The other week I spent some time visiting friends in San Francisco. I’ve been going to SF on and off every year for about ten years now. However on this journey, the weirdness of the city appeared to be at a whole new level. I believe that San Francisco is in a financial and social bubble separate from the real world.
- Everything is too expensive. I’m from New York, I expect the fine things in life to be expensive. But EVERYTHING in SF is expensive. Museums are $35, crappy local IPAs are 15$, tiny “artisanal” salads are 16$, etc.. Rent is the highest in the country. How is any of this sustainable?
- There are thousands of dumb startups. My friend let me work a little in his cowork space. This office had at least a dozen startups in it. As I walked to get coffee with another friend (YES I HAVE TWO FRIENDS) ten blocks away, I passed by dozens of these cowork spaces each with dozens of dumb startups. A company to “disrupt the banana hammock ordering process” cannot possibly do well yet someone invested money into it and it is paying employees. Sure, some startups solve legitimate problems and have a lot of talent and chance for success, but a majority of them are silly.
- People are spoiled. A friend of mine takes an uber to and from work every day, and apparently that is fairly common. New apartment buildings have features like bringing your groceries up to your apartment for you. Every food item has to be locally sourced and organic, which seems more important than taste and quality. Engineers are particularly spoiled. They can take an arbitrary sabbatical from work, they cannot be told no or reprimanded, and they make so much money that they can just take random breaks from employment to chill.
- There cannot be these many quality engineers. I know SF has a lot of quality engineers and attracts a lot of talent. But with the number of startups and dumb startups there must be a lot of not-so-great engineers filling these roles. This reminds me of the first dot com bubble where people with degrees from devry were joining companies and making big salaries (sounds very similar to boot camps). I’m sure some people from these programs become quality engineers. However, that requires great mentorship and at the job learning. I feel that the majority of them do not receive this. You learn very different things working for a startup with 50 occasional users vs a startup at scale.
It feels to me that VCs and angel investors are pumping money into SF. This money helps fund many tiny crappy startups. The many startups pay large wages to engineers of widely varying talent. They get spoiled and do / buy stupid shit. This leads to SF being expensive and just weird. I’m not saying I would never move there, just stating my observations.