As Silicon Valley’s dominance of tech talent slips where are the brightest and the best in the industry heading?

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By Simone Bateson

As Silicon Valley’s dominance of tech talent slips, where are the brightest and the best in the industry heading?

For years Silicon Valley held the upper hand in attracting talent by offering the vision of technological innovation to the brightest minds in the industry, acting as a honey pot for startups, tech giants, and entrepreneurs. Today, the San Francisco Bay Area continues to boast the largest tech talent pool and the most tech roles anywhere in the US market.

However, times are changing, the pandemic saw the region’s dominance over tech talent slip as companies allowed remote work. Airbnb was one of the first in a string of tech companies to grant permanent remote working conditions to employees. Generation Z and Millennials are looking beyond Silicon Valley, particularly to tech hubs such as Austin and Miami, according to the Washington Post.

Excessive tax is driving many tech companies out of California, primarily to Texas, and has given rise to a debate over whether the future of tech talent lies outside of the Golden State. High living costs, exorbitant housing prices and increasing traffic congestion have made the region less appealing for both startups and established tech companies.

2021 saw Elon Musk move Tesla’s headquarters from California to Austin and in 2022 Hewlett Packard Enterprise moved its headquarters out of Silicon Valley to Houston.

“Five years ago, 90 per cent of companies would’ve been founded in San Francisco,” said Bryan Offutt, partner at European venture capital firm Index Ventures, according to an article by the Washington Post. “Now it might be more like 70 per cent, with others starting in places like Seattle and New York,” Offutt added.

The number of tech companies leaving Silicon Valley has led to an acceleration in the migration of talent across the US and Europe.

European tech talent acquisition

In Europe cities like London, Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris have become vibrant tech hubs, offering a mix of talent, capital, and supportive ecosystems. European tech is a $3 trillion industry, with an annual growth rate of 27%, offering plenty of opportunity for some of the most sought-after tech talent.

Venture capital firm, Atomico found that the number of new start-ups generated annually is now on par with the US. The research found that Europe continues to take the lead in technologies that meet UN sustainability goals or ‘purpose-driven tech’. Over 300 unicorns, companies valued at over $1 billion, spread across 29 countries, have been founded in Europe placing the continent as a global tech superpower.

In a Sifted article ex-Silicon Valley design-and-tech innovation strategists, Lisa Bard and Dr. Ame Elliott describe their journeys out of the Bay Area to Paris and Berlin respectively.

“Right now, it makes more and more financial and professional sense to move to Europe if you’re a designer, engineer, or entrepreneur.”

Bard and Elliott described a desire to leave behind what they saw as a crumbling of the initial promise of living in Silicon Valley: the culture of dynamism and tech innovation had been replaced by a “deepening of the ecosystem’s seemingly unabashed bro culture,” In the article, they emphasise the ease at which those who have had training in the Bay Area can find work in Europe, which offers added benefits of easy access to paid holidays as well as maternity and paternity leave.

“As more and more epidermal layers of ‘the good life’ kept getting peeled away in the US, and the tech utopia we thought we were building failed to emerge, casual daydreams morphed into escape planning.”

The decline of Silicon Valley as the unrivalled epicentre of technology leadership talent is indicative of a broader transformation in the tech industry. With the culture of the Valley being a far cry from its associations as the epicentre for innovative tech startups, some Americans are “reaching a tipping point.”

Europe has emerged as a significant beneficiary of this shift, offering a promising environment for tech professionals and companies seeking new horizons. Calibre One has consistently placed outstanding US leadership talent in growing European tech businesses including Berlin-based companies, Soundcloud, Choco and Get Your Guide.