San Francisco’s AI Advantage Is Helping It Make a Post-Pandemic Comeback – The Average Joe
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    San Francisco’s AI Advantage Is Helping It Make a Post-Pandemic Comeback

    Noah Weidner

    February 29, 2024

    San Francisco has become a lightning rod in the culture war — with the country’s fourth-richest economy plagued by limited housing, rampant homelessness, and rising crime. So unsurprisingly, when the pandemic made remote work possible, many residents packed their bags and left.

    The talent exodus led some to believe SF’s reign as the world’s tech capital was over. But four years later, workers and businesses are returning to develop the next generation of technology.

    Old habits die hard: Although San Francisco is already home to major AI companies like OpenAI and Anthropic, its lead in AI research and talent has helped it evade a slowdown in the startup ecosystem. Last year, the Bay Area attracted $63.4B in new startup funding — down just 12% year-over-year, while total US venture funding dropped by 40%.

    • SF’s share of US venture funding reached a multi-year high, with over 41% going to Bay Area startups, up from 36% between 2019 and 2021.
    • In contrast, funding volumes in Austin, LA, and Miami decreased by 27%, 42%, and 70%, respectively, last year — indicating that their bids to become tech hubs had mostly fizzled (WSJ).

    Return to tech mecca

    The wave of AI funding benefits downtown SF — with companies leasing over 1M square feet of new office space last year. Mayor London Breed hopes the momentum will revive the region and encourage employees to return, which seems to be happening.

    • Companies such as Uber, Microsoft, and Google are urging their employees to return to the office, taking advantage of new city tax credits and reforms.
    • Although Breed’s office reported a 23% increase in 2023, office vacancy stood at a record 35.9% by the end of that year.

    Solving San Franpsycho: According to the Downtown Recovery initiative, SF’s traffic stands at only 67% of its pre-pandemic levels. However, the anticipated return of workers could contribute essential tax revenues to the region. Breed’s office has strategically invested in housing, crime reduction, and public safety, but despite these efforts, SF has a lot to figure out, and preventing major brands from closing their stores is just one of many.

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