By Marc Thomas
The work from home trend in the business world has been slowly emerging and accelerated by COVID. Recently, Apple and other product companies are instituting a 3 day per week to Twitter which is now near 100% remote. And many are relocating to lower cost areas and reducing their real estate foot prints/costs.
Other companies have gone totally remote, and many hardware/tech startups, such as the hardware/software startup I currently work with “started up” with a full remote team and does not have an office. The closest two team members are about 50 miles apart, the furthest two are probably 10,000 miles. It required a new way of organizing a team, collaborating, building and testing prototypes, getting approvals and overall, resulted in a considerable reduction in operating expenses, no bay area salaries, and zero expensive office costs…zero!. It was such a significant opex reduction that in addition to team members spending more time with families, the company was able to offer really good benefits appreciated by all.
Startup businesses do not need expensive real estate for start-up, scaling, or going into mass production. One Mountain View startup in autonomous robotics took the steps to migrate from a Silicone Valley “old” model to a more agile and lower cost distributed organizational structure starting in SV, moving a short distance to Oakland, then fully embracing a remote model with team members all over the world and a manufacturing facility in Detroit! These changes enabled a more company friendly funding model as they were able to conserve cash by spending on what mattered, people and product, rather than on expensive facilities in expensive areas paying typical salaries demanded by Bay Area and CA professionals.
The DiSC “business/innovation park” does not recognize this rapidly changing business trend, fails to recognize that there are lower cost (and local) areas to scale if the company must be local, and the housing portion will not solve the “affordable housing” challenge (remember the bay area residents with cash and the ability to work remotely), and does not address the environmental infrastructure and tax implications in depth and detail never-mind turning good/great agriculture land into concrete.
At the current rate of change in the “work from home” trend, building an innovation/business part today will result in the empty and dead business parks of the future: Consider what Amazon did to “malls”...
Any startup founder/team must have a very good story to tell an investor why they are spending the equivalent of multiple team members salaries and cash for a building space/office that is unnecessary, or used for a small percentage of the time at best, and increases burn rate without accelerating time to market or improving product.
The desire (and need) to incubate companies locally is supportable, but incubating companies does not require the DiSC project as there is plenty of space in Davis to build out and or up.
And I know another Davis company that has been here for 7+years, with 50+% of employees currently being remote, and going full remote by years end.