A trio of former Google employees, drawn in by the promise of Silicon Valley, have started a company to pay Bay Area residents $ 10,000 to move.
MainStreet, based in San Jose, was launched Tuesday and aims to attract people disappointed with astronomical housing costs and soul-sucking traffic to places like Sacramento or Salt Lake City with a promise to reward engineering work and no downside to the area.
“We want to make it possible to have a great career and not be drawn into a specific geographic area,” said co-founder Dan Lindquist.
Here’s how it works: A tech company that doesn’t want or can’t afford to pay a Silicon Valley-level salary can hire MainStreet to find and manage an employee willing to move out of the Bay Area to work remotely. For a monthly fee, MainStreet will help train the person in things like video conferencing so they can be a good remote worker and take them to a stationary MainStreet office where others will work remotely to combat the isolation that is can cause people to quit. Companies get talent at a cheaper price. Workers get good jobs and a lower cost of living. And cities outside the valley are getting an economic boom.
“It was an easy sale,” said co-founder Doug Ludlow, who added that the startup received financial backing but refused to identify the investors.
If everything goes according to plan, MainStreet will open its first Sacramento office early next year.
Ludlow acknowledged that the $ 10,000 incentive is a passing gimmick and won’t get into a worker’s bank account until they’ve worked on the job for a year. Ultimately, MainStreet aims to connect people who already live outside of a tech hotspot to remote working for Silicon Valley companies. And the company wants to expand beyond technology into industries like finance or law.
If a company needed more than a few people in a given area to justify the cost of renting and running a physical space, MainStreet could have a room with, say, 20 people working for seven or eight different companies in a given location work.
“In the long term, we’d hope you never have to leave the house to get a good job,” said Ludlow, who grew up in Modesto in the 1980s and 1990s and remembers how family and friends were factories and other businesses that had solid jobs closed or consolidated.
Lindquist, who considers himself a “somewhat disaffected Bay Area resident,” agreed.
Right now, the Charleston, South Carolina-born, many engineering jobs require a worker to be in the Bay Area, but “that shouldn’t be the case”. Some people want to stay close to the family and friends they grew up with, but feel compelled to leave the company due to a lack of job opportunities.
And for medium-sized startups and other companies not called Google or Facebook, Lindquist added, “It’s getting really too difficult to rent here.”
However, many companies are reluctant to hire someone to work from home unless they have previously successfully done so. While some studies suggest that remote workers are actually more productive than their colleagues, other research has found that they are more likely to quit and feel isolated and disconnected.
The MainStreet argument is that even if they don’t all work for the same company, by gathering people into an office and selling things like the proverbial water cooler and holiday parties, they can build customer loyalty and increase their income in the process.
MainStreet offers a scholarship of up to $ 5,000 per month for up to three months for workers who are losing their jobs, and family health benefits and assistance with finding a new remote job.
If they can show their business model is working, the company’s co-founders hope they can expand into suburban and rural markets.
Lindquist said he has friends who, even if they can afford to buy a home in the Bay Area, are wondering if it’s the right move. Some hold back on important events in life, like having children, because they’re not sure where Silicon Valley wants to settle. And they have had enough of the constant traffic and the queues, from brunch to the cinema.
“Why do we let up with these things?” Asked Lindquist.
Though the company isn’t launching until this week, MainStreet has big, long-term goals.
“MainStreet’s mission is as simple as it is bold: to create jobs in suburban and rural communities,” read a recently published blog post. “In particular, we will create more than a million great jobs in these communities over the next ten years.”
The co-founders started ditching the concept about six months ago when they were still at Google. Eventually they decided to get serious and work on the idea full time.
“I think it can be done,” said Ludlow.
Lindquist believes that as technology advances, more companies will look for new and creative ways to add remote working to their pool of potential employees.
“I think we’ll see more and more companies,” he said, “dipping their toes in the water.”