What's the News

I post; you react. And I never know exactly what the reaction will be. Case in point: Yesterday's note about Sybase, the California database company, relocating its HQ in the Bay Area. That post quickly prompted a couple of yawns. What's the news if an established tech company moves out of its urban-center location to a suburban location?

Well, I don't take credit for reporting the news; I just observe things that interest me. And here's what interests me about Sybase:

First, it's odd to me that Sybase stayed in Emeryville as long as it did. E'ville isn't really part of the SF urban scene, and it isn't really part of anything in the East Bay, either. It just sits there at the east end of the Bay Bridge, home to a growing big box retail economy, some legacy industrial businesses, and some biotech. I suspect that Sybase just had a good deal on its space and stayed until that deal ran out.

Second, and much more interesting, is the fact that when Sybase moved, it moved to Dublin. My interest has little to do with startup or entrepreneurship dynamics, at least from Sybase's point of view. For Sybase itself, the move has to do with real estate costs (it's expensive in Dublin/Livermore/Pleasanton, but less so out there than in/around San Francisco or Palo Alto), and housing patterns. That area of the East Bay has grown like gangbusters as a commuter haven over the last 20 years, but Class A corporate development hasn't quite kept pace. SV development has been squeezed into the San Jose/San Francisco corridor. Sybase is one of the few companies to break out of that mold -- PeopleSoft, now owned by Oracle, was another. Dublin means not just a place where the CEO has a convenient drive to Milpitas and Menlo Park. (And a note on traffic: It's much, much easier today to drive from Emeryville to Palo Alto than it was 10 or 15 years ago.) Dublin means that a large number of its employees have an easier commute. If you're a software engineer and live in Milpitas, and you're weighing Sybase v. Oracle/Redwood Shores, Sybase just got a lot more attractive.

The last and probably most interesting thing here, at least to me, has little to do with Sybase itself. It has to do with what happens next. PeopleSoft in Pleasanton didn't create a lot of local weather. Will smaller tech companies follow Sybase, either by relocating outside of the Silicon Valley or by setting up shop next door? For some time, entrepreneurship groups have been trying to build a local tech economy around Lawrence Livermore Lab spin-offs. That's been a struggle. With Sybase nearby, will those efforts start to bear fruit?

Of course, why bother with all of this in a weblog ostensibly focused on Pittsburgh? Stay tuned.


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

All opinions expressed at Pittsblog 2.0 are those of their respective authors and of no one (and no thing) else, least of all the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsblog 2.0 has a motto: "It's steel good in Pittsburgh." Say it aloud, with a Pittsburgh accent.

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