South Park, built in 1854, is the oldest public park in San Francisco.
It’s had its ups and downs through the years, but lately it’s become the new hub of venture capital firms formerly located down in Silicon Valley. In the last two years or so, 9 VC firms have set up within a couple blocks of the park.
It’s why some people call it the new Sand Hill Road, the iconic street in Menlo Park where all the top VC firms are located.
South Park is located in the SOMA neighbourhood of San Francisco. This is the 2nd street entrance of the park between Brannan St. and Bryant St.
It's a beautiful park with a tree line and open grass area. It's easy to find people enjoying the sun.
In fact, South Park is the oldest public park in San Francisco. It was originally built as a gated area for the city's wealthy class.
But after the 1906 earthquake wiped out the area, it's lost its elite status. It went through cycles of changes, with working class Japanese and Filipino immigrants settling in the area, before becoming a haven for prostitutes and drug dealers in the 80s.
But the park gradually cleaned up, as local artists and architects moved into the area. During the 90s dot-com boom, tech startups took over the place. But after the bubble, startups moved out and the artist and architect community returned.
A few years ago, venture capital firms started moving into the area. People say True Ventures was probably the first VC firm to set up shop here.
Soon, other VC firms moved in, including Shasta Ventures, Founders Circle, and Kleiner Perkins, who all happened to find space in the same building. They didn't intentionally move into the same building, as it all just happened serendipitously.
Shasta Ventures and Founders Circle share the same space on the ground floor. They opened this office in 2013. It has a nice open space.
This is Rob Coneybeer, Shasta Ventures' founder and Managing Director. He says he got an office in South Park primarily because of its location. 'We wanted to move our office to somewhere that's convenient to come by. It's close to the exit to the 280, you can walk to the Caltrain station and Bart, and you can walk to the ballpark,' he says.
Shasta still has its main office in Sand Hill Road. But the need for an SF office was clear, Coneybeer says, as almost half of the companies he's invested in were based in San Francisco. 'We're up here all the time. We wanted to have a more central place to interact with each other,' he says.
Coneybeer says he spends about two-thirds of his time at Shasta's South Park office. When he first moved in two years ago, True Ventures was the only other VC firm in the area. Now, there's at least 9 VC firms around the park.
Shasta was one of the early investors in Nest, the connected thermostat maker acquired by Google for $3.2 billion. Naturally, they have a Nest thermostat in their office.
There were some cool baseball memorabilia around the office too. Like this framed photo of the San francisco Giants' stadium.
Founders Circle, who shares the office with Shasta, had some interesting baseball-themed posters too.
This is Kleiner's office. They had an SF office since 2012, but moved into this space just last year. 'The reason why we moved up is pretty simple -- we wanted and needed to be closer to where entrepreneurs are,' Kleiner Perkins' representative told us.
There are a bunch of conference rooms in the back of the office. Kleiner's employees spend a lot of time here, including its general partners, who come multiple times a month. It's in a great location to meet with its portfolio companies.
This building is right next to the one we just saw. Redpoint Ventures is opening its office here in June.
Norwest Ventures Partners has an office in this building. It's literally a few steps away from where Shasta and the other VCs are.
South Park is actually a good place to take a walk. There are plenty of nice cafes and restaurants too.
This is Joel Martin, the owner of a French bistro named 'The Butler and the Chef.' Martin first moved into the area in 2004. He says South Park used to be called 'Needle Park' because of all the drug activity going on.
But just over the past few years, it's 'dramatically changed,' he says. 'You see 6 to 8 Tesla's all the time. BMWs and Jaguars are a regular now. It's insane!' he says.
But the park's sudden popularity has driven up the rent exponentially too, he says. 'It's unreal. None of the mum and pops can survive here anymore.'
Martin says a 2,000 sq. ft. office space rent could easily go over five figures now. Like this space, which is under construction.
Meet Ken Loveless, founder and managing director of Founders Circle (on the left), and Toby Levy, president of Levy Design Partners. Levy has been leading South Park's revitalization efforts.
She moved to the area in the early 80s. 'Nobody wanted to be here,' she says. But now everyone wants to move in with the tech boom coming back.
'The VCs are the newest bunch to come to the park. It just kind of happened naturally,' Levy says. Founders Circle's Ken Loveless says, 'It just felt more like a neighbourhood than an office park. This provided us an opportunity to be in a great neighbourhood that's in close proximity to so many things the city has to offer, but most importantly the entrepreneurs.'
But the park is still going through a clean up phase. Levy's raised about $3 million so far to 'gentrify' the area.
Once they're done raising, they have plans to redesign the park, creating a nice little 'meandering path' across the park.
And they hope that will drive even more people to South Park. Like this Taqueria that had a long line of people forming for lunch.
Caffe Centro is another popular spot in South Park. It's not hard to find tech-related people hold meetings here.
Just a couple blocks away, there's another VC called Index Ventures. Index doesn't have an office on Sand Hill Road, as this is their largest in the US. 'I never really understood why San Francisco was not the tech hub to begin, but I'm glad to see that it played out,' Index Ventures partner Danny Rimer told us.
Another VC firm right around the corner is SoftTech VC. It's an early stage firm led by Jeff Clavier.
Like other VC firms in this area, its office has a very scrappy, startup kind of feel to it. Really nice view too.
Google Ventures and Accel Partners are also in this area. It's unclear what's making South Park so popular among VCs, but everyone seems to love this area. 'It is coincidental and serendipitous that so many VCs have decided to locate in South Park,' Founders Circle's Mark Dempster told us.
NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.