It was the height of the dot-com boom when Dan Schmeltzer joined a couple of friends who wanted to create a working space for filmmakers on the second floor of a Mission Street building.
Back then, the San Francisco film industry looked healthy. Then, in the mid 2000s, partly because of the dot-com crash, filmmakers began migrating to other cities, and Schmeltzer began renting the office space to others.
Today the dot-coms are back, and the same space is thriving with tech startups, consultants and freelancers. Co-working spaces, where startups and others share rent, are thriving thanks to relatively low rents and an influx of new businesses. Mission co-working spaces now rival those of the tech-rich SoMa neighborhood, according to industry data.
The most ambitious new space is i/o ventures, which will occupy one of the vacancies left by the now-defunct New College at 780 Valencia.
The four high-profile partners, Aber Whitecomb, Ashwin Navin, Jim Youn and Paul Bregiel, previously held high-ranking positions in companies like MySpace and Yahoo. They will invest $25,000 in startups in exchange for an 8 percent stake.
After receiving 300 applications, they accepted their first five startups. The incubator will also rent spaces and have a café, a company representative said.
“We want to have part of our space open to the public so people can congregate, throw events and get a preview of our space,” a company representative said in an e-mail. “Plus, a lot of cool startups start in cafés.”
They did not elaborate on why they chose the Mission, only saying that they liked the neighborhood.
Schmeltzer, the filmmaker who now lives in Los Angeles, said, “It’s really an indication of where the economy is going. [Co-working] is for people who do things on their own; for independent filmmakers it’s difficult to support yourself.”
The Mission District currently has three co-working spaces, one hybrid startup-incubator/co-working space, and ”similar projects” spaces where tech workers abound, according to a website that lists co-working spaces around the world. In comparison, coworking.pbworks.com, a wiki page, lists SoMa as having six co-working spaces.
The Social Venture Technology group co-working space at 650 Alabama Street currently houses a graphic design group and an attorney specializing in helping startups.
Nearby, the Neutral Buoyancy Think Tank houses mostly developers, according to an advertisement for the space.
According to its website, Bunker Studios’ Mission District space is shared by a wide range of small businesses, from marketing consultants to web designers.
Ben Finkel, manager of the working space on Mission Street and CEO of Fluther, prefers the Mission because the food and rent are cheaper than in SoMa.
SoMa’s Citizen Space, for example, charges $400-$425 per month for a desk. Although 2431 Mission Street, where Fluther is located, doesn’t offer the same amenities as Citizen Space, a desk there costs only $175.
For Wholeshare, a startup with a staff of three, the 2431 location offers a good fit. Set to launch in the fall, Wholeshare will allow people to buy “quality local food” from farmers and distributors through collective purchasing.
“Managing expenses for a location takes a lot of time,” said co-founder Peter Woo, who moved from Rhode Island nine months ago.
Others in co-working spaces said they liked the energy and getting business leads. It also beats working at coffeehouses, many of which have pulled the plug on using their electrical outlets.
For Finkel, the only real drawback is the lack of privacy for phone conversations. He recently tried to find an old phone booth on eBay. He’s still looking.
Whether or not he finds one, he said, “We will stay here for as long as we can.”