Silicon Valley Labor Camps

Although the TV show Silicon Valley has a lot of accurate-sounding dialog regarding various software tools, it depicts young childless workers living in a group house.

This is a little different than Pakistanis working in Dubai, for example, where a middle-aged man would export himself to labor and leave the wife and kids behind.

This summer, two of my middle-aged friends with wives/kids are taking up residence in an all-male hacker house on the very eastern edge of Palo Alto (roll out of bed and land on the 101!). They’ll travel back to Boston periodically to see the family while they try to earn more money than would be possible in the comparatively moribund software world of Boston.

Neither of these guys has enough money to buy a family-sized house in Silicon Valley.

Is this a trend that others have seen?

14 thoughts on “Silicon Valley Labor Camps

  1. “Out of state” commuting is certainly a thing in Silicon Valley.

    I knew of one police officer who planned to “commute” to Santa Clara from Austin, and he knew of others who are already commuting from another state (not adjacent, either). They rent a place nearby to share to sleep.

    We also have a number of big name consultants in my California-based company who fly in Mon-Thurs, then fly home on Friday. Quite a few are from Texas.

    I’d try to find a remote work situation myself, instead. May not work for a startup, but larger companies do hire remote software developers.

  2. Never had any coworkers doing the crash pad thing, but had 1 encounter with someone who flew a private plane from Yosemite to a crash pad & that was when rent was only $2000. 30 years ago, it was quite opposite, with Silicon Valley residents commuting to the east coast.

  3. This is normal in Vancouver, BC, Canada. No local jobs that can support the cost of living in Vancouver. This is especially valid for those who have not bought real estate. Almost everybody that I know with a good income travels for work on a regular basis. Doctors and lawyers do not have enough income to qualify for mortgages within 30 km of downtown Vancouver. In the tech sector, your talent pool is pretty much limited to people that already have owned their own home for over 10 years. Almost everybody that is currently buying property in Vancouver has lots of passive income (“investor” class) and does not report it on their taxes.

  4. When I worked for a Santa Clara startup, we were working on an underwriting process with a major Indian System Integrator, let’s just say “one of the big three”. Apparently, the workers and their families were brought over on short term (probably travel) visas and put up in corporate housing. They did not have cars and the “bus” left the housing unit at 7am to go to the customer site. The bus left at 7:30pm to return them to their housing. If you missed the bus you bought a cab. This was pre-Uber. There was a bus Saturday morning to take them to a grocery store. They made Indian salaries while they were here, and may have even paid to come get experience in the US. None of them were trained beyond very basic coding skills. Every 4-6 weeks we had a new crew to train. We also had calls at night to India to train heir offshore people as well. It was literally one of the least productive places I have ever worked to complete customer targets because of the constant training and turnover.

  5. One more point on the Santa Clara startup. The customer and outsourcing team were in Plano, TX. No huge real estate problem at the time, about 13 years ago. Now there would be a problem. I would be happy to work in Silicon Valley and have a bedroom in a startup house. Or NYC or San Francisco. But I would still keep my Texas place.

  6. It’s the big incentive for autonomous travel. You could read or screw or sleep instead of just drive and drive… kinda like a true private jet.

  7. “This summer, two of my middle-aged friends with wives/kids are taking up residence in an all-male hacker house on the very eastern edge of Palo Alto”

    Why would anyone in his sane mind would do that is beyond me. No amount of money can substantiate a lifestyle like that… Also, it’s not like the SV of today produces much of intellectual breakthrough (e.g. see Theranos as reference point).

  8. > Is this a trend others have seen?

    Like “crash pads” for pilots? My brother-in-law works as a A320 captain, but even he has been priced out of housing in East coast cities (thanks soaring real estate prices!). So while he technically works out of a major city, he shares a rented apartment with 7 other pilots and sleeps in bunk beds. On days off he flies 4 hours back to his house+wife+kids in a medium-sized city out West.

  9. The remote domicile pilot is an old story, and an exception because of the free transportation. Pilots do it not only for real estate cost abatement, but also for bidding (with their seniority, it’s a union thing) for more advantageous work conditions from a given base without actually moving after winning a bid. It’s gaming a system that offers enough continuous off days to make it work. Ideally an airline pilot can work about ten straight days and have twenty off, but few duty bids offer it.

  10. I’ve been in the Bay Area a long time, bought my current house in 1997. This same stuff happened in 1999. In 1999, lots of east coast programmers and wannabe programmers started coming out here seeking riches, and living in crazy bad situations to do so. In that bubble, they got in very late, they were what many termed the dumb money.

    Well see what happens this time… anyone denying an asset bubble at this point is not paying attention.

  11. As a daily browser of HN, I see Valley housing pricing complaints-dressed-up-as-news stories frequently. My favorite was from someone paying $1,600/mo for a BED in a 12-bed bunk room. That may have been a local maxima, but, from what I continue to gather, the situation is only getting worse, in aggregate.

  12. Steve-Perhaps there is an asset bubble, but not quite a mania? There’s no paper millionaires simply from creating a domain name this business cycle.

    PhilG-Speaking of labor, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Janus. The mood here in unionville is resignation.

Comments are closed.