A Week Inside a Hacker Hostel

Take a tour of 20Mission, the San Francisco crash pad for tech entrepreneurs

Adonis Gaitatzis, founder of hardware company Net Ninja, with Lior Neu-ner, an app ­developer, doing whip-its (nitrous oxide: Go ask Alice), while some friends get to know each other better.

Photographer: Ashley Gilbertson for Bloomberg Businessweek

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.

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Clockwise from top left: Diana Brooks grows vegetables on the roof; Brad Kam, president of Talkable, a referral platform for e-commerce sites, at his offices in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood (he has lived at 20Mission for more than two years); Adam Stone, a ­resident, shows off his Apple Watch to Neu-ner; residents Bohlman, Seamus Calder, and Jessica Vo on the show’s basement set.

Photographer: Ashley Gilbertson for Bloomberg Businessweek

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.”

Greenberg, a software engineer and founder of startup glowyshit.com, in his room

Greenberg, a software engineer and founder of startup glowyshit.com, in his room.

Photographer: Ashley Gilbertson for Bloomberg Businessweek
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Residents Tylor Bohlman, Seamus Calder, and Jessica Vo on the basement set of Money & Tech.

Photographer: Ashley Gilbertson for Bloomberg Businessweek

 

 

Kat Shreve, a former resident, leads a weekly yoga session on the roof

Kat Shreve, a former resident, leads a weekly yoga session on the roof.

Photographer: Ashley Gilbertson for Bloomberg Businessweek
Ozzie Gooen, a ­programmer, mixes a batch of Soylent, a meal-­replacement product (left). The communal refrigerator (right).
Ozzie Gooen, a ­programmer, mixes a batch of Soylent, a meal-­replacement product (left). The communal refrigerator (right).
Photographer: Ashley Gilbertson for Bloomberg Businessweek

 

 

Ward, Brooks, and former resident Heidi Long celebrate Ward’s birthday at a nearby bar.

Ward, Brooks, and former resident Heidi Long celebrate Ward’s birthday at a nearby bar.

Photographer: Ashley Gilbertson for Bloomberg Businessweek
Gaitatzis and Andrew Ward, who co-owns Kalamuna, a branding company, ­initiate a new resident, dancer Brooklyn Schmitt

Gaitatzis and Andrew Ward, who co-owns Kalamuna, a branding company, ­initiate a new resident, dancer Brooklyn Schmitt.

Photographer: Ashley Gilbertson for Bloomberg Businessweek

 

Resident Hugo Melo moved to San Francisco after high school in 2012 to learn how to code

Resident Hugo Melo moved to San Francisco after high school in 2012 to learn how to code.

Photographer: Ashley Gilbertson for Bloomberg Businessweek