SF Commercial Real Estate Market: Data Snapshot

August 8, 2013 § 1 Comment

Being a CFO, one of my many roles is to make the decisions on worldwide real estate for Mozilla.  Over the past 3 years, we’ve been very busy opening up 11 Mozilla Spaces (employee and community/contributor work and event spaces) on 4 different continents.  As a result, I’m always very close to real estate data streams in various markets and have regular conversations on the topic with a set of my go-to regular experts.

One such snapshot came across my email box last week with respect to the San Francisco Commercial Real Estate Market.  SF currently happens to be the hottest commercial real estate market in the US right now and arguably in the entire world.  (in terms of rental rate increases and vacancy rate decreases).

The Rosen Realty Group (RRG)  http://www.rosenrg.com/ led by Mark Rosen just published one of their latest installments.  Once again, it’s extremely useful and confirmational data for those with eyes/ears close to the ground in the SF Market specifically.

A shameless plug is deserved here.  I’ve worked with Mark and Anna at RRG for over 10 yrs on numerous deals and consider RRG to be one of the best (OK THE BEST) real estate broker firm for tenants I’ve had the pleasure of working with.   Mark and Anna aren’t just “brokers”.  Having worked in SF and the Bay Area for the last +25 yrs, they have an amazing network of people and resources to help you get things done.  They’ve worked side by side with me and my team to not just do the lease deals (renting the various spaces) but more importantly to monitor and ensure the proper steps to actually get the offices opened (tenant improvements) and to give amazing advice on making these new offices a “home” for those living in it every day.


SF Market July 31 2013


note:  I have obtained permission from RRG to republish this copyrighted research report.


SF Avg. Rental Rate Patterns:
Analyzing both the graph and this summary data table I created, some clear patterns emerge

  • SF Avg Rental Rates of $43.56 have hit a 10 year high as of July 31, 2013
  • The previous SF Market Rental high occurred in the abnormal 1999-2000 period where SF avg rental rates spiked 50% ( from $45 to $65+) and then back down to $45 all within a 12 month period
  • Barring any economic shocks to the system, there appears to be more room to continue the recent trends.   Vacancy rates still have room  to fall to its historical 5% low range which (the data suggests) would move avg rental rates beyond $50 and maybe even $60 per sq ft rates.
  • The 8 year CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) is a healthy 8%.
  • There hasn’t been a significant decline in avg. rental rates since 2010 when avg. rates hit their low of $27.50.  Over the last 3 yrs (36 months), avg SF rates have increased steadily to today’s $43.50 while vacancy rates are on a directly proportional decline from 15% to 10%.
  • In terms of Silicon Valley/Pennisula, the data is similar:  Vacant space has decreased for 9 quarters in a row to 10.2% vacancy rate as of Q2 2013;  the lowest “available space” since the first quarter of 2001.

What does this suggest for the next few years (2014-2016?).

caveat:   assumes mostly status quo with no major macro-economic surprise or downturn.  These economic shocks can be seen from the graph (2001-2003 and again 2008-2010) and the impact of these economic shocks show a very predictable spike in vacancy and a dip in avg. rental rates.

  • Vacancy rate trends suggests the market will drop below 10% for the first time since 2001 (+12 yrs) to the 8% range
  • Avg rental rates are correspondingly expected to grow at 8% annually over the next 2 years and to break above $50 per sq ft. annually (+$4.50 per month per sq. ft)
  • Every 1% decrease in vacancy rates equals roughly a $3 increase in avg rental rates
  • Every 1% increase in vacancy rates equates to a smaller decline in rates by only $2 per sq ft annually

Bottom line:  Commercial office space real estate demand is approaching a historical high and once again is beginning to outstrip supply.  This is especially true for space of 50K sq feet and above which equates to workstation capacity of 300 employees +/-.

VC Influencer Graph

August 3, 2013 § 1 Comment

Ok, I’ve heard from a few readers of this blog loud and clear.   The “Live Like Dogs” and “What’s Your Walk Up Song” posts are cute but “Can you please get back to some good data and analysis”?  The next few posts will be just that.  Here goes.

Zeno Group just published a great slideshare on VC Influencers including an analysis of the top VC’s social media consumption habits.  They used Twitter stats, LinkedIn stats, and an online survey targeting the top 100 VC’s as published by the Forbes Midas List.

The results are a combination of unique and interesting data as well as confirmational data for anyone spending time following these folks on these social media networks or interacting with these VC’s and reporters as part of their jobs.

I’m republishing the results on this blog mostly for my own convenience since I’ve noticed these types of published results quickly get lost in our ephemeral and quick twitch world of data coming at us.

