A Silicon Valley investor is living through the pandemic in his 500-square-foot San Francisco apartment, teaching himself to play the violin and fly-fish in the bay

Jacob MullinsJacob Mullins and his wife with to-go cocktails in San Francisco during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Jacob Mullins and his wife Nancy have been sheltering in place in their 500-square-foot San Francisco apartment since March.
  • Mullins, a Silicon Valley investor at Shasta Ventures and a San Francisco resident of 11 years, is teaching himself how to play the violin and fly fish and is making the most of life during a pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Jacob Mullins, a partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Shasta Ventures, is one of the estimated 6.7 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area who have been sheltering in place since March 17.

He works out of his 500-square-foot San Francisco apartment, fly fishes in the Bay, teaches himself how to play the violin, takes video meetings in virtual reality, and is growing a “COVID beard.”

He and his wife also have a socially distant happy hour with their neighbours on their respective balconies every Friday at 7 pm to maintain a grip on some semblance of normalcy during a global health crisis.

“In a world where it’s Groundhog Day and every day feels the same, it’s nice, the things we look forward to every week,” Mullins told Business Insider.

Here’s how Mullins, a San Francisco resident of 11 years, is living through the COVID-19 pandemic.


Mullins lives in San Francisco’s North Beach district, a historically Italian neighbourhood with scores of tasty mum-and-pop Italian restaurants.

Jacob MullinsMullins outside of Caffe Trieste in North Beach.

It’s also known for the tourists that typically flood its streets, but there are still some long-timers.

“A lot of our neighbours have been here for generations,” he said.


Mullins told Business Insider that he has lived in this 500-square-foot apartment for 11 years. It sits near Coit Tower, an icon in the city skyline.

Jacob MullinsMullins at his work area in his apartment.

Before the pandemic, he’d get up around 7 am.


He’d go to Shasta Ventures’ San Francisco office in the city’s South Park neighbourhood — a popular part of town for tech workers — and spend his days in meetings and calls.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderSan Francisco’s South Park neighbourhood.

The early-stage VC firm is known for backing the likes of connected home startup Nest – before Google acquired it for $US3.2 billion – TaskRabbit, dating app Hinge, and at-home fitness company Tonal.


In the evenings, he was an active part of San Francisco’s social scene, attending events, happy hours, and conferences like Salesforce’s Dreamforce.

Jacob MullinsMullins at local fly fishing shop Lost Coast Outfitters with owner George Revel.

His life in the “Before Times” was hectic and was usually on the go until 8 or 9 pm.

“My Uber bills were expensive,” he said. “You’re taking four or five Ubers a day. And some days combine the Jump bikes, depending on how far you were going, and it’s just really highly programmed.”

He was also travelling about six days out of the month for work to places like Seattle, LA, and Chicago.

“You take a nap for 15 minutes in an Uber when you have the time,” he said.


Right before the shelter-in-place order was issued on March 17, Mullins sipped a Manhattan at Vesuvio, a quintessential San Francisco, Beat-era cafe and bar.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderVesuvio on March 16.

Workers were measuring the windows to eventually board them up.

“It was a very visceral shift in life,” he said. “That was the personal moment of kind of feeling it.”


He went to City Lights Bookstore, an iconic independent bookseller, right next door and bought a stack of books.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderCity Lights Bookstore in December 2019.

“I’m almost through them all,” he said.

Jacob MullinsMullins’ reading material.

When the shelter-in-place order was issued, he and his team were already taking meetings virtually.

“You started realising that it was in for the long haul,” he said. He’s adapted though, just like millions of others have.


He wakes up at the same time as he used to, at 7 am, and makes himself a cup of pour-over coffee.

Jacob MullinsMullins’ morning coffee ritual.

Then he’ll do a 20-minute phone guided meditation session most mornings during the workweek.

“It helps me kind of centre and remember that I can’t control the world around me, but I can control how it affects me and how I let it kind of get into my brain,” he said.

