Startup Outgrows SF Mission Space, Plans Move

The U.S. Bank building at 2601 Mission St. houses a string of non-profit organizations and startups. Photo by Laura Waxmann

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After protecting a community organization that was nearly displaced by his tech firm, DoubleDutch CEO Lawrence Coburn announced on Tuesday that now his company will be leaving the building and the Mission, for good.

“We are getting too big for the Mission,” said the co-founder of the popular mobile event app, headquartered at 2601 Mission St. that runs offices in Asia, Europe, and the UK. “It’s a residential, family oriented neighborhood. It’s not set up for big, corporate companies.”

Coburn told Mission Local that the company will relocate to a larger space in Potrero Hill once its lease expires in February, citing a number of reasons for not renewing their lease including the startup’s exponential growth over the last year, poor building maintenance and growing tensions within the community.

Explaining that the building is “failing DoubleDutch,” Coburn pointed to faulty elevators, a lack of functioning heating and cooling systems, and space issues for the company that already stretches over three complete floors.

Vera Cort, the owner of the building, wrote via email that the company “was a wonderful tenant who lived out their lease,” and wished them “nothing but the best of luck in continuing to grow their business and hiring more people which will help our economy.”

Cort acknowledged that there were some maintenance issues at the 53-year-old building which she has attempted to address, but that DoubleDutch would have left regardless. “They are becoming a very, very, very explosive and expanding company who will need more space than I can ever give them.”

The four-year-old company now has 200 employees.

“As we are hiring more employees, the talent is becoming more picky,” said Coburn. “These issues are reasons why people don’t want to work here.”

The startup, which in August received $45 million in funding from a global investment firm, is looking to focus on expanding internationally, and with a new 35,000 square foot space in Potrero Hill, Coburn said he feels settled for the next five years.

When the startup launched in 2011, it moved into the nine-story building at 2601 Mission St.  that also houses the U.S. Bank and a string of non-profit organizations. Coburn moved into the building a few years earlier, in 2007, with a smaller business.  

Though coexisting peacefully at first, DoubleDutch generated some controversy at the beginning of this year, when the growing company needed more space and almost displaced a cancer service center from the building.  

In February, Coburn’s request for additional office space to accommodate his workers prompted the building owner to decide against renewing the expiring lease of Circulo de Vida. The nonprofit has provided the Latino community with access to health care services since 1992, operating out of 2601 Mission St. for over a decade.

Cort’s decision to offer the space to DoubleDutch rather than renewing the nonprofit’s lease sparked strong community opposition that targeted the startup, which then became subject to vandalism and several break-ins. A spokesperson for DoubleDutch has previously stated that the company was unaware of the fact that their expansion would displace the nonprofit when offered the space by Cort.

The startup and the nonprofit were able to reach an internal agreement, under which Circulo de Vida gave up its office spaces to DoubleDutch, moving to a smaller space on the building’s fifth floor as the startup’s subtenant, and consequently paying less rent.

“I did everything I could to push the building owner to do the right thing, and she did,” said Coburn.

With DoubleDutch leaving, Circulo de Vida has been offered a new two-year lease.

“Moving is a huge pain, and for now, we are safe,” said Carmen Ortiz, the nonprofit’s executive director. As a subtenant, Ortiz said she was worried about the group’s fate when she first heard that DoubleDutch was moving out, but that Cort, the landlord, responded “graciously.”

For his part, Coburn, a resident of the Mission for 17 years, said that DoubleDutch, “did more good than harm in the neighborhood by intentionally supporting local businesses.” Many of his employees also live in the area, and through company policy, Coburn said he has encouraged them to invest and give back to the neighborhood.

Along with supporting local technology driven programs an entrepreneurship program for women, and raising money for Mission Graduates, a nonprofit that helps gear Mission youth towards college Coburn said his workers volunteer at a local food bank on a weekly basis.

“From the beginning, 100 percent of our programs went into the Mission, and it will always be the root of this company,” he said, adding that he plans to continue these programs while also investing in the company’s new neighborhood.

But Coburn said that he does not want his startup’s presence to further exasperate the division that he feels within the community.

“I do believe that tech is part of the problem,” said Coburn, referring to the community’s rampant gentrification and income disparities. “Even if we are doing everything right, I’m still putting my employees at risk of being the poster child for what is going on in this neighborhood.”

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