The New Office Space


After reading my rant about Starbucks and some of the comments on that post, Jackson sent in this guest column about how many are using indi-cafes in San Francisco as mobile office space. (Ritual is my favorite….) If you are not in San Francisco and have names of entrepreneur friendly locations you want others to know, leave the details/links to their location in the comments. If anyone wants to build a Google Map of all this, drop me a note. – Om

By Jackson West.

Forget Palo Alto garages — San Francisco coffee shops are where to get your startup off the ground. Internet cafes are emerging as an important place to get work done, hold meetings and network. Since writers, designers, developers and anyone else who can work from their laptop are going to show up, you can even recruit talent, publicize your project and even demo your product for potential users and investors.

On Charter Street, Greg Olsen writes about “Going Bedouin.” The idea is that instead of worrying about leases, infrastructure and support staff, a startup can stay nimble and focused by using third party services and mobile technology:

By focusing almost exclusively on service-based infrastructure options, a business could operate as a sort of neo-Bedouin clan – with workers as a roaming nomadic tribe carrying laptops & cell phones and able to set up shop wherever there is an Internet connection, chairs, tables, and sources of caffeine.

My own experience helping to organize the WebZine conference pretty much echoed this. No office space was rented, communication was primarily through email lists and a private wiki, and meetings were held at cafes with free internet, with notes and ideas quickly disseminated to those who couldn’t attend. When a contact was needed to help out with services such as advertising, sponsorships or donations, cell phones came out and calls were made, and issues were often resolved before the meeting was even over. Even during the conference itself, local cafes served as press rooms, panel development forums and, of course, somewhere to get some lunch.

Of course, the business of coffee shops is to sell food and coffee, not to take the place of VC-run incubator offices. While some have dealt with the problem of freeloaders by charging for their Wifi, this often turns geeks away. Coffee to the People in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury is trying to come up with guidelines, and the issue of coffee shop etiquette is a popular topic of discussion among digerati. Some cafe owners only share the WEP or WPA key with paying customers, limit the number of wall jacks to recharge batteries, or shut down wifi on the weekends to encourage offline socializing.

Niall Kennedy has proposed a number of ideas for proprietors to keep up their cash flow and the loyalty of the laptop-toting set. Other services, such as community office space offered by Coworking, have also begun to answer the needs of freelancers and small startups who need a place to plug in. Backoffice wikis, group chat and social calendars also promise to make it easier for teams of nomads to work as a group even if scattered across the four corners of the globe.

Here’s a list of cafes in San Francisco chosen by popular acclaim and personal recommendation. Any one of them will keep you fueled with caffeine, connected online and give you a chance to network with fellow travellers.

Ritual Coffee Roasters

This is the current ‘it’ cafe, and at any given time you can probably find a blogger who’s been BoingBoinged there, like Scott Beale. It’s Mission location makes the move from work to play just a short walk away.

1026 Valencia Street [map | site | yelp]

Caffe Trieste

This North Beach establishment has been around since Jack Kerouac lived in the neighborhood. Word on the street is that Wired News’ Tony Long regularly holds court there.

601 Vallejo St [map | site | yelp]

Reverie Coffee Cafe

Located in quiet Cole Valley, this is where angry newspaper publishers can find Craig Newmark on any given day. With a patio out back, it’s also great if you’re a smoker.

848 Cole St [map | yelp]

Coffee to the People

This Haight-Ashbury is a favorite of cute couple Chris Messina and Tara Hunt. Second only to Ritual Roasters in terms of Dodgeball check-ins. They even have their own blog.

1206 Masonic Avenue [map | site | yelp]

Quetzal Internet Cafe

Designer and cartoonist Kevin Cheng of OK/Cancel recommends this as an oasis is a relatively barren nexus of the Nob Hill, Hayes Valley and Civic Center neighborhoods.

1234 Polk Street [map | site | yelp]

Thinkers Cafe

Potrero is the neighborhood of choice for those who need to be close to 101 and 280. Before heading to Dogster headquarters nearby, Ted Rheingold often gets some work done there over his morning coffee.

1631 20th Street [map | yelp]

Zig Zag Cafe

With AnchorFree now providing free WiFi in a number of upscale neighborhoods including the Marina and the Castro, any cafe will do, but this is the one that Annalee Newitz recommended.

476 Castro Street [map | yelp]

Jackson West, writes for SFist. He writes about Web 2.0 and other topics for GigaOm


Lars Pind

When I’m in New York, my favorite work spot is at Cafe Pick-me-up on Ave A and 9th, right by Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. The park itself isn’t bad, either.

Ed Kohler

Panera has become my preferred place to office on the road. The WiFi has been reliable and the food is great for the price. Much better than fast food for only a buck or so more.

Panera seems to be getting a lot of attention for their WiFi. I’ve written about that here:

The only time that doesn’t work is over the lunch hour. I’ve never been in one that isn’t crazy busy at that time.

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I’ve gotta say that Caffe Trieste has one of the best cups of cappuccino I’ve ever had

Justin Lee

In Palo Alto:



Neotte – A tea cafe right across borders & apple on University avenue, great design, great wifi, friendly staff, a graet change from coffee.

