Bay Area Billionaire is Angry at Tech Titans for Leaving the City

Josue Torres

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The founder and CEO of Twilio is not okay with colleagues reaping the benefits of Silicon Valley until they no longer need it.

The second biggest thing besides Covid-19 for the Bay Area during last year has definitely been Big Tech’s flee from the region. Most recently, companies like Pinterest, HP Enterprise, and Oracle have decided to go to places like Texas, indicating that high rent and even higher taxes are simply not sustainable anymore.

For Jeff Lawson, Founder and CEO of Twilio, that argument is simply not good enough. In a Twitter thread, the billionaire made his position and point of view very clear.

Lawson says he understands the desire to seek out more affordable locations when the opportunity presents itself; however, he has issues with people of means abandoning the community when they’re needed the most.

Twilio is a cloud communications platform that allows software developers to programmatically make and receive phone calls, send and receive text messages, and perform other communication functions using its services. Forbes estimates Lawson is worth $2.9 billion.

“This community has bred and cultivated some of the most successful and innovative companies in the world. And to be frank, it made a lot of business leaders extraordinarily wealthy.” He wrote on Twitter.

“If you reaped the benefit, pay your taxes!”

Lawson went on to state how he’s doing his part in giving back to the community, mentioning that he and his wife have donated to the city’s Covid-19 relief fund, as well as having committed $8M for Help Kitchen, which connects food insecure individuals with partner restaurants and organizations that can get them fed.

The billionaire exhorted his colleagues, friends, and fellow CEOs to commit to their community; staying and rebuilding the place that has given them so much, he also assured that his company Twilio isn’t going anywhere.

Response From Other Executives

Some fellow tech executives listened to Lawson's call back in December. Bret Taylor, Salesforce President and Chief Operating Officer said on Twitter: “I was born in Oakland, and I’m excited to stay in the Bay Area — to create local jobs and help solve all of the problems we face as a community, in partnership with non-profits and local government. And I have never been more optimistic about the future of California.”

Ironically, a few days ago, two months after Taylor's statement, it was announced that Salesforce will permanently allow most of their employees to do remote work for two or more days a week; a big change that has an enormous impact on the city's economic recovery.

"An immersive workspace is no longer limited to a desk in our Towers; the 9-to-5 workday is dead; and the employee experience is about more than ping-pong tables and snacks."- Brent Hyder, President & Chief People Officer.

The company has over 9,000 San Fransico-based workers, those with a position that doesn't require them to be in the office can go fully remote.

The company is famous for its Salesforce Tower, the tallest building in the Bay Area. They are one of the city's biggest tenants, they own and lease three other locations, four if we count the office space of Slack, a company that they are currently buying.

Even though Salesforce said they don't have immediate details regarding their office's space, it becomes very obvious that this remote work move will represent a considerable reduction of the space they’re currently using.

The company says they are making these changes to give their workers more flexibility. This will give people the chance to leave the city in search of better rent prices and overall living-cost, something that has been a big concern for San Francisco residents in the last few years.

People from other locations will also have the opportunity to apply for jobs at these companies, positions that used to be exclusive for people living in San Francisco.

Response from The People

Lawson’s comments have caused a mixed reaction from people, some have congratulated him and thanked him for staying and supporting the Bay; while others have stated that even if he means well, his intentions and actions are actually not helpful since the core of the problem are bad policies and lack of control that have made it impossible to live in the city.

It’s nearly impossible not to feel nostalgic when thinking about how Silicon Valley has been the birthplace of fantastic and groundbreaking products and services that revolutionized technology as we know it. Only time will tell the greater impact that the exit of Big Tech will have in the region; who knows, maybe they’ll come back in another decade to create the second coming of the Valley’s technological revolution.

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