As a tech entrepreneur, one of my goals/dreams is to move to the San Francisco Bay Area, and I have both practical and emotional reasons to feel that way.
On the emotional side, it just seems awesome to live at the heart of Silicon Valley, where most of the tech stuff we use daily was invented and built. It’s the land of Bill Hewlett, Dave Packard, Gordon Moore, Steve Jobs!
On the practical side, the abundance of high-tech companies and startups, software engineers, entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture funds and tech-related events makes it the best place in the world to start and build a tech company. Or does it?
A couple of days ago I was listening to an interview Tim Ferriss did with Matt Mullenweg, the man behind WordPress and its parent company, Automattic. Matt has a point of view that contradicts the “you gotta be in San Francisco” logic. His own words (32 minutes into the interview):
When Automattic started it was literally bootstrapped. We had no money, and I thought why would I move all these people to the most expensive place in America. Most investors said that when we raised money we can finally move everyone there, but Donna in Ireland was getting ready to start a family. People are in different places for different reasons.
It’s true that the Bay Area has some amazing talent […] but you also have talented people around the world who don’t want to live here. You also have some of the largest and most successful companies in the world, market caps of over trillions of dollars combined, competing for the same 20 or 30 thousand engineers. When you add up Cisco, Oracle, Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, plus all the startups, they are all fishing on this same pond.
He does have a point. In fact he later told in the interview that although Automattic’s headquarter is in San Francisco, only 20 or so people work there. The rest of his 300 employees are scattered all around the world.
I still think that being in the Bay Area puts you in a unique and favorable position. In fact Matt was born in Houston, Texas, and he decided to move to San Francisco. Had he not moved there I am not sure if he would have had such an early contact with blogging, which gave him the idea to start the WordPress project.
That being said, it seems that it’s not not necessary, perhaps not even desirable, to have your whole team working there, as Automattic attests.
What do you think?