Small businesses take center stage in San Francisco next week, with an emphasis on disruptive technology and businesses that have butted heads with the status quo.
Uber and Airbnb sprang up in this city, beginning as startups testing new, even quirky business models. They quickly transformed into global companies.
Chamber of Commerce President Bob Linscheid says there are lessons to be learned from businesses — startups or established companies — that challenge the norm.
“That lesson is that you must constantly innovate,” he says. “Our city is a haven for innovation and entrepreneurship.”
He cites Uber, the mobile-app-based ride-hailing company, which started in San Francisco and is now in 57 countries.
In a 2010 blog post, Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick said the idea for the company emerged in reaction to the city’s “horrible taxi problem,” which often meant “getting stranded on the streets of San Francisco.”
Small Business Week focuses on innovators
Disruptive technology — innovations that disrupt an existing market — “very often you’ll see companies formed on that basis,” Linscheid says. “When the taxi industry needed a shot in the arm, it caused Uber to get started.”
That’s the kind of outside-the-box thinking the San Francisco Chamber aims to highlight during Small Business Week, to be held May 16 to 22. The celebration, marking its 11th year, is the largest local Small Business Week in the nation, according to the chamber.
More than 3,000 people are expected to attend the event sponsored by major city and business organizations, including San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the San Francisco Small Business Commission.
“San Francisco is flush with opportunity,” Mark Dwight, president of the San Francisco Small Business Commission and CEO of Rickshaw Bagworks, a bag design and manufacturing company, says in a statement.
“Neighborhood commercial corridors are alive with innovative new brands,” he said, “and our local entrepreneurs and artisans are redefining whole industries.”
In a statement, Mayor Lee called small businesses “the backbone of the diverse neighborhoods of San Francisco.”
To be sure, small businesses face challenges in the city.
Cost of housing a major obstacle
Dwight says “small businesses face rapidly increasing rents and other costs of doing business here.” Linscheid says housing affordability is clearly a major challenge as the city “has not kept up with the demand,” hampering the ability of companies, big and small, to attract and retain talent.
Many of these issues are expected to come up during Small Business Week, which features events where entrepreneurs can engage with the city’s business and government leaders.
These are issues the San Francisco Chamber takes seriously, Linscheid says. Of the organization’s 1,500 members, 80% are small businesses.
“This week is about networking and getting folks to talk,” Linscheid says.
You can check out the schedule and get more information on San Francisco’s Small Business Week celebration at the San Francisco Chamber site.
For more information about how to start and run a business, visit NerdWallet’s Small Business Guide. For free, personalized answers to questions about starting and financing your business, visit the Small Business section of NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor page.
Image of Chamber of Commerce President Bob Linscheid via San Francisco Chamber.