Here’s a quick summary which I found interesting:

  • 37 of Top 100 VC’s have LESS than 500 Connections on LinkedIn.   So, don’t feel so bad if you haven’t achieved this mark yet.
  • 36 of Top 100 VC’s are still NOT ON TWITTER.    Of 64 who are on Twitter, the median # of  followers is 3,450 (# of people the VC’s Influence).  The top 6 VC Influencers have a median of 10,500 followers
  • 63% follow their PEER GROUP  (other VC Partners, VC Firms, or Tech Executives and Entrepreneurs)
  • 19% follow Media Brands/Journalists
  • HEAVILY WEIGHTED to @WaltMossberg (WSJ), @KaraSwisher (AllThingsD), @DanPrimack (Fortune), Sarah Lacy (@sarahcuda PandoDaily), Adam Lashinsky (@adamlashinsky Fortune).   They also follow TechCrunch
  • The top 100 VC’s are using Twitter and LinkedIn to STAY CONNECTED and FOR NEWS/TRENDS

Cosmos: Flatland and Googol

July 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

One of the biggest influences on my young scientific brain was the amazing thirteen part Cosmos series written by Carl Sagan and his wife Ann Druyan.  It aired in 1980 when I was 13 years old and I still feel it’s impact and influence on my young mind.  It was the most widely watched  series in the history of public television and is still one of the most widely watched PBS series in the world.  It’s been broadcast in more than 60 countries and watched by more than 500 million people.  For it’s day, it was so well produced from the special effects to the soundtracks to the simple Storytelling.  The series brilliant blending of science, history, poetry, music creates tremendous education for a young mind and at 13 I was a sponge.

In this series, the concepts include our universe, DNA, astronomy (Kepler, Copernicus, and Tycho Brahe), an entire episode devoted to Mars, Space-Time and Einstein, Voyager’s Golden Record and our collective intelligence.  It’s all here.

One particular episode stood out for me above all others.  The concepts described in the Flatland episode intrigues me to this day.   The possibilities of “what’s out there?” and how it might look make me full of wonder.    I still love the part how the 3D cube casts a shadow on the 2D Flatland and further, how we can imagine the fourth dimension by creating a “shadow” in our 3D world…even though we can never physically see this 4th dimensional “shape”.


Today I think of this concept as “Perspective” and I regular use this Flatland analogy when I feel perspective is needed.

I love how Carl simply poses great questions and teaches without lecturing.

“Cosmology brings us face-to-face with the deepest mysteries of questions that were once treated only in religion and myth”

“Who know for certain?  Who shall here declare it?  Whence was it born?…….these words are 3500 years old.  They are taken from the Rig Veda,  a collection of early Sanskrit hymns.   The most sophisticated ancient cosmological ideas came from Asia and particularly from India.  Here, there’s a tradition of skeptical questioning and un-selfconscious humility before the great cosmic mysteries..”

I marvel at the consistent blend of poetry, science, history, and cultural concepts and begin to understand how these ideas were planted in my young mind as they were in many other young minds.

As for the Googol and Googolplex, little did we know that 20 years later, these words would take on a whole new meaning.  The concept of “the infinity of small” and the “infinity of large” still intrigues me to this day.


I’ll end this mini-video series with one of Carl Sagan’s most persistent and timeless messages for humanity

“Those worlds in space are as countless as all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the Earth. Each of those worlds is as real as ours. In every one of them, there’s a succession of incidence, events, occurrences which influence its future. Countless worlds, numberless moments, an immensity of space and time. And our small planet, at this moment, here we face a critical branch-point in the history. What we do with our world, right now, will propagate down through the centuries and powerfully affect the destiny of our descendants. It is well within our power to destroy our civilization, and perhaps our species as well. If we capitulate to superstition, or greed, or stupidity, we can plunge our world into a darkness deeper than time between the collapse of classical civilization and the Italian Renaissance. But, we are also capable of using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth, to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet. To enhance enormously our understanding of the Universe, and to carry us to the stars.”

Pixars 22 Rules of Storytelling

June 30, 2013 § 1 Comment

Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats tweeted these rules that she learned from her more senior colleagues.

PBJPublishing.com thought they were so good, they chose to share them the best way they know how – through design. Enjoy!


Pixar's 22 Rules to Phenomenal Storytelling, brought to you by @pbjpublishing

We thought it’d be helpful to get Pixar’s 22 rules in text form too from The Pixar Touch blog:

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?

#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

7-8 Tips To Great Preso’s

June 28, 2013 § 1 Comment

Note:  Click the Left – Right Arrows In These Embedded Presentations – They work!

And Don’t Be This Guy

Be Yourself:

Note:  Too many slides here but Nancy Duarte is an expert in this field – so flip through quickly –  you’ll find some “pearls” of wisdom in the sea of slides:

I’ve summarized the slides / points that matter the most (to me):  Next time I’m on stage I’m reviewing these notes below….

