Why Comma.ai, Maker of Self-Driving Tech, is Moving to San Diego

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“We [are trying] to make a sustainable business, which means making money based not purely on VC monies purely, but, after the initial investment, making a viable business by selling products,” Biasini says. “By moving to San Diego, we are reducing the expenses of the company.”

Moving away from of the San Francisco Bay Area, the epicenter of VC funding in the U.S. and a rich entrepreneurial environment, wasn’t something Comma seriously considered prior to this year, primarily over worries that its employees wouldn’t make the move, Biasini says. The loss of even a small number of workers from its team of 12 could hamper the entire company.

“You think about it, but you don’t get too serious about it because you think not everybody is going to follow,” Biasini says. “But then, the same reason you’re thinking about moving the company out of Silicon Valley is actually the same reason why people and individuals would be happy to move out of Silicon Valley.”

Read: expenses, especially rent.

Comma has selected an office in Little Italy with space to accommodate the company for the next two years (yes, it’s hiring). Its employees have already started the process of relocating to the San Diego area.

And while some believe the best recruits come from Silicon Valley, many of the 25-odd people who have worked at Comma since its founding have been recruited from outside the region, Biasini says.

“Of course [Silicon Valley] is a good place to hire people from, but it’s insignificant compared to the pool of people you have around the world,” he says. And, hiring there means competing with the established tech companies that can pay much more. Plus, people who can afford to move to or who already live in the Bay may not be interested in the lower salaries that come with the startup life, he says.

San Diego’s airport makes the city accessible and it has a “rising tech scene,” including the presence of chipmaking behemoth Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM), Biasini says. There’s the parks and beaches, too.

Mike Krenn, executive director of the San Diego Venture Group, has in recent years been touting the potential of the region as an upgrade for Bay Area startups, using some rather unorthodox tactics in addition to the usual business development standards. … Next Page »

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Sarah de Crescenzo is an Xconomy editor based in San Diego. You can reach her at sdecrescenzo@xconomy.com. Follow @sarahdc

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