During the pandemic, masses of workers left Silicon Valley and other expensive metropolitan areas for (often literally) greener pastures. According to change-of-address data, for example, more than 170,000 people left San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, California. Most of those who migrated are now working remotely.
For companies like Dropbox, which is headquartered in San Francisco, that has required a shift in mindset. But Dropbox cofounder and CEO Drew Houston is still bullish on the benefits of a Bay Area address, thanks to the “network effects” of locally based founders, investors, and top-tier universities. “The Bay Area will be just fine,” he said during the 2021 Fast Company Innovation Festival on Friday.
Michael Seibel, a partner at startup accelerator Y Combinator (YC), said at the festival that he views the shift to remote work as a good thing for both Silicon Valley’s brand and the broader world. “Sometimes there’s this assumption that there’s this limited pie,” he said, “and it turns out that the more accessible Silicon Valley is, the more it benefits the world.”
Y Combinator has been operating in a remote capacity since the start of the pandemic, which has enabled founding teams from around the world to participate. In YC’s most recent batch of companies, roughly half of the teams were based overseas and roughly half of the founders were Black, Latinx, women, or members of another underrepresented group. “What COVID did was make Silicon Valley a concept that can touch more people around the world and help more people around the world,” Seibel said.
Dropbox, for its part, is hoping to “unlock new pools of talent in places where we might not have had an office,” said Houston. “The reshaping of how we work presents a lot of big, new opportunities.”
Dropbox, he said, has been encouraged by the quality of applicants it has been seeing and the diversity of geographies they represent. “I can’t remember a better time for us on that front.”