Tech companies hiring 8,000-plus in San Francisco

Date: Tuesday, February 28, 2012, 1:30pm PST

Patrick Hoge
Reporter – San Francisco Business Times
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Technology companies in San Francisco say they will hire in excess of 8,000 people in the city this year, according to a survey of done by a new industry group called San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology & Innovation ( Chairman Ron Conway, the influential early stage technology investor, told the audience at the annual CityBeat breakfast that he had expected at most to find hiring plans totalling several thousand jobs among’s 125 member companies.

“I was thinking the answer would be two or three thousand, and I was going to go to (Mayor) Ed Lee and brag about that. It’s like 8,000 new jobs this year and counting,” said Conway onstage at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis.

Conway, who was followed shortly by Mayor Lee himself, said the city’s surging technology scene has dramatically changed the portfolio of his SV Angel firm, which historically has taken small stakes in a large number of early stage companies.

“Five years ago, 75 percent of our portfolio at SV Angel, a large representative portfolio, was located on the Peninsula,” said Conway, who used to live in Atherton and now lives in San Francisco.

“Today, 50 percent of our companies are on the Peninsula and 50 percent are in San Francisco,” Conway said. “By the end of this year, I would predict that 60 percent of our portfolio will be in San Francisco.”

In the late 1990s, Conway spent maybe one or two days a week in San Francisco. Now he travels down the Peninsula just one or two days a week.

Speaking of commutes, Conway said he wants to do something to reduce the daily crush of buses taking engineers and the like to jobs at tech companies south of the city.

“That is an issue we cannot ignore,” Conway said.

The vehicle through which Conway is planning to address such matters, as well as policy issues such as payroll tax reform, is, a non-profit organization announced last month that already has 125 member companies that Conway said employ “90 percent” of San Francisco’s 30,000 tech workers.

The idea for the group came out of a dinner that Conway and Mayor Lee had shortly after Lee won election with significant independent support by Conway and other tech figures.

Because of campaign finance rules governing independent spending, Conway said he could not communicate with Lee until after the election, and the two wanted to keep the city’s technology sector engaged in civic affairs.

Conway himself said he got to know Lee as a result of fast growing micro-blogging pioneer Twitter Inc.’s plans to move out of the city because of city taxes on payroll and stock options.

The city’s Board of Supervisors subsequently passed a six-year exemption on stock options for companies going public and a temporary exemption covering companies locating in the economically challenged mid-Market Street area, where Twitter subsequently committed to a long term lease.

Conway said Tuesday that Twitter was in no way playing games about leaving, even though it did not want to do so.

“I know it wasn’t a bluff, because I’m the one that ran to City Hall and said you’re going to lose this company if you don’t do something,” Conway said. “That’s how I started the friendship with Ed Lee. I did not know this person at all before this.”

Patrick Hoge covers technology for the San Francisco Business Times.