1) Audience – Readiness – tend to the ecosystem  (Who?, What?, Why?, How?)

  • Who are they? – walk in their shoes – what’s their perspective?
  • Why are they here?  situational analysis
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • How can you help solve their problem?
  • What do you want them to do / think about?
  • How can you best reach them?
  • How might they resist?

2)  Engage – Connect – OPEN WITH A PUNCH (You get 60 seconds to grab audience attention – no matter who you are)

  • Personal
  • Unexpected
  • Novel
  • Challenging
  • Humorous

Move with Purpose – Eye Contact – Pause Effectively

3)  Add Playfulness

  • Interact – throw something –
  • Make a Point – Use Audience Member (will I be next?)

4) Body Language:   Our bodies can change our minds, our minds change our behavior, our behavior changes our outcomes.

  • No tech life hack
  • Audit of your body
  • Power = Open Up – Get Wide
  • Powerless = small, wrap up
  • Fake It until you become it:  – when forced to smile – hold pen in teeth – makes you happier
  • Our minds changes our bodies? – do our bodies change our minds?
  • Role changes also shape the mind/body chemistry
  • PRESENCE is most important –  (Passion, confidence, authentic, comfortable, captivating,enthusiastic)
  • 2 Minutes of Powerful Pose – configure your brain – testosterone up, cortisol down

5)  STAR Moments

  • shocking stats
  • evocative visuals
  • emotive storytelling
  • repeatable soundbites

Ethos Pathos Logos – Communicating Aristotle Style

June 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

Communicating Aristotle Style:

1)  Ethos  – Establish the Who and How of  You:  Establish your Character and Credibility with the Audience

Ethos  is a Greek word meaning “character” that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology. The Greeks also used this word to refer to the power of music to influence the listener’s emotions, behaviors, and even morals  The word’s use in rhetoric is closely based on the Greek terminology used by Aristotle in his concept of the three artistic proofs.:

2)  Pathos – Make an Emotional Connection to your Audience;  Make your communication matter to them;  Lead them down the path with a compelling story.

Pathos:  Greek for “suffering” or “experience;” representing an appeal to the audience’s emotions. Pathos is a communication technique used most often in rhetoric (where it is considered one of the three modes of persuasion, alongside ethos and logos).

Aristotle focused on whom, toward whom, and why stating that “It is not enough to know one or even two of these points; unless we know all three, we shall be unable to arouse anger in anyone. The same is true of the other emotions.”

Emotional appeal can be accomplished in a multitude of ways:

  • by a metaphor or story telling, common as a hook,
  • by passion in the delivery of the speech or writing, as determined by the audience.
  • Language choices matter. Specific words matter.  Great writers and storytellers are born from tremendous pathos.

3)  Logos – Logic;  Make fact based connections explicit from your analysis to conclusions.  Persuading by use of reasoning.  This was Aristotle’s favorite.

Effectively Communicating was figured out over 2000 years ago……a simple 3 step approach.

A Boy 6 – 9 Years Old Is Responsible For His Dad’s Cows…..

May 25, 2013 § 1 Comment

A Story of a Young Kenyan Boy, Richard Turere, who made peace with the Lions.

One Year Ago, I was just a boy in the Savannah grassland herding my fathers cows and I used to see planes flying over.   I told myself one day I’ll be there inside [that plane}…and here I am.  My big dream is to become an aircraft engineer and pilot when I grow up.

There’s so much to this story.  A 12 yr old dreamer.  A problem solver.  An entrepreneur.  The creator of “Lion Lights”.    A story of getting on the world’s stage at a Ted conference and sharing with us all.  A story of making peace with one’s enemies.

My community is the Masai.  We believe we come from heaven with all the animals and all the land.  That’s why we value them so much.  So I grew up hating lions so much…..

An amazing and inspiring story we can all learn from.


Colin Powell: “It’s All About the People”; and his Thirteen Rules

May 15, 2013 § 1 Comment

A book landed on my desk from a fellow respected colleague and growing friend at Mozilla.  Thanks Pascal!   The book was Colin Powell’s:  It Worked For Me – In Life and Leadership.

The core of the book and of Powell are his Thirteen Rules and the stories of the people in his life.    These thirteen rules are self-described quotes or aphorism he had collected over the years (prior to the Internet).  He kept them front and center under the glass cover of his desktop.   I present them here as I can’t land this book on everyone else’s desk who might be reading this blog.  It’s much more efficient in simply sharing this way.

