back to work at their employer. 

Marvin Liao - Partner at Diaspora VC

Marvin Liao is a great guy with a lot of knowledge and experience to share.

Marjan Panic - Founder and connector

Marjan Panic is not only an experienced founder, but a great connector who is always willing to help other founders. 

Tan Le - Inventor and CEO of EMOTIV

Tan Le is not only a genius entrepreneur, but is very open and approachable. 

Jason Calacanis - Entrepreneur, angel investor, podcaster, and writer

Jason Calacanis should be on every founder’s radar. He is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, and has a wealth of knowledge which he shares on his podcast and articles.  

Allan Young - Founder and investor 

Allan Young is a smart, kind, and thoughtful person. He's accomplished so much and shares so much of that with the people he meets. He's really building value and wealth the right way.

Naval Ravikant is more than a founder and investor. His unique experiences and thoughts give him a perspective that all founders should not only follow, but respect.

San Francisco Bay Area investors that truly add value

Every VC claims to add value to their portfolio companies. According to our contributors, here are a few that actually do:

Sarah Ledterman - Managing partner of 3+ Ventures

Sarah Ledterman is committed to helping female founders with knowledge, expertise, workshops, and Twitter spaces that address startup tactics and fundraising. 

Signal Fire

Signal Fire is one of the only VC firms that tracks their NPS, which is >95. They help a ton with hiring and getting in front of the press. 


Accel prides itself on being the first partner to exceptional teams everywhere. Its investments include everything from Facebook to Slack.  

KHOSLA Ventures

Khosla Ventures is nearly twenty years old and has made investments in startups that have become ubiquitous. Their blog and podcasts are a great resource for both founders and investors.

Kapor Capital

Kapor Capital has led the way for many VCs and is worth knowing. Nearly 40% of their investments focus on underrepresented founders. 

Top San Francisco Bay incubators and accelerators

If you are building in the San Francisco Bay scene, make sure to know the following incubators and accelerators.



They're an incubator that has a strong thesis and help to place the right founders to work on the solution.

500 Startups

500 Startups

500 startups is extremely useful, especially for early stage founders.

Launchpad Digital Health

Launchpad Digital Health

If you are building in digital wellness, then you want Launchpad Digital Health as your partner and mentor.


160 Spear St Suite 1000

Runway is great. People are curated for the value of their ideas...not their ability to pay or their pedigree.

Y Combinator

Y Combinator

The majority of our contributors agreed that the proximity to Y Combinator and the value it brings to founders makes it one of the best accelerators in San Francisco, if not the world.

Favorite San Francisco Bay meetups and events to attend

US Capital Global

US Capital Global

US Capital Global events are always fun and interesting.

Bootstrappers Breakfast Meetings

Bootstrappers Breakfast Meetings

Bootstrappers Breakfast Meetings are geared toward the founders of early stage technology startups. They meet at local restaurants and provide a lot of value as well as networking opportunities.

SF Hardware Meetup

SF Hardware Meetup

SF Hardware meetups are super cool, both for networking and seeing what everyone is working on.

One of our contributors states that meetups and Facebook groups are great. There are also really strong entrepreneurial groups on Discord.

It should also be noted that one of our contributors recommends getting acquainted with making friends with small groups of people who are plugged into the tech scene and just meeting more of their friends. This bottom-up approach makes it a lot easier to build real relationships that can serve you well in the long-run!

What other meetups and events should we include? Let us know and we will add them.

Any final tips for a founder who wants to build in your city?

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there - the culture of the San Francisco Bay Area is really accepting and rewarding (almost to a fault sometimes) of people who try new things and take risks.

Get out of the house. There's a lot of serendipity to be manufactured if you target where and when you show up. But you need to show up. Above all, grind!

There is a ton of talent here but that means a ton of hubris as well. You'll meet a ton of folks trying to build and create which is great but that's also the problem when you want to get talent or mindshare.

Think scale.

Do hackathons as much as possible. It is a great way to meet fellow doers. An attitude of helping others gets you way further in life. Silicon valley is much smaller than one would think of, so you will be crossing paths with the same people multiple times.

Go to every single happy hour event and get into San Francisco downtown WeWork for networking.

Find cheap rent, it's out there. Build community, and be around founders as much as you can. It really helps to be around like-minded people that you can trade ideas with.

SF is a big town but it gets small quickly. Choose where you want to live and work in a way that suits you. Explore who is organizing an event and consider the type of people they will attract...then invest your time wisely.


A big thank you to our contributors for taking the time to share their knowledge and expertise. If you want to contribute to your city, click here

Nikhil Aggarwal

Nikhil Aggarwal is the co-founder of Village, home to the best content and people in tech, startups, and business. Nikhil can be reached at [email protected] or on LinkedIn at

Jarie Bolander

Powered by a steady dose of locally-crafted espresso, Jarie loves nothing more than to figure out how to explain complex things in clear and compelling ways. With 6 startups, 7.75 books, and 10 patents under his belt, Jarie’s experience runs the gamut of semiconductors through life sciences to nonprofits. When he’s not helping clients convert a concept to a viable strategy, Jarie can either be found with his blue belt on the Jiu-Jitsu mat, interviewing entrepreneurs on his podcast ( The Entrepreneur Ethos), or researching the latest in earthship construction techniques. You can reach him at [email protected]

Phil Dillard

As a 4th Sector pioneer, I build programs to address systemic issues in the space where impact and financial returns intersect. I help people understand current trends and assemble the right partners to deliver the right solution. Working with a broad array of experts that develop a holistic picture of a challenge, I help executives, senior leaders and innovators at growth companies leverage technology and process innovations to grow impactful, scalable and profitable business. Together we discern trends in data, identify risks, develop strategies and implement plans to thrive in uncertain times. I can be reached at  [email protected]

Tino Go

Tino Go founded Baru's digital manufacturing platform to de-globalize supply chains and deliver better and customized products with underused automation. Baru leverages local manufacturing robotics nationwide to avoid up to $15 billion of long-distance shipping and handling costs in its first two industry verticals.

Tejaswi Gautam

Teja is VP & GM, InMobi based out of Silicon Valley. He is also an author & thought leader in future of work trends. He runs a substack which is #1 rated on the internet with 5K+ subscribers.

Takanori (Taka) Kamahara

Takanori (Taka) Kamahara is an investor/venture debt lending manager at GMO Payment Gateway, a Silicon Valley-based global venture capital/debt firm. We manage 7 funds and have invested in more than 200 startups worldwide (20+ IPOs & 14 unicorns). Our ultimate parent company, GMO Internet Group, is one of the largest Internet conglomerates in Japan (100+ subsidiaries) with a deep pocket for capital investment.

Ravi Kurani

Ravi Kurani has dedicated his career to water safety. From his early days as a pool boy for his father's pool and spa business to the founder of Sutro, Ravi has always wondered why everyone can’t have clean water. This feeling solidified when he was in India with First Light Ventures Fund and Village Capital. He holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from UC Riverside, MBA in International Finance from Middlebury College, and a Certificate from Stanford University in Renewable Energy Systems. He believes that being an entrepreneur is an honor he must earn daily since it gives him the ability to solve problems that not only make money but help society. Ravi can be reached at [email protected]

Himanshu Shah

Himanshu Shah is a serial entrepreneur and investor with over a decade of experience in building technology companies. Himanshu can be reached at [email protected].

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