Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently visited Cambridge MA, where he spent time at MIT and Harvard, speaking with students and recruiting for his company. While in Cambridge, Zuckerberg, who started Facebook in his Harvard dorm room, said that while his company wishes to tap into the local talent pool, Facebook has no near term plans to open an East Coast office.
We would not, however, be surprised to see Facebook make an about face on that decision.
Mr. Zuckerberg may soon come to the same conclusion reached by many other Silicon Valley leaders, namely that the West Coast talent pool is a finite resource from which to draw. Moreover, many of the most talented engineers and entrepreneurs—for a variety of reasons—may not be interested in leaving the East Coast.
Mr. Zuckerberg may well conclude that his best bet for recruiting local talent may be to take a page from Google’s playbook that will give Facebook a ground-level presence in what is widely considered an area rife with talent.
Google began its New England presence with a modest outpost in Cambridge, and after building up a relatively modest staff announced in July of 2010 that it would acquire ITA Software, whose specialized search algorithms for the travel industry have since been subsumed into Google, albeit after a lengthy anti-trust review. In one fell swoop, Google acquired a local company which it will use as a base for future recruitment.
Facebook’s near term expansion plans include opening an office in Seattle, which Mr. Zuckerberg notes is less than a two hour flight from Palo Alto. Our sense is that this may be a short term palliative to what may become a longer term growth issue: how to attract and keep the best talent independent of geography.