Oakland is a city experiencing significant change. Like many cities, it's had its share of ups and downs over the years, but was recently profiled by USA Today as a hard-knock city working on a comeback – to the point that, according to local politics and policy publication Governing, the city is now facing the challenges of creeping gentrification. Oakland enjoys better weather and the same laidback West Coast lifestyle as neighboring San Francisco, but with a much more diverse population. In fact, the Black Panther party was founded in Oakland, where city leaders actively encourage residents to stand up for their beliefs. This has led to a more inclusive community feel in the city.
"Oakland is very unique in that we are part of the Silicon Valley region, so entrepreneurs who are here have access to all of the resources and institutions in Silicon Valley, but Oakland itself is very diverse, accessible, and inclusive, so it's a comfortable place for people," says Marisa Raya, who works in special projects in economic and workforce development for the City of Oakland.
Raya says Oakland's appeal to the IT community has helped the number of folks working in tech grow from about 4,000 a few years ago to 7,000 today. The city's commitment to tech caught the attention of Uber. The company will open its new headquarters in Oakland next year, employing 3,000 people according to Tech Crunch. One community resource for tech entrepreneurs is 2.Oakland, which is dedicated to growing Oakland's tech and innovation community by hosting networking and educational events.
"It feels more open to innovation and technology and culture here, and less corporate," says Neil Planchon, a volunteer and former director of 2.Oakland and co-director of OpenOakland. "It's a tighter community. There just seems to be a collaboration gene, a smaller town culture that exists here."
One small tech business that chose Oakland over its flashier neighbor across the Bay is Clef, a digital security company.
"We chose Oakland for a number of reasons, but two stand out," says B Byrne, CEO of Clef. "First, there's an incredible history of community and creativity in Oakland that we wanted to learn from and draw on. Second, Oakland has a realness about it, a focus on things that impact the lives of the people that live here, and as a technology company we wanted to be connected to solving those problems."
Byrne also mentions the atmosphere of inclusiveness that exists in Oakland as a major factor why the city draws so many people in the tech community.
"There is a huge emphasis on bringing locals into the industry, embracing folks from different backgrounds, and helping newcomers do well," says Byrne. "It's perfect for small businesses and freelancers, especially local folks who are just getting started."
Looking for more Oakland tech resources? Be sure to check out Tech Liminal and the Kapor Center.