PariSoma “Innovation Loft” Is Movin’ On Up; A Taste of Parisian Startup Community in San Francisco

Let’s say you left the Bay Area in 2009 and spent all of 2010 assisting ornithologists in Antarctica, or writing cookbooks in Provence, or whatever it is that adventurous startup types do on their getaways. Arriving back in San Francisco today, one of the first things you’d notice is the explosion of incubators and coworking spaces. In 2009, there were only a handful. Now there are at least two dozen—I know because I spent a whole day last week compiling them into Xconomy’s Guide to Bay Area Coworking Spaces.

One of the old originals on the scene—though its pedigree dates only to 2008—is the pariSoma Innovation Loft. Myself, I work alone from a home office in the Potrero Hill/Dogpatch neighborhood, so to get an up-close view of the SoMa coworking life, I went over to pariSoma’s Howard Street digs a couple of weeks ago and spent some time with coordinators Julian Nachtigal and Anne Gomez.

I liked the vibe at pariSoma’s funky, cozily cramped third-floor space at 1436 Howard—I even came back a few days later to play in a kickass Settlers of Catan tournament (and lost badly to WePay co-founder Rich Aberman). But what Nachtigal and Gomez seemed mainly excited about was the organization’s impending move to a building at 11th Street and Natoma, just around the corner in SoMa’s western reaches (three more blocks west and you’d be in the Mission). And when Gomez showed me around the 11th Street building, previously occupied by the Great Place to Work Institute, I understood their enthusiasm. In the new two-story space, pariSoma will have 10,000 square feet to work with—enough room to host 100 or more coworkers, compared to the 25 or so who fit into the current 2,200-square-foot space.

“We have close to 50 members who use the space right now, across eight companies, which is a pretty high number for the amount of space we currently have,” says Nachtigal. (These 50 rotate in and out on a casual basis—it would be impossible for all of them to cram into the space at once.) “I really anticipate that in March and April a lot of people will be signing up, because of the look and feel of the new space.” (See the pictures here.)

Nachtigal’s official title at pariSoma is business manager, but he seems to function more as an impresario, ringmaster, and den mother for the resident entrepreneurs, who include employees of Vidcaster, AwayFind, Intridea, VidSF, and DoYouBuzz. Nachtigal told me he got the job through his roommate Clément Alteresco, an employee of Paris-based faberNovel who moved to San Francisco in 2009 specifically to transplant an idea faberNovel had developed in Paris to San Francisco.

FaberNovel is a digital innovation agency that also invests in other technology companies—you can think of it as a French version of the Palo Alto-based product design firm Ideo, but with a tighter focus on the Web and user experience design, and with its own portfolio of startups. In Paris, the company is one of the major backers of Silicon Sentier, a regional association devoted to … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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