My favourite pastime right now, other than all the other things I like doing more than it, is imagining people who moved to Miami or Austin from the bay area in June through October. I totally get the reason that they moved, and I applaud movement, but something nobody in these endless articles and interviews with big-time tech people moving seem to ask is “are you familiar with the weather there?” Note, the answer will probably be “oh, yeah, I’ve been to Miami/Austin tons of times, I’ll be fine,” and then they’d move on, but at least there’d be a thing to return to and say “didn’t you say you’d be fine?”
You may or may not know I lived in North Carolina for several years. I remember how the summers were oppressive - 78% humidity in 85-90 degree heat for weeks on end, yet somehow never that sunny. Miserable place, but a good reminder why I’d never think about Texas or Florida.
I found this Quora post via Twitter that illustrates why I think there’s going to be a return from Miami and Austin by some Bay Area people:
The Quora thread in question is illuminating in that it has several people who really love Austin, which is fine, it’s a lovely place for some, but one guy goes into detail about how socially and materially Austin isn’t a huge improvement from his life in California - water and other utilities are expensive, you can’t go out when it’s hot because of the oppressive humidity, the school systems are good but also extremely oppressive, allergies, and so on. Plenty of things that can be mitigated if you don’t like California, but are conveniently left out by people who are talking about moving there.
Also, a friend made a good point about the cost of California that this post reflects - the reason California is expensive is all the things are there. The Quora post hates the lack of public land/free or cheap things to do like California - there isn’t much to do in a 7 hour drive, which is definitely not the case in California.
He also laments the weather, which is another trick that The South plays in the media - the assumption of these big, sunny, balmy days year-round, when in fact there are plenty of rainy, overcast days to deal with, just like California, except with the XXXTreme effect of the South. I cannot express to you enough how much a move from the comparatively mild temperatures of California to Texas or Florida is going to kick your ass. It’s not the same as when you’re at a resort in Miami by the pool, drinking drinks and chilling out. Think of it more as 3 weeks in, or three months in, and you’re taking the garbage out, and it’s 10pm but it’s somehow 90 degrees, you’re sweating your ass off and everything stinks and you’re so mad and you just want to die.
This is not to say you cannot enjoy Miami or Austin, not at all, but just…yeah. If you’re reading this and thinking about the move, please make sure to visit and take a good long multi-week visit during the summer.
His post also goes into numerous other southern fallacies I ran into in North Carolina - allegedly there’s a “southern charm” that I never experienced there, and this guy appears to not experience in Austin. Maybe both of us are unlucky.
I also think anyone moving anywhere for a ‘cultural shift’ like many of these people are doing is in for a rude awakening, primarily because of people who say stuff like this (which was another response to the question):
What’s very funny about this is how conservative I’ve found a lot of tech people to actually be. Whenever someone says “it isn’t entirely open to EVERYONE” usually means that they’ve stepped out of their bubble into a pile of dogshit by complaining about unions, or that they think cancel culture is bad. I don’t know about Texas’ judgment of skin color or religion, but I do know that the most right leaning conservative person and the most left leaning leftist would probably not be in this magical, non-existent bar together. Ironically this guy’s magical thinking is the same magical thinking of bay area people that think there are no socioeconomic problems in the bay. Cultural balance is not two people being able to enjoy the same thing, but that’s a whole other post. But I’m still laughing at this idea that Texas is a neighborly culture that doesn’t judge people on their beliefs or color of their skin. Siri what is Redlining.
Anyway, I think if this surge to Austin and Miami is actually happening, it’s going to be interesting seeing who stays and who admits that it isn’t for them. The summer alone is going to kick their ass, but I think you’re also going to see a lot of people having the same problems they had in California in Texas or Florida. It’s trite to say “no matter where you go, there you are,” but it’s true. Keith Rabois claims that his issues are with San Francisco, and their budget, which is total horseshit, and also I cannot wait for him to see how Miami has been named worst run city in America several times. Elon Musk said that he is leaving California as they’ve become “complacent,” but what they both mean is they want less tax and less government oversight, which is fine for them but shouldn’t be dressed up as anything other than cash grabs.
I think that the tech industry’s shift away from California is more a cost of living calculation connected to a difficult (or lack thereof) of finding talent and resources. Even six years ago it was theoretically impossible to run a company remotely that would rely on valley resources (I did (and still do!) at the time and was very successful, but the optics were different), and thus staying in the bay was required, but now that the pandemic has proven that this isn’t really necessary, yes, people are going to move, and yes, they’re going to move to the best place they perceive that can balance out a better home life and a better work life. People are going to Texas and Florida for no state tax, but also because they don’t want to be seen as outliers - they’re saying that California restricts their free speech and ability to be themselves by traveling to a far away place that’s far less convenient to be with people like them that are also free spirits that make their own decisions.
The quasi then absolutely mandatory work from home order only accelerated something that the valley itself created - the ability to do more things on the computer. All of this was going to happen mostly because San Francisco (and I’d argue the larger bay area) had reached a breaking point of cost benefit for even the richest people - spending unbelievable amounts of money to live, to pay higher taxes, to work with the brightest minds, that you could never find anywhere else, that you also only talked to on the computer. The serendipity fallacy of the valley is that you’d ‘just run into’ someone, but how often did that actually happen that wouldn’t happen via the established, biased and incestuous networks that are keeping it going via Zoom? And how much of it can still happen with occasional trips to the bay?
The valley will still exist and people will still live there and it will still do the same thing, but it is being dispersed not because it’s dead, but because the functionality of the valley was always such that it would eat its own tail. The technology it built is ultimately around efficiency for capital rich individuals, and an inefficiency is always going to be relying on physical activities to get something done that could be done digitally. We will see a shift of people from the bay to Austin and Miami, and a chunk of those people will then realize they can literally do this anywhere and disperse there. On some level the pandemic will be a superspreader of arseholes - people who feel repressed by a city that’s not particularly oppressive to people who make six figures and can afford a nice place, and, indeed, afford to move thousands of miles across the country.
On the other hand, I truly do believe it’ll somewhat remove the barriers to traditional funding for geographic reasons. I think people can make things anywhere now, and venture funding will reflect that. I do have to wonder if it will help or simply re-engineer the same barriers to race and gender that have existed in the valley - whether a screen-based minority will be more or less offensive to those with money. I think that, at the very least, it will break the need to be in the bay, which will significantly (over time) increase the viability of people’s entry into tech and ability to create companies.
Of course, I’m biased in that I think that Nevada is going to eventually catch the eye of these tech people. Las Vegas is affordable, accessible, has lots to do locally, has plenty of office space if you need it, a similar or better infrastructure to the bay’s broadband, no state tax, and great weather. While it gets hot in the summer, the humidity is so low that it’s easy to cool down, and while it’s cold in the winter, it’s crisp and nice. Seriously, people go on about (myself included) the brutal heat of the South, but also the truly mercurial weather in the bay, the rain, the overcast days, the humidity, and so on. Vegas has got that smooth, reliable temperature you need!
But seriously folks, I think that there will be a move here, because people are going to make Austin and Miami too expensive in a hurry (if it’s not already happening). Also, if you want a place that’s going to accept you for the weirdo freak you are, there is nowhere else more indifferent to your weirdness that I have ever found. No, there is not the vibrant startup scene yet, nor is there a social scene to go with it, but there is so much to do, and it’s affordable, and it’s fun, and I’m here. So come on down.