Ap­ple's new San Fran­cisco of­fice could be a tool in tech tal­ent wars

The Pak Banker - - 6BUSI­NESS -

From Ap­ple's(AAPL.O) ear­li­est days, ex­ec­u­tives in­sisted that em­ploy­ees work from its head­quar­ters in sleepy sub­ur­ban Cu­per­tino. The think­ing, cham­pi­oned by Steve Jobs, was that a cen­tral­ized cam­pus would put the CEO "within walk­ing dis­tance of ev­ery­one," said Steve Woz­niak, who founded the com­pany with Jobs.

That stance may fi­nally be soft­en­ing as Ap­ple pre­pares to open chic new of­fices in San Fran­cisco's high-rent South of Mar­ket neigh­bor­hood, which has spawned scores of promis­ing star­tups.

Ap­ple's de­ci­sion to plant a flag in San Fran­cisco, 46 traf­fic-choked miles north of its head­quar­ters, comes years af­ter sim­i­lar moves from ri­val tech firms such as Google (GOOGL.O) and LinkedIn (LNKD.N) and marks a turn­ing point in Ap­ple's will­ing­ness to ac­com­mo­date work­ers, ac­cord­ing to re­cruiters and for­mer em­ploy­ees.

The move is one sign of the in­ten­si­fy­ing war for tech tal­ent - and of the over­whelm­ing pref­er­ence of younger tech work­ers to live and work in the city, with its vi­brant nightlife and pub­lic trans­porta­tion. The two floors Ap­ple has leased in a build­ing mostly oc­cu­pied by CBS In­ter­ac­tive of­fer abun­dant open space and ex­posed ceil­ings, the pre­ferred tech aes­thetic.

As Ap­ple's Sil­i­con Val­ley ri­vals dan­gled perks to woo work­ers in the lat­est tech boom, the iPhone maker mostly held firm - the com­pany still does not of­fer free lunch, and it was among the last com­pa­nies to op­er­ate shut­tles to and from the city.

Those com­pany-paid char­ter buses to the val­ley ap­peased work­ers for a time, but the nov­elty has faded, said re­cruiter Andy Price of ex­ec­u­tive search firm SPMB.

With ris­ing com­pe­ti­tion for tal­ent from a new wave of pri­vate com­pa­nies with sky­high val­u­a­tions - such as Uber and Airbnb - Ap­ple must do more, re­cruiters and for­mer em­ploy­ees say.

"Ap­ple's at­ti­tude has al­ways been that you have the priv­i­lege of work­ing for Ap­ple, and if you don't want to do it, there's some­one around the cor­ner who does," said Matt MacIn­nis, a for­mer Ap­ple em­ployee who worked on the com­pany's ed­u­ca­tion busi­ness and is now CEO of In­kling, an en­ter­prise tech­nol­ogy com­pany.

Now, MacIn­nis said, "they have to com­pete." Ap­ple spokesman John­son de­clined to com­ment.

Ap­ple's foot­print in San Fran­cisco un­til now has come largely through ac­qui­si­tions of com­pa­nies al­ready based there, in­clud­ing Beats Mu­sic and Topsy Labs, a so­cial me­dia an­a­lyt­ics firm. After Ap­ple ac­quired Topsy in 2013, work­ers were sur­prised that the com­pany did not move those em­ploy­ees to the val­ley, a for­mer Ap­ple em­ployee said.

Topsy's space was large enough for about 75 work­ers, but other Ap­ple em­ploy­ees soon be­gan drop­ping in to work from

Colin the city, crowd­ing the of­fice. The iPhone maker's new of­fice will be in about 76,000 square feet of rented space at 235 Se­cond St. Ap­ple's pres­ence in San Fran­cisco will re­main mod­est, es­pe­cially com­pared to ri­val Sil­i­con Val­ley firms such as Google and LinkedIn. The new of­fice is big enough for about 500 work­ers.

Ap­ple has said that it had more than 25,000 em­ploy­ees in the Santa Clara Val­ley, where it is head­quar­tered. Ap­ple could opt to move some em­ploy­ees al­ready in San Fran­cisco into the new space, such as those from Topsy or Beats.

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