At the beginning of September, software company MuleSoft made an important announcement: they’re opening a new software development center in downtown Mountain View. CPO Mark Dao says, “We’re excited to grow our Bay Area presence to the heart of Silicon Valley to make it easier for a new team of Muleys to help us work on unique challenges that come with building a massively scalable, globally distributed platform.” Although they’re a San Francisco company, they are looking to the “exceptionally talented people” of Silicon Valley to help them grow.
MuleSoft’s expansion from San Francisco to Mountain View seems against the grain. But MuleSoft may be the first in a new wave of migration from San Francisco back to the South Bay. Companies are looking for talent, and places like Mountain View and Sunnyvale have it close at hand. More companies may expand back into Silicon Valley as they need the talent established there.
This is fantastic news for creatives. Startups, large tech firms, and the industries supporting them are growing as fast as ever. Whether in San Francisco or the South Bay, creative professionals can expect an expansion of the Bay Area creative economy.
Silicon Valley to San Francisco and Back Again
Geektime contributor Jenny Belotserkovsky chronicles the movement of tech companies from Silicon Valley to San Francisco. She writes, “The growth of San Francisco as a tech powerhouse over the last 5 years has been tremendous. As of January, more than 15% of global venture capital investments went to San Francisco companies, making it the leading place to raise VC funding in the world.”
The 2008 recession cleared downtown San Francisco of some of its primary tenants: finance, insurance, and real estate firms. The city hit a 9.4% unemployment rate in 2011. The city offered a tax break to attract tech businesses. At the same time, locations like Palo Alto and Mountain View were running out of office space. Moving out of expensive, crowded tech centers like Palo Alto seemed like the best strategy for countless growing startups.
Soon companies like Twitter, Zendesk, and Spotify started migrating to San Francisco. Major corporations like Google, Yahoo, and Apple joined them by building campuses there. Relocating Silicon Valley companies have taken up 2.5 million square feet of San Francisco’s real estate since 2010.
This trend may be driven by companies who, like MuleSoft, began in San Francisco and need room to expand. Just like Silicon Valley corporations seeking cheaper rent and tax breaks in the early 2000’s, tech startups now fully on their feet are seeking opportunities in another location.
A Demand for Creative Talent
The Otis Report on the Creative Economy, released May 2016, surveyed the employment landscape for creatives in the San Francisco Bay Area:
• Creative jobs overall grew by 38.7% over the past five years
• Digital media positions increased 31% from 2009 to 2014
• As of 2014, there were 167,740 jobs for creative professionals in the Bay Area
• Freelance creatives totaled 70,280 in the Bay Area in 2013
The question the Otis Report doesn’t answer: will creatives continue to find employment as San Francisco and Silicon Valley continue to see-saw tech companies and the Bay Area economy changes?
The answer is “yes”, and San Francisco ad agencies serve as an example of how in-demand creatives are in the greater Bay Area. Marketers have struggled to find and keep creative talent over the last five years. They’ve watched corporations like Google court their top talent with salaries and stock options marketing firms can’t compete with. But they see light at the end of the tunnel as Silicon Valley’s slowdown is sending creative talent back to industries like advertising.
Marketing isn’t the only industry looking for creatives– tech needs creative professionals as much as ever. Some professions may take a hit during the current tech downturn. Roles for creative professionals, however, are still opening up. The more sophisticated technologies like AI become, the more human influence is needed to make them usable. Writers, designers, and UX specialists will continue to provide that creative touch for tech.
Look at last year’s LinkedIn study on Silicon Valley employees ten years out of college. Only 30% of Northwestern grads in the area went into engineering and IT. The rest are working in sales and marketing or education roles. Their liberal arts degrees are proving a huge asset to the tech industry, which needs creative talent to accomplish everything from web design to copywriting. Creative staffing agencies can work alongside this high-caliber creative talent, finding the best match with companies who need them the most.