Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Triangle beats Silicon Valley for Ease in Hiring and Retaining Technologists

Jesse Lipson
A CED interview with Citrix ShareFile’s founder, Jesse Lipson

: You founded ShareFile in the Triangle. Does the Triangle have the talent necessary for a company to scale organically?

Lipson:  The availability of great talent in our field (technology) is a function of both supply and demand. Tech hubs like Silicon Valley have a larger supply of talent, but they also have a much higher demand for that talent due to the concentration of tech startups there. Overall, I think it’s easier to hire and retain great tech talent in the Triangle than in Silicon Valley. There’s also a lot of great young talent here because of the concentration of high quality universities.

CED: How much of Citrix’s decision to centralize the data sharing division in the Triangle was determined by the talent market and plans for expansion?

Lipson: The core value proposition of many of Citrix’s products is mobility and the idea that people should be able to work from anywhere, so when Citrix acquired ShareFile in October 2011 it was a natural decision to let us continue to grow here in the Triangle. Without the ShareFile acquisition, I think it would be unlikely that Citrix would have built such a large office in the Triangle. However, once Citrix had a presence here, our company’s leadership was able to see why the Triangle is such a compelling location from a cost and lifestyle perspective for future growth.

CED: What is the Citrix footprint in the Triangle?

Lipson: When Citrix acquired ShareFile, we had about 80 employees here in the Triangle. Less than 18 months later, we already have over 250 employees in the Raleigh office. Many of those are in the Data Sharing group, though we also have a growing number of employees from other groups in our Raleigh office. With our office development in downtown, we are aiming to add well over 300 additional jobs over the next 5 years and we’re well on our way to that goal already!

CED: What’s the biggest perceived advantage to locating the data sharing group in the Triangle?

Lipson: From my own perspective, the Triangle has a great reputation as a center for research innovation. I think most tech companies, once they reach scale, need a presence on the East Coast and the Triangle makes a great choice for an East Coast location because of the low cost of living, large base of skilled employees, and our geographic location which puts us within a 2-hour flight of New York, Boston, D.C., Miami, Atlanta and Chicago.

CED: You’ve been a supporter of entrepreneurial initiatives in the Triangle. How has the region changed since you founded ShareFile? What are its biggest advantages and challenges?

Lipson: Over the past several years I think we’ve seen a renaissance in both downtown Durham and downtown Raleigh. I’m seeing more tech companies choosing downtown headquarters than I saw 5 – 10 years ago. The American Tobacco district in downtown Durham has been a big driver of this trend, and we hope that the move of Red Hat to downtown Raleigh and Citrix’s redevelopment project in the Warehouse District will do the same for Raleigh.

CED: What’s a question on entrepreneurship that you’ve always wanted to answer, but never been asked?

Lipson: One question I’ve never been asked directly is “Why does entrepreneurship work?” In other words, how are entrepreneurs able to start successful businesses when there are larger companies out there with a lot more financial resources and brand credibility. I was discussing this with a young entrepreneur recently. He was wondering how I was able to compete in my first business (web design and development) when I had less skill and experience than other companies out there. I explained that companies go through a lifecycle. The larger web design/development firms we competed with often had much higher overhead than us and had to charge high prices for their work. And because of their scale, the founders of the company weren’t able to work on most projects. Instead, junior employees did the bulk of the work most of the time. While we didn’t have the most experience or skill at the beginning, our founders were working on every project and we had passion and drive to make a difference for our customers so we had an advantage. As you become a more successful company, you grow and become more like the same companies that you initially disrupted, and the cycle continues.

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