Mike Isaac

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CEO Dick Costolo: “Twitter Is a City Company”

Twitter: It’s a San Francisco joint.

That’s essentially the message CEO Dick Costolo gave onstage at the OpenCoSF conference on Thursday evening. He spoke to a crowd about how his company has evolved by being situated in the Bay Area, one of the world’s premier tech and innovation hubs.

“Twitter is a city company,” Costolo said. “It’s gritty like the city.”

This is, in part, due to its relatively new headquarters situated in the mid-Market Street neighborhood of San Francisco, an area typically known for its rough-and-tumble atmosphere (to put it nicely). Unlike many other SF-based technology companies that opt for locations in the SoMa district — an area rife with start-ups and shared workspaces — Twitter’s HQ is considered a bastion of development in a sketchy neighborhood.

As of today, the new home base houses 1,200 of the company’s 1,400 employees worldwide, with Twitter occupying floors seven, eight and nine of the large building at 1355 Market St. Costolo says the company isn’t going anywhere for awhile; it has options on other floors in the building, which means more than enough space to scale up as Twitter continues to recruit new engineering and sales talent.

“We’ve got employees from all parts of the Bay coming to work here — from Marin County, where I live, to the East Bay and the Peninsula,” Costolo said. Unlike Google, Facebook and many other big tech companies situated 40 miles south of San Francisco in Silicon Valley, Twitter’s centralized location makes it easier for commuting and living across different parts of the city.

That location also plays into the company’s internal culture, “allowing flexibility on how people work,” Costolo said. Instead of driving for 40 minutes back from the Valley to a San Francisco residence, a Twitter employee can work eight hours in the office, bike home for dinner, then turn back around and work at Twitter HQ until 10 pm.

One possibility would have been to take the Google route — splitting the company between the Valley and the city. But that, Costolo said, would have impacted the company in ways he didn’t want. “We needed a contiguous space, and didn’t want to divvy up the culture,” he said. Were they to have split the company like that, Twitter “might as well have split engineers in San Francisco and sales teams in New York.”

Indeed, Twitter does have a small New York presence, with sales staff and a burgeoning engineering team flanking the East Coast. But most of the company is still situated in California.

It wasn’t a completely smooth decision to keep Twitter in San Francisco, though. The company went back and forth with the city for some time, due to certain San Francisco tax codes that would have required Twitter to pay big bucks to stay in SF. Ultimately, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to give certain companies — like Twitter — payroll tax exemptions if they located in “struggling areas” of the city.

Hence the new digs, and Twitter’s “gritty” vibe.


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