Insights and Opinions

Attracting Bay Area Tech Talent to Southern California.: It's Not as Hard as You Think

The greater Los Angeles area is on a phenomenal roll in terms of movement in the tech space. We're seeing more and more public offerings; exciting activity in the music, media and entertainment space; an expanding pool of tech talent; and, more recently, several high caliber acquisitions and financing rounds, all of which will really help the whole ecosystem grow. Given all that, it's not as tough as you might think to get Bay Area based tech talent to make the move down south--and get them to stay here. In fact, I've observed a 100-percent retention rate for all of the placements who have relocated over the past couple of years. Here's how to get them in the door:

Start with a comparable salary

It doesn't matter if the cost of living in Southern California is less than the Bay Area; a top quality candidate is going to want to see a comp package comparable to what he or she is already receiving. You don't necessarily need to offer more, but definitely keep things even. The same goes for companies in Chicago, New York and so on.

Bring the interview to the candidate

For one search not too long ago, I identified four or five great candidates for an LA-based position. On first blush, none of them even wanted to come down for the interview; they were interested in the position, but didn't want to move. So the CEO flew to San Francisco to meet with the candidates and--lo and behold--a CEO can do a pretty good job getting people excited about the opportunity. If it's big enough, all of a sudden location goes off the table.

Sell the SoCal lifestyle

Once you get your candidate to come down for the interview, give them a real taste of the weather, environment and diversity (both ethnic and geographic). Talk amenities and schools--and the unlimited four-season (which is really one long nice season) outdoor lifestyle. Give anecdotes. I have a friend who relocated from the Bay to Pasadena for a job, and can't stop raving about the increase to his family's quality of life--and of course his kids love having a pool. As I've mentioned before, there's the cost of living difference between the Bay Area (San Francisco especially) and even the priciest LA neighborhood--never hurts to mention that as well.

Sell the area's growing tech community

It's happened more than once: I've identified a great candidate for a position in LA and the person balks at the idea of moving twice--once to Southern California and then elsewhere for the next opportunity after they play out the first one. Particularly with high-caliber individuals, they're thinking three to five years in the future. They're thinking, “say we do well and the company gets sold. Where am I going to work in three years?” There's a misconception that there won't be a lot of other opportunities in the area. The fact is there are about 1400 startups in the LA community, many large tech companies and multiple incubators, so finding the next gig is not going to be an issue for a quality candidate. Sell this fact to reassure them of stability in the future, even if they decide to move on.

Be open to satellite offices (but discourage long-distance commuting)

Many of the quality Bay Area companies have satellite offices in LA, and many LA companies have satellite offices in San Francisco and Seattle and so on. With all the tools out there to help people manage tasks and communicate, it doesn't really matter where you live physically. Most people have to manage a dispersed team these days anyway. If you have the option to have a satellite office up north where several team members can get together regularly, mention to the candidate that you are open to it. That said, I will say that those who tried to keep their lives grounded up north while commuting to LA a couple days a week are those who struggled the most with settling into the position.

Eric Larson is a Partner at Riviera Partners, where he is responsible for executive level searches in the company's retained practice in both Northern and Southern California, with a focus on growing business in the Los Angeles area. He has more than 20 years of experience in building public and venture-backed technology companies. Eric lives in Westlake Village with his wife and five kids, and is actively involved in several local business and civic organizations.