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David Weir

The New San Francisco Tech Boom is On (and Google Wants to Hire You)

Yesterday, Mozilla, the developer of the popular Firefox browser, became the latest tech sector star to announce that it will soon be opening an office in San Francisco.

So it's probably time to state the obvious, and that is that around here, the rush is on. Yep, we've got another full-fledged tech boom on our hands.

Over at CNET headquarters in Soma yesterday, I was marveling at the array of top-notch correspondents and bloggers they employ, which easily rivals Bloomberg TV's growing team down on The Embarcadero, which I profiled here recently.

The journalists at CNET, Bloomberg, and elsewhere I've spoken with all say that the pace of innovation occurring here in the city easily matches what they witnessed in the mid-90s during the original Internet boom, and that it may well soon surpass it.

Why?

Yammer Brings the Power of Social Networks Inside Your Firewall

David Sacks likes to call them "Dilbert problems."

You know, all those excess emails, unproductive meetings, and other awkward aspects of daily life in the typical office that make you wish you were anywhere else than -- in the office.

As the CEO of Soma-based Yammer, which positions itself as the "Facebook for inside the company," Sacks has a pretty good story to tell.

Since launching in September 2008, Yammer has attracted enough B2B customers that it now appears to be able to stake its claim as the social media platform of choice for the Fortune 500.

The Best Breaking News Site You Probably Don't Consider (A Breaking News Site)

Quick. Of the thousands of web-based content companies headquartered in San Francisco, which one has the highest traffic?

The numbers for this website are mind-boggling:

  • 414 million unique visitors monthly
  • 12 billion page views monthly

Here's a few more hints: This site contains roughly 18 million original articles, which is five million more than the entire 160-year archive of The New York Times. Plus all of those articles have been created in only the past ten years.

Led by 19-Year-Old Founder, Kiip Launches New Ad Model Based on "Emotional ROI"

Everywhere you look these days, people are playing games on their mobile devices. Business travelers at the airport, kids on the bus, restaurant patrons waiting for meals –– they all seem to be gaming in 5-10 minute spurts.

Meanwhile, as is the case with all types of original content, creating all those cool (free) games is an expensive proposition, so the same problem plaguing all types of digital media hangs over the gaming industry –– how to pay for it all?

Brian Wong thinks he may have found an answer. The 19-year-old founder of the advertising startup Kiip (pronounced Keep), unveiled his unique approach earlier this week.

It can be summarized in Kiip's tagline: "Real Rewards for virtual achievements."

City's Controversial Tax Break for Twitter is the Key to Remaining a Center of Innovation

This week the city's board of supervisors is slated to finalize its decision to grant a tax break to Twitter and other startup companies in return for their agreement to stay in the city rather than fleeing to the suburbs.

What's at stake is San Francisco's future as a center of innovation.

Granted, it is a tough time for city government. Ongoing state and federal budget cuts have created relentless pressure on the city's ability to provide many essential services.

Furthermore, recent news out of Sacramento and Washington, D.C., indicates that this funding problem won't be going away any time soon.

But, it's also never easy being a startup company. It's strictly a high-risk business, where the overwhelming majority fail, and only a tiny number survive. They all have to keep costs down and attract the best talent for any hope of future success.

The key employees of startups earn far less than they would in an established company. In return, they often are granted stock options, essentially a promise of a future return on their present "sweat equity."

Ubergizmo Makes Gadgets Accessible to Non-Geeks (and Fashion Accessible to Geeks!)

Did you know that for $50, you can turn your iPhone into a mobile microscope with 60x zoom and LED light display?

Or that a bug in Apple's FaceTime video chat feature suggests that it can take and store pictures without you even knowing it?

The place to find stories like these is San Francisco's Ubergizmo, where geeks explain technology in language that non-geeks can easily understand.

The perfect antidote to the gibberish typically found in user manuals.

Ubergizmo was was co-founded by designer Eliane Fiolet and software engineer Hubert Nguyen, both native French speakers, as a small blog in September 2004.

"We never thought it would be successful," says Fiolet. "Back then we both had day jobs."

Google Books Ruling Leaves Fate of Founder's Dream of "Library to Last Forever" in Limbo

When a federal judge threw out the class-action settlement in the Google Books case last week, he brought an end, at least for now, to one of the boldest initiatives the search giant has ever undertaken.

Back when he was still a grad student at Stanford in the late '90s, co-founder Larry Page began planning a "library to last forever," filled with digital versions of virtually every book ever published.

By 2005, when he and Sergey Brin had built Google up into the most successful company on the planet, Page began to put his plan into motion. Google made deals with leading academic libraries to begin scanning books, including many rare and out of print books, at a rapid pace -- to the point that today they have scanned a total of some 15 million books.

The Giant Holes in the New York Times' New Paywall

Next Monday, The New York Times will finally do what for over a year it has been promising to do -- erect a paywall around its content on the web.  But as details of the plan have emerged this past week, it looks to be one of the strangest, and leakiest, paywalls in the history of online content.

In fact, you might call this a voluntary paywall, because it will apparently be so easy to circumvent there is no reason any moderately tech-savvy consumer should ever have to pay anything at all.

Will Kindles Be Free By Next Christmas?

If you've been debating whether to buy a Kindle for yourself or for a loved one, you may just want to hold off until November.

That's because by then, just in time for the holiday sales push, the price of a Kindle, according to a number of technology experts, will be...zero.

That's right. Though it now goes for $139, it appears that Amazon's industry-leading book-reading device may soon be free.

First, to the evidence.

Craigslist Founder Explains New Service to Promote Nonprofit Groups

Within an hour of announcing the launch of his new philanthropic support network on Facebook this morning, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark already had over 250 "likes" from people all over the world.

Called Craigconnects, the new service seeks to build upon the success of the world's top classified ad site to forge a new network devoted to the "common good." On the new site, Craig explained his motivation for trying to raise the profile of worthy nonprofits and other organizations working to improve things on a number of fronts.

"This is the biggest thing in my life, and I’d like a little help from you," Craig announced on the site. "Together, we can work together from the grassroots up to make things better for everyone. I want us to use the Internet to connect and protect organizations that are doing good stuff."

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