With a whole frenzy of new spaces that cater to startups and entrepreneur types popping up all over SF (and NY too!) I wanted to note a few things that make SummitSF pretty special based on a tour and conversation we had with founder Ashwin Navin.
The Summit is "the public living room" of I/O Ventures, an early stage startup fund founded by Ashwin that focuses on mentoring it's members. The space is divided into 2 parts, a publicly accessible café space and a member's only workspace that includes meeting rooms, kitchen table workspace and dedicated team rooms for I/O venture's startups, which include Skyara.com
The open café on the left, and the member's only side on the right,
as seen from the mezzanine above.
Ashwin refers to the space as "The Coffee Shop That Works for Working" and it's true. What is immediately stricking upon walking in is how nice the finishes are in the café. This is definitely a step up from most of the other café spaces in The Mission which immediately sets a tone of the who and why of those who chose to spend time here. Unlike Ritual and some of the other café spaces in the Mission, it is clear that you can spend as much time as you'd like in here as the outlets here are not covered up.
I tweeted that I was here, and a few mnutes later my friend Jen Leonard tweeted back just as she was walking up to me. People are constantly stopping for casual conversation, giving the room a lively energy. And yet, despite the density of the kitchen tables all of the headsdown workers seem perfectly happy amidst the dull roar. The guy next to me does, however, have earplugs, and headphones abound.
While talking to Ashwin, I was struck by the way the challenge of working around regulations was ultimately converted to opportunities for a fluid flexibility at The Summit. As Ashwin put it, "Dealing with regulation has been the hardest part." Here, "everything is on a month to month schedule which allows us to be more flexible. The pastry chef may rotate out after a few months. The problem is, the banks hate this. They want everything to be 15 year leases and more longterm." Ultimately getting around the need for longer term leases and contracts enables the space to constantly refresh and continually evolve for members.
Ashwin's motivations for starting The Summit point to some of the drivers for the trend in Third Spaces in SF and elsewhere. "Being an entrepreneur, it's really lonely." "This place is for us, by us." It has all of the amenities a small business would need: permanent mailbox, 24 hour access, the ability to stay as long as you like, and great coffee!" But the real value is the energy and opportunity that comes with rubbing shoulders with some of San Francisco's young talent. Ashwin compares it to what he learns from a circle of peers he plays Texas Hold'em with. "An hour of poker with like-minded people could save me half a million in mistakes in the long run." You never know what will come from the serendipitous conversation that erupts when talent with with common individual goals have a place to gather.