Hayes Valley Basement Space Hosts Weekly 'Office Hours' Meet-Up

Hayes Valley Basement Space Hosts Weekly 'Office Hours' Meet-Up

Photo via Foursquare

Meaghan Clark
Published on April 08, 2015

A few years ago, we stumbled upon a Hayes Valley office rental claiming to be "the coolest basement in the world.” The ad posted on Craigslist boasted of an open area with natural sunlight and 1890s detailing—priced at a cool $5,500 a month. 

We decided to revisit 540 Laguna St. to check out who snagged the 2,400-square-foot space, which is now complete with a recently renovated conference room surrounded by glass.

A local entrepreneur named Andrew Wooster found the space after the ad went up. Together with local interactive software maker Tumult, they named the basement "Catacombs", and turned it into an incubator, of sorts, for tech startups.

Right now it's home to Tumult, Road Rules, loopware, and Wooster's own project, along with assorted freelancers – but it also doubles as space for socializing. 

The socializing comes in the form of an event named "Office Hours", an underground technology meet-up for those in the know – basically only those who know Wooster or another Catacombs occupant have been aware of it so far. Pegged simply as a place to ask questions about iPhone app development, web development, or just share an idea, Wooster describes the weekly event as as basic as they come. 

The topics are always centered around technology, but guests are encouraged to ask questions, show a demo of what they’ve been working on, or just join the conversation. Still, it's not limited to the tech world. "Topics range quite a bit," said Wooster. Last week, he added, was all about Japanese history. 

The original idea for Office Hours came out of an ex-Apple employee as “a way to concentrate his social schedule into one night a week,” said Wooster. Originally formed in 2009, weekly meet-ups had previously been held at bars before Wooster and crew made their Laguna Street basement a permanent Office Hours location.  

These days, the weekly event has morphed into a group of friends and acquaintances, the majority ex-Applers (Wooster worked with Apple from 2003-2008), several of whom have gone through Y Combinator and are working on something they'd like to share with the others. Questions vary from financing and fundraising to JavaScript ("a guy who shows up is a world expert in Javascript," said Wooster).

At most, around 15 people come to the underground event. And there's a reason why, after so many years, Office Hours hasn't grown. "I feel like the larger events that happen in San Francisco aren't personal, and there are a lot of them," Wooster said. "There are a lot less small groups getting together centered around technology and sharing ideas. To a degree, scaling it would defeat the purpose. Having it be smaller, more intimate keeps it a trusted space." 

Interested in attending the next Office Hours? Check out Wooster's Twitter feed to see when the next one is scheduled—advanced notice might be just a few hours—or email him for more details at andrew {at} andrewwooster {dot} com.