Hunkered-down tech workers built a virtual Silicon Valley, with dozens of offices
- A venture capitalist built a virtual layout of Silicon Valley using the web design tool Figma.
- She shared it with other tech workers in the region, who built scores of digital offices, bars, and other symbols as the San Francisco Bay Area continues to shelter in place.
- The result is a digital Silicon Valley rife with inside jokes unique to the region's tech culture.
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The glistening tech offices of modern-day San Francisco may be closed, with workers hunkered down in their homes, but a digital layout of the tech region has been constructed online.
Investor and founder Brianne Kimmel with WorkLife Ventures and designer Fiona Carty built the virtual environment, dubbed Stay At Home Valley, in the collaborative web design platform Figma. Kimmel told Business Insider that she started with a few landmarks, and then shared it with other designers to add what they wish.
Within 12 hours, the offices of 200 companies were created in the virtual world, with Dropbox, Slack, Airbnb, Uber, and the Salesforce Tower being some of them. People started "reopening" their favorite bars and cafes - like Blue Bottle Coffee and Boba Guys - that have been shuttered for weeks due to the shelter-in-place order. Electric scooters dot the streets, climbing gyms have been reopened, and a "secret tunnel for Jack Dorsey between meetings" is noted next to the CEO's Square and Twitter digital office blocks.
The result is a virtual placeholder for Silicon Valley insiders to build and "live in" their region and among its idiosyncrasies as the real-world landscape is currently shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Here's what the map looks like.
Kimmel said she wanted to create something that felt almost like playing the SIMS or Animal Crossing.
"I wanted to create a safe, interactive space online where friends in Silicon Valley could get together - we could build our favorite offices and reopen our favorite businesses and celebrate great things that were happening behind the scenes," Kimmel told Business Insider.
Anyone can access the map with the link to the file.
As for the environment's safety, she said there has yet to be any sort of spam or malicious content. "It's a nice, self-moderated universe," she said.
The office of Notion, an enterprise software startup, was the first to be built to announce the company's new funding round, Kimmel said.
Notion accepted $50 million in a funding round from Index Ventures, whose investor Sarah Cannon is seen outside of the buzzy startup's digital office warehouse. Two unicorns are beside her in homage to Notion's status as one of the region's "unicorn" companies valued at at least $1 billion.
Its virtual office shows shoes outside the office in a nod to the company's shoeless culture. Employees were known to scurry around the office in socks or slippers, leaving their shoes at their door.
Techies started adding their respective companies, like payment company Stripe.
The startup announced a $600 million funding round on April 16. An avatar of CEO Patrick Collison is positioned near Stripe's virtual office.
Many of the contributors added Silicon Valley inside jokes, like clusters of abandoned Lime scooters, which are known to cover San Francisco's sidewalks and parks.
Source: Business Insider
Someone added a "secret tunnel for Jack Dorsey between meetings" next to the CEO's Square and Twitter digital office blocks.
Dorsey is CEO of both Twitter and Square. A Y Combinator office was also built on the map. The famed accelerator held its Demo Day virtually this year.
A designer with the General Motors-owned self-driving division Cruise added autonomous vehicles to the universe.
An icon depicting Spotify CEO Daniel Ek is outside the company's virtual office with a tag promoting Spotify's Covid-19 Music Relief campaign.
Someone "reopened" The Wing offices, which would normally host scores of Silicon Valley workers. The coworking startup had been forced to lay off hundreds of employees amid the shutdown, and the virtual office links to the company's GoFundMe relief page.
Reddit cofounder and investor Alexis Ohanian's daughter is seen close to her dad's Initialized office, but not quite right outside of it — she's at a tennis court not far away, a nod to her tennis champion mother, Serena Williams.
The universe has a good mix of influence from the worlds of tech, music, and gaming as video games have become a popular pastime with many seeking means of entertainment during the shutdown.
Designers also started building new housing units, according to Kimmel. A housing shortage and affordability crisis has long gripped the San Francisco Bay Area.
"The universe is being used to build a better city," Kimmel said.
She'll keep the map open for now, for anyone wishing to interact with the virtual world, which has expanded to other cities with budding tech scenes, like Lisbon, Portugal.
She said moving forward, these kinds of developer tools may become mainstream.
"The line between workplace software and consumer social are increasingly blurred," she said.
Clubhouse, the buzzy audio-chat app, is a great example of that, she said. Users can hop in and out of the virtual chat room, which isn't publicly available just yet, as a means of connecting for professional purposes or otherwise.
These kinds of platforms could be the equivalent of a fireside chat, Kimmel said.
"It's an interesting time in tech simply because work-from-home culture has gone mainstream, and the things that people are building on evening and weekends are becoming viable businesses," she said.
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