Starcity’s first product is a comfortable, communal house in San Francisco. It’s designed for individuals seeking to share resources and experiences, thereby reducing footprint and social isolation. Our customers and friends may not know that our plan is to build urban communities for everyone – couples, families, and other domestic arrangements.
Starcity’s mission is twofold: make living in great cities accessible to everyone. And make the living arrangements delightful and sustainable so that people can stay in cities for the long-term. We will do this by redefining the meaning of home. Innovative interior-design that increases livable space and smart technology that reduces waste will be at our core.
Why are we passionate about this? Cities have amazing power. The 30 largest cities in the US account for over 50% of our GDP – the value that we create as a society (McKinsey). In addition to their economic production, cities offer us culture, the opportunity to increase our social/professional capital, and for some, they offer social safety nets. We need more people to live in cities so the rate of evolution and innovation continues to grow and more humans get to improve their life – whether that’s new opportunities or an improvement in socioeconomic status.
It’s no secret that urban populations are growing rapidly. 70% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban environments by 2050. Development isn’t happening fast enough to sustain this.
To accommodate for the next several decades of growth in cities, we need to bring the cost of building down and increase density in cities without sacrificing character and comfort. This is a tall order.
Starcity’s current approach is to convert existing non-residential buildings into living spaces, repurpose inefficient residences to high-density layouts, and build housing developments from the ground up in a cost-effective way. We will accelerate the growth of cities while maintaining the character and charm of historic districts that we love.
We will benchmark Starcity on several key metrics:
- Load factor – efficiency percentage of how space is used within a building
- Energy rating – energy usage compared to similar class buildings
- Resource efficiency – reduction of hard goods and associated waste
- Net promoter score – how much our members love us and how long they stay
- Yield – to make Starcity grow we will need to attract and grow investor capital – they go hand in hand.
For #4 we’ll try something radical. We’ll create constant feedback loops for both a) internal sources – our paying members and their satisfaction – and b) external stakeholders – how much non-paying community members respect and love us. Community building is more than creating a product that customers love. Many of your “customers” don’t even pay, in dollars, for your product. They walk by your building, they interact with your staff, they meet with your members, they attend your events, they seek help in times of crises. Think of it as a new school way of doing the old school thing – creating a happy neighborhood.
We’re initially focused on our home of San Francisco. We love this city – its rich history and culture and the positive changes of the past decade. Yet the lack of housing here has become the conversation topic de jour.
What isn’t discussed in these conversations is the hard work being done by both non-profit / low-income housing developers and the high-end luxury developers. The former is left out of the conversation and the latter is vilified. Both deserve praise for bringing necessary supply to the market.
What’s also left out of the conversation? The middle-income demographic.
As mentioned, we will create a future where great cities are accessible to everyone…teachers, artists, single parents, police officers, firefighters, non-profit workers, baristas, restaurant servers, students, car service drivers, and entrepreneurs. Anyone making sacrifices to better their communities.
Why isn’t anyone building for the middle? Creating a meaningful amount of high-density communal housing is a big, complicated challenge. Building involves navigating physical, capital, political, and emotional pressures, which can often be in conflict. Because of these high costs to navigate the process, when you bring a new building to market, any rational economic actor would price their product to seek the highest return.
Unless the cost of navigating that process becomes very inexpensive and constructing buildings become cheaper, the market will only produce highly subsidized housing (low-income) and the most expensive product (luxury). This is the current situation in many great cities.
Our current solution will begin addressing this monumental problem. We’ll dedicate resources to R&D to explore faster, lower-cost ways of building quality communal housing. We will use Silicon Valley’s and San Francisco’s gusto to usher in a fresh new attitude about how and where we live, work and socialize. It will be hard and challenging, and we’re going to take it all on.
In keeping with a high velocity start-up, all free cash flow is plowed back into R&D to drive down the costs and bring the follow on products to market as fast as possible. When someone lives in an early Starcity community, they are helping pay for development of the lower-cost Starcity communities for a broader group of people.
We will bring our first site on line this fall – a small prototype version of our new community concept. In keeping with the rich history of our city, what better product to start off with than a historic Victorian-style home.
This community will welcome new members to our family. We’ll learn a lot from the first community, listen to their feedback and improve on the inaugural design and technology. As more Starcity communities come on line, we hope to start making a material impact on affordability in San Francisco and have tons of happy customers who get to enjoy our great city again.
So in short, the master plan is:
- Build communal housing out of existing buildings. Increase capacity by ~3x in each building.
- Use that money to build ground-up communal housing.
- Use that money to build family-oriented communal housing, aka vertical neighborhoods.
- While doing above, also improve the services and benefits for the neighborhoods we grow in, while maintaining their character.
Home is welcoming, relaxing and safe. Home is a group of respectful, warm, and empathetic people. Home is an inclusive, uplifting community. Welcome to Starcity.