Top Tech Destinations
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SAN FRANCISCO + SILICON VALLEY
Plugged in: The Bay Area (view slideshow) is still tech Olympus, where a pantheon of heroes (that is, venture capitalists) sip ambrosia (artisanal coffee) upon winged chariots (shiny electric hybrids). The city basically invented the concept of the tech entrepreneur: young, dressed down, and brash, but unassuming. A full 35 percent of all venture capitalist (VC) dollars invested in the United States comes to the Bay Area—some $9.5 billion in 2006. Today, alternative-energy start-ups own the VC buzz.
Homeport: The restaurant and patio of the Hotel Vitale (view slideshow) are known to draw the VC crowd. But if you want to sleep like a tech king, there's the sleek and serene St. Regis (view slideshow), where Al Gore crashes when he's in town and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page keep pieds-à-terre. Squint, and the place is as good as home, with a 42-inch plasma TV, a fax/scanner/printer on request, and a bedside "digital assistant" that controls the lights, shades, TV, and alarm clock. Even the art has a touch of tech: Wooden sculptures are laser-cut instead of hand-carved.
Social networking: Buck's in Woodside is the closest thing Silicon Valley venture capitalists have to a clubhouse. eBay was first pitched at this kitschy diner; Hotmail and Netscape were conceived here as well. Those lower on the Web 2.0 food chain subsist on caffeinated beverages from Ritual Coffee Roasters, in the Mission District. You're likely to see excitable types huddling over business plans at just about any hour of the day or night (and the notice pictured above keeps Twitter-happy customers from holding up the line). Other less publicized places win high-tech workers by virtue of their coffee rep; Piccino, in Dogpatch, draws customers from the nearby Hat Factory, a stylish group work space for freelancers.
When to interface: In San Francisco, it's easy to find fellow techies who share your love for rocketry or steampunk. This is, after all, the city that goes crazy during geek events such as Dorkbot, a boozy party held regularly in rotating venues; it's headlined by techno artists, presenting their latest projects—one recently taught a crowd how to stitch robotics into stuffed animals. Meanwhile, start-up types are easy to meet at events like January's annual "Crunchies," which have become the Oscars for the tech crowd, and TechCrunch50, a mass launch of the year's most anticipated start-ups held in September.