In 2012, Jered Kenna was searching for a place to live in San Francisco when a friend mentioned a 12,000-square-foot, former single-room-occupancy hotel in the city’s Mission District. Kenna, an ex-marine who made millions from early investments in Bitcoin, decided to lease the building and create a place where coders and artists could live side by side, sharing resources, meals, and chores. “It looked like a war zone. I’d never seen anything like that in a developed country,” says Adonis Gaitatzis, 32, one of the first residents to move in. When Gaitatzis was shown a room, “this guy threw up his arms in the air with a big smile and said, ‘$1,200 a month!’ ”
It’s now commonplace for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to turn their domiciles into startup incubators. Three years after Kenna started 20Mission, its 41 rooms are booked solid. A small room with a shared bathroom now runs $1,800 a month. Stays can last years but are typically a few months. Today every room has a door, and the front door unlocks with the tap of a smartphone. Rent is paid in cash, check, or Bitcoin. The Internet router takes up an entire closet. In the basement there’s a television studio, where residents produce a weekly Web program called Money & Tech.
The coders are reluctant to discuss money as a motivation; it’s all about innovation, they say. Yet speculating on who’s in what round of funding is popular gossip. There’s a distinct respect for those who have successfully “raised,” yet most profess that a big payday is not their goal. “It’s a total misconception that we’re all pursuing some kind of VC raise,” says Ben Greenberg, a software engineer in the house. “It’s not about benchmarks or approval from VCs. It’s about creating and doing what you want.”