Then the calls start, but he said the mass migration to videoconferencing has its perks.

He’ll hop on a call with investors in Saudi Arabia at 7 am and then he’ll join a Hong Kong-led meeting at 8 am, for example.

“It actually leaves me with more open windows in the day I’m finding than before because you don’t have all that travel time,” he said.


One of his portfolio companies is a virtual reality gaming firm, so they did a board meeting in VR at one point.

Jacob MullinsA screenshot shows Mullins, lower left, wearing VR goggles in a meeting.

In-person face-to-face interaction may be less feasible at the moment, but Mullins said connecting with people is much easier in a way.

Mullins, who’s of Latinx background, and nine others launched an organisation in 2019 devoted to bolstering Latinx representation in the venture capitalist world. He said the LatinX VC team is still able to connect regularly thanks to virtual conferencing becoming so normalized.

“It’s just been easier to schedule these types of things because everybody’s, you know, at home,” he said.


There’s more of a focus on getting outdoors now too, and he’s better about taking lunch breaks.

Jacob MullinsA sandwich that Mullins made.

He’ll have some standing happy hours, but the workweek tends to end a bit earlier than it used to, usually around 5 pm.

He has a lot more free time in the evenings, which is why he’s taken up a couple of hobbies.


He’s teaching himself how to play the violin with an app called Trala.

Jacob MullinsMullins during one of his app-guided violin lessons.

It uses your smartphone’s microphone to grade your pitch and rhythm and then scores you.

“It’s like taking an actual music lesson on an iPad,” he said.


He’s also learning how to fish, going out to Ocean Beach and Crissy Field and casting out periodically.

Chris TollesMullins fishing in the Bay.

He said he hasn’t caught anything yet, but the practice is meditative and helps him reset.


His wife, Nancy, was in a two-year master’s program at UC Berkeley. She finished the second half of her last semester remotely.

Jacob MullinsMullins’ wife, Nancy, during her remote graduation.

She’s on the job hunt now, and the two typically sit at the table together with AirPods in.

Jacob MullinsMullins’ view at his home work setup.

Half the time they cook at home, but they also venture out into the local neighbourhood for takeout.

Jacob MullinsA homecooked meal in Mullins’ apartment.

He’s been getting takeout and delivery from joints like Portofino, a relatively new restaurant run by an Italian family.

Jacob MullinsThe storefront of Portofino’s in North Beach.

On the first day that outdoor dining was allowed again in the city, Mullins said he went to Sodini’s, one of the oldest restaurants in San Francisco, and dined outside.


He’ll venture outside of the neighbourhood occasionally, like to make a stop at Turner’s in the Mission neighbourhood. But for the most part, he said the pandemic has kept him closer to home.

Jacob MullinsOwner Ken Turner poses for a photo outside his shop.

“You don’t take Uber to go across town for dinner anymore,” Mullins said. “So everything you end up consuming and eating is all within your local area.”


Another thing that’s helped Mullins and his wife “mark time” is going to the Ferry Building’s farmer’s market every Saturday.

Jacob MullinsMullins at the Ferry Building with the Bay Bridge in the background.

When Friday nights roll around, they gear up for their building happy hour.

His wife decides which drink everyone should have and gets the supplies, including little bottles of liquor or wine, and delivers it with a note to the neighbours.


“And then we text them that they have got a delivery and that it’s at 7 pm,” Mullins said.

Jacob MullinsMullins’ wife, Nancy, with their neighbours in the background.

One of the neighbours that joins is a woman in her 70s who he’s never gotten to know very well before.

“We’ll stand out on the balcony, and she’ll start talking about her love of the Giants and her cool jeans,” he said.

He’s making the most of the situation, but he said he does miss life as it was before in some ways.

“I miss seeing new cities and going to coffee shops and going to restaurants,” Mullins said. “But in another way, I don’t miss it really too much. It will come back at some point.”

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