With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing businesses across the country to reconsider whether they need a physical headquarters, companies in Silicon Valley are debating whether they should actually stay in the area.
For example, Facebook and Twitter plan on allowing the majority of their employees to work remotely (with a salary cut if those employees move to an area with a lower cost of living, in the case of Facebook). Rumors suggest that Google is considering a similar maneuver, at least for some divisions. Meanwhile, rent prices in the San Francisco area are dropping at a remarkable rate, which might be due in part to technologists deciding to try their luck somewhere else.
Now comes another twist: Palantir, the secretive data-analytics startup, is planning to move from Palo Alto to Denver. That’s in addition to an anticipated IPO (or direct listing) later this year.
According to TechCrunch, Palantir is making the move for three reasons: a lower cost of living, closer geographical proximity to clients, and CEO Alex Karp’s concerns that Silicon Valley’s culture is hostile to a company that signs contracts with defense contractors and law enforcement. Over the past few years, technologists at other firms (including Google and Microsoft) have pushed back against their executives’ decisions to work on technology projects for the Pentagon, ICE, and other federal agencies.
Politics aside, it’s clear that many technologists who currently live in Silicon Valley are willing to consider a move, whether driven by the area’s high cost of living or simple desire to try something new. Blind, which anonymously polls technologists, recently surveyed its user base in Silicon Valley about whether they’d choose to live somewhere else if they could work remotely. Broken down by employer, many said they would:
But will such sentiments—and the moves of unicorns like Palantir—lead to a larger exodus? That’s a key question, and one that probably won’t be answered for a couple of years at least.