Nerds' Newest Ventures: 'Hacker Hostels'

A look inside the bunk room at Chez JJ's Mountain View guest house. Photo via: AirBnB

While the newly rich continue to gobble up overpriced real estate in San Francisco proper, the budding young entrepreneurs who continue to flock to Silicon Valley, heads all filled with Zuckerberg dreams, are operating on a much tighter ramen budget. Enter "Hacker Hostels" — the latest way for startup types to keep up their collegiate lifestyle alive while they figure out how to pay the rent with their next big idea.

The New York Times picks up on the trend today with a look inside Chez JJ, a San Francisco apartment where geeky types can take up temporary residence for as little as 40 bucks a night. Like the backpacker havens and dorm lounges that inspired them, the hostels sound just a low-budget as you might expect:

...inside, in a third-floor apartment, there are enough Ikea bunk beds to sleep 10 people, crammed into two bedrooms. The living room is bare except for a futon, a tiny desk and laptop power cables strewed across the hardwood floor like a nest of snakes.

The tenants, mostly men in their 20s, sleep next to heaps of dirty laundry. There is no television set; the men watch online video, on laptops with headphones. On a recent afternoon, 23-year-old Steve El-Hage, who came here from Toronto in May, ate slices of ham straight out of the package.

Chez JJ was spawned by Jade Wang and Jocelyn Berl, two ladies with an entrepreneurial streak of their own. Along with a third cohort, they rent out bunks at a trio of nerd-friendly flophouses through AirBnB. (A setup that has some other less legitimate hacker hostels running afoul of their landlords.) Although each home in the Chez JJ mini-chain is different, they all offer amenities like free breakfast, free WiFi and the chance to live in mild squalor while practicing one's elevator pitch. Chez JJ's Mountain View guest house even boasts a projector for making sure guests have their Powerpoints properly polished and the AirBnB listing makes it a point to highlight the easily walkable distance to startup incubator Y-Combinator.

So, other than the cheap rent and free WiFi, what's the appeal of sharing a bathroom with all the other nerds competing for a slice of the Valley's seed money? As one Wharton School professor told the Times, it reminded him of his own days at M.I.T. when graduate students used to bunk up in their offices. Or as one 29-year-old software engineer put it, “If you’re wanting to do something to change the world and make it a fundamentally better place, you need to be around the right people.”


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By Andrew Dalton in News on July 6, 2012 12:55 PM
  • airbnb
  • brogrammers
  • hacker hostels
  • silicon valley
  • startups

Comments [rss]

  • buggedout

    I'm guessing the allure is hanging out with Asian chicks?  We all know that is why dudes want to move to the bay area,  cheaper flophouses exist but not with korean curry night and a glimpse of a-cup cleavage.

  • aydiosmio

    The coworking model works great to create supportive environments. There's some great coworking spaces in NYC, I'm sure SF has a few as well.

  • MalcoveMagnesia

    That's still cheaper than a lot of (or most) Bay Area rentals.

  • MrEricSir

    Most Bay Area rentals also don't involve sharing a room with 5 other people in bunk beds.

  • MrEricSir

    $40 a night works out to $1200 a month... and you don't even get your own room?!

    What a ripoff.

  • eech1234

    And can you imagine the smell?

  • JoelSF


  • hillarys_new_shoes

    "I knew this rogue FTP would come in handy!"

  • cbennett415

    Leave the cheap beer, 29c ramen, free t-shirts and bunk beds. You have finished college. You have a job.. You're now a working professional. Grow up.

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