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Oakland's home-grown startup scene emphasizes community.

How Oakland’s startup scene is trying to do tech right

on September 12, 2016

For years, Oakland has been the subject of startup-centric speculation: Is it about to blow up into the Bay Area’s next tech hub? Will San Francisco’s astronomical rents drive companies out of SoMa and across the bridge?

There’s plenty of reason to bet “yes” on both. While the tech sector accounts for only about three percent of the city’s jobs, it’s growing at a gallop. Oakland is now home to more than 400 tech firms, according to the Chamber of Commerce, and employment in the industry has grown by 23 percent since 2010. Uber’s big announcement that it will move to Oakland’s historic Sears building in 2017 has raised hopes that other big publicly traded companies will join the city’s longtime tech anchors, and Pandora.

But to get a real sense of Oakland’s startup culture, look beyond the job numbers and the headlines. East Bay innovators have watched the growth of tech spark controversy and contribute to a housing crisis in San Francisco. They’re not immune from the effects, either; commercial rents in downtown Oakland jumped by more than a third in the last year. Many say they want Oakland’s scene to look and feel different, to have a conscience and an emphasis on community. They want their city to be known for “tech done right,” as one key player put it.

The 11 Oakland and Emeryville companies and organizations profiled here embody that home-grown startup ethic. Some you’ve heard of. Some you haven’t. Some have big, bright downtown offices that would look at home in Silicon Valley. Some are headquartered in coworking spaces (actually, one of them is a coworking space). They’re aiming to teach you, feed you, entertain you, heal you.

And they don’t want to be anywhere else.

Click around the interactive map above to meet them, and follow the links to read about each one.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
Oakland North

Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to:

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