Can a Cloud Corridor in SF compete with Silicon Valley?

Getty ImagesAccess to a neighborhood school is sparse in San Francisco.

From SoMa to NoPa, San Francisco has more nicknamed neighborhoods than a city of 49-square miles can possibly hold. We keep inventing more because nothing sells a place better than a catchy moniker.

While Dogpatch helped gritty Third Street become trendy and overpriced, names that try too hard can backfire. Can “Irving Village” ever replace the Inner Sunset?

The best names — think Barbary Coast or Silicon Valley — conjure images for a place and what happens there. That’s what a new generation of tech engineers in downtown San Francisco considered when creating their namesake.

Welcome to the Cloud Corridor.

It’s a concentration of more than 50 cloud-computing companies that have set up shop between Market Street and AT&T Park. Today’s Cloud Corridor is roughly located in what used to be called the Multimedia Gulch during the first dot-com era. Names come and go. But with our digital lives moving to the cloud, these techies claim their innovations will determine the future as much as Silicon Valley has transformed our lives already.

Such impact requires a memorable name.

Is Cloud Corridor a marketing ploy? Sure. But so was Silicon Valley. No one called it that until 1971. The media forever branded it the place where cool stuff happens.

Names matter because any city that gets to coin the zeitgeist’s next big tech destination will enjoy economic benefits for decades to come. Based on the venture capital dollars flowing into San Francisco, we’re already being called the “new” Silicon Valley. But we deserve a unique name.

A dozen San Francisco-based cloud companies met recently to strategize how to get Cloud Corridor into the lexicon. While some are competitors, all would benefit from the common branding. Human resource teams were most excited about using the name to recruit engineers and cloud talent for an experience, not just a job.

“There’s a lot of community happening at every lunch table and bar in this part of San Francisco,” said Randy Brasche, who directs communication for the cloud company ServiceSource. “It’s a fun, startup atmosphere concentrated within city blocks instead of spread over 30 miles.”

Brasche predicts an eventual end to the private commuter buses that export engineers to the South Bay every morning.

“Silicon Valley is so last century,” he said. “The Cloud Corridor will attract talent to both live and work in San Francisco.”

ServiceSource came up with the Cloud Corridor concept but will not trademark the name. That’s how they won support from so many local cloud companies.

Each company promotes the Cloud Corridor in their own marketing efforts. They also try to influence the media and elected officials to say “Cloud Corridor” when referring to San Francisco’s tech industry. They’re hopeful, considering Ed Lee is already known as the “tech mayor.”

Cloud Corridor wasn’t the only choice. There was an option to brand all of San Francisco as Cloud City. But that’s the same name as the floating metropolis in “Star Wars,” where Hans Solo was frozen in carbonite. While many of the cloud engineers are probably fans, they didn’t want to ask George Lucas for permission.

There’s no guarantee Cloud Corridor will achieve the name recognition of Silicon Valley, or that it will even be associated with San Francisco. A recent meet-up of engineers in Bridgewater, N.J, called for a Cloud Corridor in the Garden State between Philadelphia and New York. So the race is on.

No city can outdo San Francisco – home of the Tendernob and even a Sherwood Forest – when it comes to naming neighborhoods. There’s definitely room for a Cloud Corridor and all the economic growth it can bring.

Joel Engardio lives west of Twin Peaks. Follow his blog at www.engardio.com. Email him at jengardio@sfexaminer.com.

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