Why We Moved Our HQ: Q&A with ServiceNow CEO Frank Slootman

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strain our ability to get the quantity and quality of talent in a timely manner. These days, talent doesn’t move much any more, and employers need to set up shop where the concentrations of talent are. Facebook, Google, [and others] are all doing it. Silicon Valley is an obvious [place to expand], because so much of our management team has deep roots and long history there, but we’ve also stood up brand-new sites in Seattle and Amsterdam.

X: Do you see a shortage of particular skills among software developers in San Diego?

FS: The ecosystem of relevant software companies getting started isn’t that large in San Diego. The net effect is that we’re fishing in a small pond, and companies can quickly exhaust categories of talent that are already in high demand, and not in large supply.

X: Are there any steps you can suggest that would help to strengthen the software sector in San Diego?

FS: I think you need to approach it from a position of strength. In the world of these high-flying cloud software companies, it is hard to compete with places like Silicon Valley. Facebook was founded on the East coast, but moved its operations to the Bay Area early on.

Frank Slootman

Frank Slootman

Invariably, when it comes to tech, people bring up the outlier success story of Qualcomm, but it is not clear, or at least visible to me, that Qualcomm has seeded the greater San Diego area with startups and talent as a by-product of their scale and growth in the area. In Silicon Valley, you can easily track the lineage from one successful company to another. Some companies are so large and concentrated with talent that they seed whole new technology sectors. It is essentially one beehive of talent that is constantly reconstituting itself into new generations of companies.

Finally, there is the notion of culture and values. San Diego has what I would describe as a lifestyle culture, with a strong balance of life and work. For many, this is very attractive. In the Bay Area by contrast, it is raw ambition, singular drive, and unbridled capitalism in action. People want to make it big, make a ding in the universe, and they are willing to make huge personal sacrifices. It’s not for everybody, but that mentality serves the ultra-demanding entrepreneurial culture well, regardless of one’s personal preferences.

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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5 responses to “Why We Moved Our HQ: Q&A with ServiceNow CEO Frank Slootman”

  1. “People want to make it big, make a ding in the universe, and they are willing to make huge personal sacrifices.”

    By working at ServiceNow? Seems like this is a Management Team/Board “lifestyle choice” more than a talent issue, but what do I know? Guess we’ll see if the world’s highest-priced Engineers will leave Facebook and Google for this company.

  2. Kevin Carroll says:

    Beyond perception, I have never seen any empirical evidence San Diego is somehow less productive. I have seen studies that show a healthy outdoor lifestyle leads to innovation and creativity. Sorry Frank, but very proud to live and work in San Diego where everyday our entrepreneur’s are ‘making it big, making a ding in the universe and willing to make huge personal sacrifices. We see it everyday, sorry you have not been exposed to that part of the San Diego innovation economy.

  3. Matt Semenza says:

    This move is very interesting to me. I am a business development vice president for a offshore software services firm, as a result, I travel to San Jose, regularly. The valley is in a major labor crunch for tech workers. The cost of living there is very high and its hard to be a home owner, due to escalated home values. I am surprised that a company like this, didn’t use San Diego as a key differentiator. Its funny, but my guess is, that they weren’t willing to pay to attract the talent. There’s this odd impact with companies that are based here that believe that they should not have to pay as well for tech workers as in the valley, so as a result, they don’t attract people to move south. If they matched the current wages, which this firm is now filling positions in northern cal with, here in San Diego, they would have been able to expand here, at a lower overall cost to the company.

  4. Edward says:

    Yup, San Diego is full of losers Frank. Because going surfing after work should be replaced by sitting on the 101 for a couple of hours in the Bay Area. And nothing has come out of San Diego. Jonas Salk didn’t do anything. Or Erwin Jacobs. Or Fred Luddy. Let’s be real. The move to Santa Clara was for your lifestyle.

  5. Not me says:

    I left a great company to join ServiceNow, what an amazing product and future!

    I left due to the utterly hostile work environment and dearth of work life balance. If –this– is what Slootman thinks the Valley is made on then he’s an ass.