Peter Thiel is fleeing liberal Silicon Valley for … Los Angeles.
That’s according to a story from the Wall Street Journal this week, which reports that Thiel is planning to relocate to a home he bought in the City of Angels six years ago. Fifty staffers from Thiel Capital and the Thiel Foundation are also reportedly planning to move to Los Angeles.
Thiel was reportedly driven out, in part, by the liberal echo chamber he feels has developed in Silicon Valley. In San Francisco, nearly 90 percent of voters cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
A conservative and libertarian thinker who backed Donald Trump in the 2016 election, Thiel thinks Silicon Valley’s hostility to non-liberal values isn’t just bad for conservatives. He believes the political bias will harm Silicon Valley’s ability to innovate, according to a local San Francisco TV station, which spoke with a source close to Thiel.
“SF is still important, but the most exciting future tech developments may come outside of it,” the source told San Francisco’s KPIX 5.
Thiel isn’t alone in thinking that the Bay Area may not maintain its grip on groundbreaking tech startups for much longer. Liberal and conservative tech workers alike are expressing dissatisfaction with Silicon Valley, thanks to its homogeneous thinking and its ever-increasing cost of living.
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Popular podcaster Tim Ferriss moved from San Francisco to Austin in order to escape what he called “a mono-conversation of tech that is near impossible to avoid.” Y Combinator president Sam Altman and Sequoia’s Michael Moritz also both drew criticism for blog posts saying that China’s tech community is better than Silicon Valley’s in welcoming controversial ideas and outworking the competition (though they are both staying in Silicon Valley).
Here at VentureBeat’s Heartland Tech channel, I write about emerging tech hubs in the U.S. While the news that some well-known investors and entrepreneurs are now looking outside of Silicon Valley for inspiration might excite entrepreneurs and in places like Provo and Pittsburgh, a handful of high-profile techies leaving the Bay Area is unlikely to move the needle all that much. The reason is simple: People are most likely to move to places where they already have connections.
Ferriss mentioned that he was already familiar with Austin’s tech scene, having interviewed for a job at Trilogy Software after college. He also mentioned in a Reddit AMA that he’s visited Austin every year since 2007. Thiel is likely planning to move to Los Angeles because he already has a house there, and because he is reportedly planning on launching a media startup, which would be right at home in Los Angeles.
Less well-known tech executives I’ve talked to in the past year that have moved or are planning to move out of the Bay Area often return to their roots. Kansas native Brian McClendon, creator of Google Maps, moved back to his home state to get involved in local politics. Married Google executives Steve and Mary Grove are moving from the Bay Area to Steve’s home state of Minnesota, while Mary plans to leave Google to work for Steve Case’s Midwest-focused startup fund.
What leaders in emerging tech hubs should take away from the increasing criticism of Silicon Valley is this: If a city is waiting to recruit Bay Area tech workers and executives as soon as they express dissatisfaction with Silicon Valley, it’s already too late. The areas that are most likely to attract Bay Area expats are cities like Austin, a place tech workers have likely been visiting for years, thanks to the annual SXSW festival, and other coastal hubs, like Los Angeles, New York, and Boston, or cities the tech workers originally hail from.
Instead of trying to lure these Bay Area transplants, focus on supporting the tech companies and workers that are already in your community — which many Heartland tech leaders are already doing. If your city is home to fast-growing tech startups, Bay Area tech workers and investors are more likely to come across it in their line of work. That way, when they are thinking about moving, your city is more likely to come up on their radar. Better yet, support those startups so that the next generation of tech workers doesn’t feel like they have to move to the Bay Area to have exciting career opportunities.