In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it seems everybody’s talking about the Silicon Valley exodus. While investors and founders have found much to dislike about the Bay Area — including taxes, rent, and politics — Sam Altman is hopeful for the future of the city.
Altman, a former president of Y Combinator and current CEO of OpenAI, says Silicon Valley is still ripe for new investors and entrepreneurs. In a recent Twitter thread, Altman offered an optimistic view of the future of the city. The thread came in the wake of several key players announcing their exit from San Francisco, including Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, and Palantir co-founders Alex Karp, Peter Thiel, and Joe Lonsdale. Companies like Oracle and Hewlett Packard followed suit this month. Even Elon Musk, who co-founded OpenAI with Altman, is moving to Texas.
In the thread, Altman explained that despite the current trend of decamping to Austin, Miami, or Denver, the Bay Area is still full of possibilities.
“If you want to have the biggest possible impact in tech, I think you should still move to the Bay Area,” Altman wrote. “The people here, and the network effects caused by that, are worth it. It's hard to overstate the magic of lots of competent, optimistic people in one place.”
According to him, the pandemic won’t cause as many long-term shifts as people think, and Silicon Valley will inevitably bounce back. He also added that while remote working is essential now, it won’t always be, and that those who use Zoom won’t have the same level of interaction with those can meet in person — the way business has been done in the tech industry for years.
“It's easy to not be in the Bay Area right now, because there's not much to miss out on,” he wrote. “As soon as stuff restarts, and the most interesting meetings, dinners, events, and parties are here, I predict FOMO brings a lot of people back fast :).”
Altman cited what many Bay Area expats see as problems with the way the state is run, and even agreed with them. “All of the problems are true--the city and state are horribly mismanaged (and so the quality of life, particularly relative to the costs, is bad), it's over-regulated, the monoculture is not good, etc etc,” he wrote.
The Bay Area has frequently been criticized for how it’s handled the pandemic, and critics were vocal about high taxes, steep rent, and growing homelessness in the city long before COVID. As for monoculture, many critics find the city, and the tech community, overly liberal. Joe Lonsdale, for example, has called Austin “more tolerant of ideological diversity than SF.” Altman, however, is interested in making life in Silicon Valley better.
“Someday the Bay Area might be the wrong choice,” he added. “But for now, I think fight instead of flight is the better choice. Let's help fix things.”
Despite ongoing political and policy issues in the Bay Area, Altman says now is the best time to move in, especially as many others leave, driving down rent prices. In fact, the median rent for a studio apartment dropped 35% from a year earlier to $2,100, according to Bloomberg.
“This is the best time in a long time to move here, actually,” Altman concluded. “The people coming are the ones who are earnestly motivated, and the costs are lower than they've been in a long time.”