Is San Francisco too Expensive for “San Francisco” Based Startups?

Silicon Valley - the promised land of innovation, venture capital, and exorbitant costs of living. Increasingly so, companies are becoming discontent with the high costs of running their businesses out of the infamously expensive city of San Francisco. In March 2017, a blog post by Zapier CEO, Wade Foster, announced they would offer a $10,000 “De-Location Package” to employees that would move out of San Francisco. Fintech startup Varo Money announced in July that they plan to move their headquarters from San Francisco to Salt Lake City, citing high home prices among other reasons.


Do companies that are based in San Francisco also have offices elsewhere? Is this limited later stage companies only or are early stage companies saving costs this way too? We took a look at the startups headquartered in San Francisco to determine if and when they expand to locations in other regions and where those regions are. Specifically, we pulled data on the 903 companies headquartered in San Francisco that have more than $5 million in funding from our Craft dataset.


We found that 38% of these companies had locations elsewhere - with New York as the top U.S. city for an additional location and the U.K. as the top country for an additional location. See the companies included in our analysis here.


The table below shows the distribution of these startups in buckets based on total funding that we will use for this analysis. As one might expect, there are far more startups in SF with less than $50 million in funding than there are those with more than $500 million in funding. While many startups aspire to be the next Uber or Airbnb, the distribution is heavily skewed towards those with lower amounts of funding.

To begin, we analyzed the distribution of companies that have solely their San Francisco location and those that have office locations outside of San Francisco. Of the 903 companies that fit our criteria, 339 startups (roughly 38%) have locations outside of San Francisco, which means that 564 of companies only have their primary SF office. See the companies with locations outside of San Francisco here.


We then categorized companies by funding amount to see if there is a relationship between the amount of funding a startup has received and whether they have expanded to office locations outside of San Francisco. Our hypothesis was that companies with more funding have more capabilities to expand into new and potentially lower cost locations but we wanted to see if smaller, earlier-stage companies also had offices elsewhere. The graphical display of these two distributions clearly show that as the funding amount increases, the percentage of companies that have office locations outside of San Francisco increases, while the inverse (companies with only their San Francisco location) decreases.


The graph below shows a clear trend that companies with higher amounts of funding have locations outside of their primary headquarters in San Francisco. As companies grow, they definitely have offices outside of San Francisco but it’s important to note here that even a significant portion of smaller companies have locations elsewhere.

Taking the analysis one step deeper, we also took a look at the percentage of companies with locations outside the United States, in addition to those with locations just outside of San Francisco. Out of the 903 startups in our dataset, there are 219 (roughly 24%) of companies with locations outside of the US, compared to 38% that just have locations outside of San Francisco.





The table below shows the distribution of startups in each funding amount category, along with the percentages for each category with locations outside of San Francisco and locations outside of the United States. 

      Next, we analyzed what the top cities in the United States where these companies have additional locations. The table below shows the top 10 cities where startups headquartered in San Francisco have additional locations. New York tops the list with 128 companies that have New York locations.

      Finally, we did a similar analysis to see what countries are most popular for startups to have additional locations. The table below shows the top 10 countries where startups headquartered in San Francisco have expanded to for international office locations. The U.K. tops the list with 105 companies from our dataset that have international United Kingdom locations, which represents roughly 48% of our subset of companies that have international locations. Also of note is that three of the top four countries are English-speaking countries.

      Key takeaways:

      • 38% of startups headquartered in San Francisco with more than $5 million in funding have an additional location outside of San Francisco
      • Companies with higher amounts of funding have, in general, office locations outside of their primary headquarters in San Francisco; however, a significant portion of smaller companies have locations elsewhere, as well.
      • The most popular US city for SF startups to have an additional location is in New York City. The most popular country for SF startups to have an additional international location is the United Kingdom. 


      About Craft:


      Craft is a machine-learning powered data and analytics platform building the ‘Source of Truth’ on companies, and mapping the global economy. We organize data from thousands of sources to provide comprehensive, up-to-date sector and company profiles, ranging from early-stage to the largest companies in the world.


      As the economy, and nature of work continue to undergo massive transformation, Craft’s mission is to provide context and freely available tools to help people discover and evaluate companies and opportunities. Our platform is used for market and sector research, customer lead generation, competitive analysis and career search.


      We welcome your feedback. Please feel free to contact us at hello@craft.co.


      Airbnb
      HQ
      San Francisco, US
      Employees
      9,053↑ 2% increase

      Airbnb is an online community marketplace for people to list, discover and book accommodation around the world.

      View company
      Uber
      HQ
      San Francisco, US
      Employees
      16,000↑ 15% increase

      Uber Technologies provides a mobile application connecting passengers with drivers for hire.

      View company
      Varo Money
      HQ
      San Francisco, US
      Employees
      101↑ 5% increase

      Varo Money operates as a financial technology company that provides mobile-only banking solutions.

      View company
      Zapier
      HQ
      Mountain View, US
      Employees
      166↑ 4% increase

      Zapier gives you internet superpowers. Connect your apps and automate tasks.

      View company