Since March opened our San Francisco office three months ago, we’ve been steadily growing our presence in the area. Last week, I flew in to meet up with March’s senior vice president, Madge Miller, as well as meet up with clients, potential employees and others.
Ever since our expansion announcement, we’ve had a lot of new business activity on the West Coast. Some of March’s current clients are already in the Bay Area (like CSR) or setting up offices for the first time, like BlazeMeter. Others are planning on opening West Coast offices in the near future. That’s great timing for us – our new office allows us to work with them on a much more personal level.
I also had the opportunity to meet up with executives from Condeco and SensioLabs, and talk with them about their future plans.
The whole experience was oddly reminiscent of launching March back in 2004 in Kendall Square, when Martin and I started off at the Cambridge Innovation Center. The energy, cool working spaces (Madge and I worked out of the SOMA Wework office space on 2ndstreet) and networking opportunities also reminded me a little of the dot com era boom.
In fact, the two days I spent in the Bay Area made me think about just how similar – and how different – things are since the dot com era. Here are four trends Madge and I noticed the most:
1. Hiring is Busy, but Not a Feeding Frenzy.
I had a few conversations about why today’s tech economy isn’t in a bubble. One of the fastest ways to tell is by walking into a downtown San Francisco restaurant. While it was busy, we talked about how, in 2000, every single table would have a standing lunch reservation for new hires.
2. Tech Companies are Budget-Conscious.
Everyone that Madge and I talked to mentioned their economical approaches to budgeting. In years past, the game was to spend the money as fast as you got it, just so you could convince investors that you were rapidly expanding and growing.
Now, tech companies are more budget-conscious. If spending money doesn’t make sense, then they won’t do it. And we think that’s a good thing.
3. The Buzz is a Little More Dignified.
When Madge and I worked at the SOMA Wework in San Francisco, there was a comfortable buzz of energy – but it wasn’t the kind of energy that comes from VCs throwing money around at a loft bar. The techies in the Bay Area are clearly more level-headed (at least many of them), and working to create more sustainable companies.
4. There are Reminders of the Past Everywhere.
Silicon Valley may have recovered from the explosive bust in the early 2000s. But there are reminders of the excesses everywhere. We met up with one tech executive who talked about how many corporate campuses are still ghost towns. Even a company like Cisco, which survived the bust, has plenty of offices that still remain empty.
The increasing urbanization of the Bay Area tech industry, as well as the technology that allows employees more flexibility, has helped with that trend.
Optimistic. Hard-Working. Cautious.
If there’s anything I took away from trip to the West Coast tech scene, it’s that there were a lot of lessons learned from the dot com boom. No one wants to see the same kind of sudden explosion that happened in the early 2000s, so tech companies often hedge their bets. This time around, most businesses are focused on the long-term, not the short-term, and March is proud to be a part of such a vibrant and growing tech scene.