1.  It Ain’t As Bad As You Think.  It Will Look Better In The Morning  (Attitude)

2.  Get Mad, Then Get Over It.  (Attitude)

3.  Avoid Having Your Ego So Close To Your Position That When Your Position Falls, Your Ego Goes With It.

“Disagree with me, do it with feeling, try to convince me you are right and I am about to go down the wrong path.  You owe that to me;  that’s why you are here.  But don’t be intimidated when I argue back.  A moment will come when I’ve heard enough and I make a decision.   Loyalty is disagreeing strongly, and loyalty is executing faithfully.”  « Read the rest of this entry »

Sitting in My Dad’s Study

May 9, 2013 § 3 Comments

Happy Birthday Dad!  I figured I’d celebrate it with a blog post to share a couple of lessons I learned from you!  Thanks!

2 Lifelong Lessons:  Learning and Teaching

I was 12 or 13 years old and sick of school.  Sick of homework.  I hadn’t yet realized learning is fun.   All I knew is there was homework to do and  it felt like a chore.  I couldn’t wait for school to be over so I could start having fun in life. I remember thinking to myself, “Did I really have 6 or even 10 more years of school?”

One day, I walked into my Dad’s study (he was a Doctor and 40 yrs old +/-) and I found him absorbed in a pile of books in the middle of a beautiful day seemingly studying.  I recall saying something to the effect of “Hey Dad, what are you doing?  It looks like you are studying”.

He said “I am”.

I paused in confusion.  “But Why?” I asked.  “I thought that once school was over, you never had to study or do homework ever again?

He paused and then said very matter of factly and very presciently  “You know Jim, you never stop studying or learning in life.  In fact, new books and techniques are developed every year and I have to keep up on all of them”

Again I asked “But Why?”

And my Dad said so impactfully:

“Well, there might be something in these books or new techniques that could help me save somebody’s life someday.  Imagine if I didn’t keep up with all this new material?”

A second conversation with my Dad (in his study) occurred a few years thereafter.  This conversation centered around Teaching.  I remember asking him “Is everyone who goes to medical school a great doctor?”

He explained to me that not all doctors were equal and those doctors that put the effort in and “got A’s” in medical school were probably better than doctors who got “C’s or D’s”   He continued to explain how all medical schools had a very regimented and rigorous core philosophy to ensure all doctors granted a license were qualified to actually be a doctor.

I’ve never forgotten his explanation of this core medical school philosophy and how it consisted of 4 distinct phases all students went through in medical school.

  • Read It and Memorize It – Year 1
  • See It – Year 2
  • Do It – Years 3-4
  • Teach It:  Internship and Residency

The words my Dad used that day have been emblazoned in my psychological makeup ever since:

“You don’t become an Expert at anything until you actually have to Teach somebody else what you think you know”

Knowing my children will be 12 and 9 this year, I’m waiting for the right moment to share with Trevor and Claire what my Dad taught me.

1)  You never stop studying and learning.

2)  Only until you Teach somebody else, do you become an Expert

Happy Birthday Dad!  And thanks again for your valuable life lessons!

Big Bang Disruption: The New Innovator’s Dilemma

April 24, 2013 § 6 Comments

Every so often a new article appears that deserves to be captured more permanently than the latest Tweet or forgotten bookmark.  When these appear I intend to immortalize them here in this blog for much easier future reference.  Big Bang Disruption is one of thee articles.   Printed in the March 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review’s “The Magazine”, I’ve summarized it below as well as providing the full article.

— Clayton Christensen’s 1995 HBR Article and 1997 Classic Book has a blind spot.

— Entire product lines can now be wiped out overnight.

— Disrupters can come out of nowhere and be instantly everywhere

— Many times these “Big Bang Disrupters” are unintentional and unplanned.

–Three devastating features of Big Bang Disrupters

  1. Unencumbered development
  2. Unconstrained Growth
  3. Undisciplined Strategy

–Hackathons as examples of “hourly development”.  Experimentation of commodity technology is easy.

— It’s like a giant game of Battleship as innovative failures are raining down around you.  Soon, one of the new big bang innovations will hit.

— Mobile + Cloud is the big game changer.  Undisciplined Strategy.  Fire – Aim – Ready

— Truth Tellers are the key to survival.  Find one now.

Old-style disruption posed the innovator’s dilemma. Big-bang disruption is the innovator’s disaster. And it will be keeping executives in every industry in a cold sweat for a long time to come.The impact of big-bang disrupters is certainly amplified for technology- and information-intensive businesses, but most industries are at risk.

Big Bang Disruption

Harvard Business Review – Article

by Larry Downes and Paul F. Nunes

By now any well-read executive knows the basic playbook for saving a business from disruptive innovation. Nearly two decades of management research, beginning with Joseph L. Bower and Clayton M. Christensen’s 1995 HBR article, “Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave,” have taught businesses to be on the lookout for upstarts that offer cheap substitutes to their products, capture new, low-end customers, and then gradually move upmarket to pick off higher-end customers, too. When these disrupters appear, we’ve learned, it’s time to act quickly—either acquiring them or incubating a competing business that embraces their new technology.

« Read the rest of this entry »

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