A Silicon Valley startup is paying employees $10,000 to leave Silicon Valley.
Zapier, an automation company founded in 2011, has announced that it is offering new recruits a hefty “de-location package” if they’re willing to move away from the Bay Area, an unusual perk that offers yet another sign of the worsening housing crisis in northern California.
Zapier, where all employees work remotely, recently announced that if current Bay Area residents were interested in improving their “family’s standard of living” by relocating, the firm would provide $10,000 in moving reimbursements. Since CEO Wade Foster posted about the package last week, the uptick in applicants has been dramatic, he said in an interview.
“A lot of folks just have a difficult time making the Bay Area a long-term home,” he said, noting that the firm heard from roughly 150 job applicants over the weekend, including 50 who specifically mentioned the de-location offer. “Housing is really challenging.”
The offer from Zapier comes as high-paid tech workers in San Francisco and Silicon Valley have increasingly complained about the high cost of living in a region that suffers from a major housing shortage. Tech workers earning between $100,000 and $700,000 recently spoke to the Guardian about their real estate struggles, and one study suggested that for some engineers, more than 50% of their salary goes to rent.
By many measures, San Francisco has the priciest real estate in the country.
The housing crisis has had devastating impacts on low-income neighborhoods, particularly communities of color, as the growth of companies like Facebook, Google, Apple and Twitter have helped spur mass evictions, homelessness and displacement.
But middle-class and wealthier tech workers have also spoken up about their difficulties buying homes and raising families near their jobs, leading to articles about the “next Silicon Valley” emerging in regions across the US, including Texas, the Pacific northwest and the Midwest.
Foster said he wanted to take advantage of tech workers’ desire to leave the Bay Area by offering a competitive package to those “on the fence” about staying in the region.
“The Bay Area is a great place to live. It’s fun to be here,” said Foster, 30, who lives with his wife in Sunnyvale, a city located near the Facebook and Google campuses. “At the end of the day, if you can’t make the money side of it work, folks seem to be looking elsewhere.”
Foster said he got the idea after two recent hires decided to move out of the Bay Area to Florida and Pennsylvania to be closer to their families. “We’ve basically just flipped relocation assistance on its head.”
The $10,000 offer from Zapier – a platform that connects apps to automate tasks and now employs 85 people – bucks a number of trends in Silicon Valley hiring.
Facebook faced criticisms for accelerating gentrification and worsening the housing crunch when it offered employees $10,000 to leave near its Menlo Park campus. In 2013, Yahoo made headlines when it banned employees from working at home, arguing that communication in an office setting was critical.
Foster said he has long embraced remote working and that more startups should consider the model given how many talented workers want to move away from the epicenter of the industry.
“We’ve seen the technology advance to a state where people can legitimately work anywhere in the world,” he said, noting that his staff is global, with clusters of employees in Austin, Portland and the Bay Area.
Foster said he enjoys living in Silicon Valley, but he doesn’t know how long he’ll stay either. “As we start to think about a family ourselves, it’s a decision we’re weighing.”