September 9, 2012

Communal Living or 24/7 Startup Incubator?

British publication Financial Times visits Cupertino and discovers Silicon Valley startups and salons… in a very expensive frat house.

Over the rainbow

Communal living is back in vogue, especially among Silicon Valley’s young technology workers

120908-group-dinnerBy April Dembosky, June 29, 2012 6:52 pm

At first glance Rainbow Mansion appears to blend in seamlessly alongside its high-end Silicon Valley neighbours, nestled among the eucalyptus trees and driveway gates of Cupertino, about an hour south of San Francisco. The salmon stucco stretches around multiple bedrooms, balconies and turrets. In the front yard, a stone footbridge arches over a bubbling koi pond.

Inside, it looks more like a university dorm. Bean bags and mismatched couches sit at odd angles in the living room. A former dining nook, now christened “the mystery room”, is lined with hippie-style Indian tapestries on the walls and mattresses on the floor.

Seven people live here, from the ivy league of Silicon Valley companies, such as Apple, Google and Tesla. They are from America, the UK, Serbia and Moldova. While none are blood related, they call each other family.

“We’re not a frat house,” says Mike Grace, 26, a lab manager and researcher at Nasa. “We’re an intentional community.”

Excuse us.  A very expensive intentional community.  As in $7300 a month expensive.  Let’s see what they get for $7300, besides the built-in tech networking with their housemates.

120908-group-zillow21677 Rainbow Dr
Cupertino, CA 95014

Zestimate $2,509,411
Rent Zestimate $7,435/mo
Est. Mortgage $8,923/mo

Beds: 6
Baths: 4.5
Sqft: 5,127
Lot: 55,321 sq ft / 1.27 acres
Type: Single Family
Year built: 1992

Description from Zillow: This 5127 square foot single family home has 6 bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms. It is located at 21677 Rainbow Dr Cupertino, California. The nearest schools are Regnart Elementary School, Kennedy Middle School and Monta Vista High School.

Wow, that rent Zestimate’s pretty bang on. Think Zillow’s model includes searching the Financial Times?

120908-group-website

120908-group-libraryIncidentally, the people renting the house have set up a website.  Note the third item on the ribbon: Press.  Several pieces have been written about this house, the sort of people who end up living here, and one the the successes launched from this very library.

Ever hear of OpenStack?  If you haven’t, Wired is happy to fix that, with its history of how it got started.  Yes, here at the Rainbow Mansion.  Oh yeah, and at NASA Ames.

NASA’s Chris Kemp decided that they needed scalable storage of their own rather than through their corporate partners.  Think Google Moon and Google Mars.  NASA has plenty of high-res space images, and they wanted to host them, but that meant they needed a new infrastructure.  And in bringing that project about, they not only crashed upon political shoals (a Congressional “inquiry”) but on the difficulty in creating open-source software when so many potential partners had commercial intents.  And eventually the project led to OpenStack… and several related cloud computing companies.

120908-group-frontThe founders of the group home explained that they started the house because Silicon Valley rents were high, so sharing a house was much less expensive.  Most of them were new NASA PhDs who came from elsewhere and knew each other through their academic connections.

People would leave, and new housemates needed to be brought in.  The residents are looking for people who want to change the world.

“Group living situations are not tremendously rare in the Bay Area,” he explains. “We have an unusually high percentage of rentals in part of because home buying is so tremendously expensive, and the leverage goes up as you get more people.

“What’s unusual is when you have a really intentional community, when you have a group of people who are determined to build something and really bring people together.”

Comments (5) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:20 am

5 Responses to “Communal Living or 24/7 Startup Incubator?”

  1. PK Says:

    “and the leverage goes up as you get more people” – That doesn’t work if you and your spouse try to produce more people – just a warning!

  2. nomadic Says:

    Correction: trying is all right. Succeeding can be a problem.

  3. Toiletter Says:

    A completely comfortable residential package with some great interior designing structure and space with well furnished rooms for them who woes to buy it.

    A completely obvious piece of spam linking to a site in Denmark. But the alignment between the name and the avatar works for us, so we’re letting you (but not your Danish URL) into the ongoing party. –ed.

  4. nomadic Says:

    Huh, I thought everyone in Denmark had flawless English skills…

  5. Hacker House dies from excessive self-image, brand overexposure [Burbed.com] Says:

    […] exactly a year ago, we took a look at group housing as not just a way to save on rent, but as launching pad to future success.  Some of these homes were in San Francisco, some were in Silicon Valley.  The most […]


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