The Bacon-Wrapped Economy 

Tech has brought very young, very rich people to the Bay Area like never before. And the changes to our cultural and economic landscape aren't necessarily for the better.

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The restaurant world, too, has been indelibly changed by the influx of young men with money into the urban Bay Area. "In terms of what I see, the esoteric knowledge of craftstmanship is really happening on the food side," said Dwight Crow, product manager at Facebook (and erstwhile cast-member of Hollywood's attempt to cash in on the fascination with tech culture, Bravo TV's now-canceled "Startups: Silicon Valley"). Dorsey famously invested in Sightglass, the SoMa purveyor of third-wave coffee that's swiftly become the kind of place where conversations about angel investment and iteration abound. Overlay a map of San Francisco's hottest dining corridors over one of the tech shuttle stops and you'll see a huge amount of correlation.

And it's not even just about where the restaurants are, it's about what they serve and how. Kristen Capella, general manager at AQ, which is located a few blocks from Twitter's new headquarters in the burgeoning tech district now dubbed Mid-Market, said the interest in limited-edition spirits and high-end meat is being driven, in part, by tech: "I'm seeing a much higher demand for private whiskey tastings and stuff like that. They know about the limited availability and are willing to pay for it. I get some really good customers from Twitter who dine out three times a day, and they're very savvy." A tech employee was a bit more blunt: "I mean, there's a reason all the expensive restaurants in SF are doing fried chicken and sandwiches right now."

At this point, entire cottage industries have developed in order to serve this community and its tastes. "You're going to see a number of startups [that cater to] people that have more money than time," Crow said. There's Uber, an app-based car service that allows anyone in one of about a dozen cities to summon a Lincoln Town Car or a Mercedes S Class with a couple swipes, for a price that's roughly 50 percent more than an average car service. The San Francisco-based food startup Kitchit allows even the laziest cooks to host a dinner parties by hiring name-brand chefs like Daniel Patterson and Elizabeth Falkner to shop for, prepare, serve, and clean up after in-home meals that range from the $35-per-person, three-course "casual night in" to "the fine-dining experience," which includes up to six courses and runs $85 a head. (Last year, the company briefly raised the interest — and ire — of the internet when it announced a Valentine's Day package that included a one-night stay in a private Big Sur home, a dinner cooked by the two-Michelin-starred chef Joshua Skenes, and a next-day brunch prepared by Lori Banker, proprietress of the perpetually packed Pacific Heights restaurant Baker and Banker. The 24-hour experience was priced at $25,000.)

And then there are companies like TaskRabbit and Exec, both of which serve as sort of informal, paid marketplaces for personal assistant-style tasks like laundry, grocery shopping, and household chores. (Workers who use TaskRabbit bid on projects in a race-to-the-bottom model, while Execs are paid a uniform $20 per hour, regardless of the work.) According to Molly Rabinowitz, a San Franciscan in her early twenties who briefly made a living doing this kind of work — though she declined to reveal which service she used — many tech companies give their employees a set amount of credit for these tasks a month or year, and that's in addition to the people using the services privately. "There's no way this would exist without tech," she said. "No way."

At one point, Rabinowitz was hired for several hours by a pair of young Googlers to launder and iron their clothes while they worked from home. ("It was ridiculous. They didn't want to iron anything, but they wanted everything, including their T-shirts, to be ironed.") Another user had her buy 3,000 cans of Diet Coke and stack them in a pyramid in the lobby of a startup "because they thought it would be fun and quirky." Including labor, gas, and the cost of the actual soda, Rabinowitz estimated the entire project must have cost at least several hundred dollars. "It's like ... you don't care," she said. "It doesn't mean anything because it's not your money. Or there's just so much money that it doesn't matter what you spend it on."


According to the US Census, the median income for a man between the ages of 25 and 34 was $32,581 in 2011, the most recent year for which statistics are available. But according to the hiring site Dice, the average salary for tech talent in Silicon Valley in 2011 was just under $100,000 a year. The minority of my interviewees who would reveal their salaries all made more than that, when bonuses, stock options, and various other benefits were included. Even so, though, one of the most striking things about all of my research was that none of the people I asked consider themselves rich, or at least not without a mouthful of qualifiers.

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