Mountain View:

Red Rock Cafe

Verde Bubble Tea

Quickly Bubble Tea (Plush hi-back executive chairs available)

Michael T. Halligan

My favorite is the Art Bistro at 33rd & Geary. Their ‘net connection is OK, the owners are awesome, the focacia is out of this world. It’s small, but comfy & quiet. I hold a good number of meetings there, and tend to meet a lot of other developers in this place.

Eddie Codel

One more in SF: Java Beach Cafe at the end of the N-Judah line by the Great Highway. Get your geek on, get some sun on and watch the sandy surfers stroll in for a warm-me-up.


In SoCal – A good spot for wifi and good scones and bagels is Manhattan Bread & Bagel -1812 N. Sepulveda Man. Bch., CA
They have had free wifi for 4 years and the best bagels in ca. Plenty of elect. outlets and the place just got remodeled – looks good.

Sridhar T Pai

Actually – a similar version is begining to be noticed in Bangalore as well. Ofcourse Coffee Day with 40 odd outlets in Bangalore lets you settle down with your lap-top, a coffe and WiFi (you pay $1 an hour – but was free till Dec of 05). But you also have folks that use their own CDMA phones to go online, chk mails and hold meetings. I have done this myself a half dozen times since Jan. Favourite haunt: Indiranagar Coffee Day or the one in ITPL.
A lot can start-up over coffee?
Sridhar Tonse Pai in Bangalore


Seattle has a great coffee shop with wifi, the Fargonian at 23rd and Madison in the central city.

As the day advances you can move next door to Philly Fevre for cheesesteaks and beer and user their free wifi.

Got you covered from 6:30 AM into the evening and for all major beverage and food groups.

Michael Madison

On they have a client you can run offline to dicover new wifi locations. It keeps a local database on your computer of the different types of wifi locations and whether or not it’s free, etc. It runs offline. It’s a decent tool for finding you new favorite spot.

As for me, I love Happy Donut in Palo Alto moderate noise levels and open 24/7. And Atlas Cafe at 3049 20th St @ Alabama St in SF but they do make you pay for internet access a la but all in all a nice place to study/work (with great food).

Jackson West

Thanks to everyone for commenting! Every single thing improved upon what I wrote (including Om’s masterful editing). And nobody pointed out my grammatical errors!

First, somehow the link disappeared for the Charter Street post that Om originally recommended. Basically, after reading that, I did a total rewrite, because it put my own experience and what many of my friends did into perspective.

Edward Vielmetti

A bunch of choices in Ann Arbor downtown – Espresso Royalle, Sweetwaters, Eastern Accents lead the pack.

Panera is a good place to go if you also need lunch.

There’s a Caribou near my house but it has Freedomlink, SBC’s un-free wifi. So that’s the cafe I go to when I want to be offline.

I’m surprised no one has mentioned libraries, but public libraries often have wifi access for patrons and visitors.

Dave Roberts

I have blogged the past couple of days about the setting up of our new office. I have stumbled across some other people struggling with the same sort of issues. Let’s just face it, offices have their drawbacks, in addition to many good points. One option is to try to jettison the whole idea…

Freeze Peach Cafe

Located in Astoris, Queens (NYC), Freeze Peach Cafe offers a variety of teas, coffees, and other fun drinks and snacks. We also have wireless and wired high-speed internet and a number of customers telecommute from the cafe on a daily basis.

Free 30 minutes internet with purchase. Hourly and monthly high-speed plans available.

Eddie Codel

Here’s a couple more for the Lower Haight dwellers. The Grind on Haight @ Scott usually has ample tables to spread out and wifi on, as well as front patio where smokers can get their butts on.

My new favorite place with wifi is Cafe du Soleil on the corner of Fillmore and Waller, the old Movida Lounge space. As the name hints, it’s a nice little french cafe with great coffee, pain au chocolate, French bread, French toast, great salads and open face sandwhiches. Please just save me a seat when you go as this secret can fill up fast.

Kevin Burton

Yeah. Now wifi at Reverie. The morons removed it and even posted a story about how wifi is going to kill coffee shops. Morons.

Oh well. I’ll take my $ elsewhere.

David Mercer

Reminds me of how I worked 5-6 years ago when I ran a network infrastructure startup here in Tucson. I’d often head out to our one big local client in the morning and check up on how things were going with our guys there, and then stop at a downtown coffee shop and make any cell phone calls needed to the East Coast for the day. Then that evening or night I’d end up at The Safehouse with my laptop for some work via wifi. Local music and movie folk still meet there a lot, even if the volume of geeks is lower these days (still free wifi and great coffee if you’re ever in Tucson and need a fix).

Since I’m moving to the Bay Area this next week, I’ll certainly keep the coffee shops mentioned here in SF, Berkeley and Rockridge in mind, as I’m going to be working at CNET in SF and living in Rockridge.

Whodathunkit, Tucson leading in front of the Bay Area on anything!

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