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2018年11月08日
Clarium Capital and big-data contractor
Clarium Capital and big-data contractor

  peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley mainstay who founded paypal, palantir Technologies, has never shied away from iconoclastic gestures.


  SEE ALSO: The 25 Most powerful Real Estate Figures in Los Angeles


  In 2016, Thiel bucked his fellow new-economy titans and offered an unqualified endorsement to Donald Trump; he promoted efforts to forge floating societies in international waters; he’s even advocated space colonization.


  But one of the entrepreneur’s boldest heresies came earlier this year, when he launched a broadside at Silicon Valley itself. In February, Thiel announced that he would uproot his technology ventures from their Silicon Valley haunts for Los Angeles, arguing that the birthplace of the software industry had become too insular.


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  “There’s a point where network effects go very wrong,” Thiel told Fox Business Network in March. “Everyone knows what everyone’s thinking, so everyone [winds up] thinking the same thing. It sort of shifts over into the madness of crowds.”


  Tim Ferriss, a prolific Silicon Valley author and investor, expressed a similar view last December on CNN, after an interviewer asked him why he’d decided to move to Austin, Texas.


  “Having no real professional need to be there, I was growing fatigued by what I perceived to be a suffocating smugness that is very prevalent in Silicon Valley, but furthermore, within the mono-conversation and echo chamber of tech,” Ferriss explained.


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  The pair’s dissatisfaction raises questions that resonate across the national geography of commercial real estate for the tech industry. Why has a sector whose fruits have promised decentralization remained concentrated in one place?


  Will Silverman, a managing director who oversees investment sales at Hodges Ward Elliott, believes, contra Thiel, that the networking benefits of concentration will long persist as a defining feature of tech-friendly business districts.


  “The most important question is, ‘Is this is a place where a smart, educated person would move without a specific employment plan? Is it a place that a person who is intellectually and creatively engaged would elect to live?’ “ Silverman said.


  Does such a place have to necessarily be in California’s Bay Area?


  Major debt providers and finance brokers are beginning to ask that question too.


  Mark Fluent, who heads real estate lending in the western U.S. for Deutsche Bank, went so far as to name the technology sector’s rise as the defining economic characteristic of the current business cycle—one that could dominate any short-term turbulence from interest rates or inflation.


  “I think we’re still in early innings for the macro shift in the economy,” Fluent remarked. “The jobs that are coming into the areas [of the country] that I oversee are really great STEM jobs and seem to be sustainable for the foreseeable future.”


  That trend has had Deutsche Bank following tech firms across a map of the Western United States, Fluent said—and increasingly, it’s taken his team away from Silicon Valley, to cities like Los Angeles and Austin. The bank’s recent Los Angeles-area loans have funded properties in tech-forward L.A. submarkets such as Culver City and playa, on new-economy projects including the headquarters for Beats by Dre, as well as Amazon’s move into Culver Studios, where it will produce original films.


  The Texas state capital, too, has caught Fluent’s attention. “Seeing companies like Oracle and Apple have been getting into Austin: these are really the new market economy,” Fluent noted approvingly.


  A handful of other like-minded cities, including Denver; Raleigh, N.C.; and portland, Ore. have developed a similar appeal to lenders hoping to stay ahead of the economy’s curve, according to Jeff Donnelly, a finance broker at Colliers.


  “When we speak about these cities, [lenders see them as] very appealing lifestyle markets in addition to job markets that have experienced tremendous growth since the last cycle,” Donnelly said. “Austin in particular has the advantage of having no sales tax and a good quality of life.”


  That said, not all lenders share the same level of enthusiasm for unproven markets that are just emerging on the national radar.


  “If you’re asking me, are lenders more comfortable or less comfortable with these rapid-growth markets, the answer is ‘yes,’ ” Donnelly joked. “I would even say that most lenders love that side of things. [But others] don’t think it’s very sustainable when they see a lot of cranes in the air…and that’s particularly the case for Austin and Denver.”


  To answer why those cities have gained such clout so quickly, look no further than the rapidly spiraling cost of doing business in Silicon Valley, which covers just less than 200 square miles along the western shore of the San Francisco Bay. Home prices have increased nearly 200 percent in the last decade, according to Redfin.


  “Two of my favorite local Chinese restaurants closed in the last year, because they could make more money renting out their space as offices,” said John McLaughlin, president of the Silicon Valley Historical Association. “Today, if you’re looking for a job and you’re right out of graduate school, you’re not going to have a place to live here.”


  That reality has forced entry-level tech workers, as well as entrepreneurs and their early-stage startup companies, to look elsewhere for cities to plant their first flag. But even in an industry that thrives on digital connectivity tech, founders are finding that choosing the right location remains crucial.


  “We still have a human need to relate to other human beings,” Silverman said. “That’s not going to change until we finally all plug ourselves into the matrix.”


  On that front, a key dynamic has reversed over the last thirty decades or so, according to Silverman. Until about the 1990s, companies that were big employers served as magnets for young career-starters, and workers eagerly moved for opportunities. Wannabe programmers inevitably packed up for Silicon Valley, just as factory workers moved to Detroit a hundred years ago.


  Today, Americans have grown much more reluctant to contemplate moves like that, Silverman said.

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  “people will not move solely to work for a particular employer “unless you’re somebody really special,” he averred. “Most people in American business, if they could interact with Warren Buffett, they’d probably move to Omaha. Barring that, Omaha tends to be a tougher sell.”


  Instead, a younger generation of technology workers is setting the agenda, migrating en masse to cities like Austin and demanding that employers follow them there. The Texas capital’s population grew by more than 55,000 last year, according to the Austin Business Journal.


  “There’s probably a hundred or more places around the world that have thrown money and education together with a few business ideas, to say, let’s recreate Silicon Valley,” McLaughlin said. “But if you don’t have the supportive culture, it never gets the traction.”


  McLaughlin recalled a conversation he’d had with Lewis Wolff, the St. Louis-born real estate developer who has owned the Oakland A’s and the San Jose Earthquakes, a professional soccer team.


  “When you start a business in the Midwest, everyone wants to know where it’s been done before and they’re not interested unless they’ve heard it’s been done somewhere else,” McLaughlin remembered Wolff telling him. In Silicon Valley, on the other hand, “it’s been normal to talk to people about starting a business that’s totally new.”




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