Why the CEO of $54 billion Twilio is staying in San Francisco amid a recent exodus of Silicon Valley elites

  • Several prominent Silicon Valley investors, CEOs, and founders have left the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • But Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson says he’s committed to staying in San Francisco and investing in community.
  • “I don’t think it’s a time to be bailing on our communities,” he said, in light of the pandemic. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

While several prominent Silicon Valley companies, CEOs, and investors have departed the San Francisco Bay Area for places like Texas and Florida, Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson said he’s committed to staying. 

The CEOs of Splunk, Dropbox, and Brex, as well as Oracle cofounder and executive chairman Larry Ellison, have all recently packed their bags. VCs Keith Rabois of Founders Fund, Ben Ling of Bling Capital, Joe Lonsdale of 8VC, and J.D. Ross of Atomic are also ditching the Bay. 

Participants in the exodus have cited frustrations the Bay Area’s high taxes, high crime rates, and liberal political culture, while touting the warm weather and low costs of living in Austin, Texas or Miami, Florida, which have both become popular locales for fleeing techies. Execs aren’t just moving their own homes, they’re moving their company headquarters: Longtime Silicon Valley companies Oracle, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, and Dropbox are relocating their headquarters to Texas. 

However, Lawson says he plans to stay put in San Francisco — and won’t move $54 billion Twilio, either. 

His reasoning is straightforward: San Francisco is “our community,” he told Insider. 

“I think now is a time for the technology industry to invest in communities and society at large,” Lawson added. “This is a generational pandemic — and economic impact — that is affecting our society negatively.”

He says he wants Twilio to be part of the community, rather than having an “us versus them” mentality. 

“I don’t think it’s a time to be bailing on our communities and complaining at the same time,” Lawson added. “It’s an opportunity to be good neighbors.”

Lonsdale tweeted that Austin is “far more tolerant of ideological diversity” than San Francisco, while Rabois said, “San Francisco is just so massively improperly run and managed” that “it’s impossible to stay here.” 

Twilio’s business has fared well during the pandemic and customers found its products particularly relevant during the pandemic, Lawson says. Indeed, Twilio’s stock has more than tripled in 2020.

Read more: Twilio salaries revealed: Here’s how much engineers, product managers, and more make at the $51 billion cloud communications company that’s skyrocketed amid the pandemic

That puts it in a position that allows it to help communities that aren’t faring as well, he said. For example, the company has provided product donations, discounts, grant funding, and technical resources to help other organizations respond to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It’s not just about San Francisco,” Lawson said. “We are a global company. Everywhere we do business, we want our teams to invest in their community.”

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