One America Works, a San Francisco-based not-for-profit organization, is helping Silicon Valley tech firms find the talent they need to grow, and thinks Indianapolis has talent to harvest.
But this isn’t a Midwest brain drain operation, insists OAW founder Patrick McKenna, a serial entrepreneur and tech veteran from the Bay Area.
McKenna said his organization has three aims; To help Silicon Valley tech companies find the talent—from outside of Silicon Valley—they need to grow; help tech workers in places like Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio; and Indianapolis to become connected to job openings Silicon Valley firms have that will allow the workers to stay in their home cities; and bolster the reputation of burgeoning tech hubs off the coasts and help them attract Bay Area firms to their backyards.
“We have three constituencies,” McKenna said. “Tech companies that need talent, talented employees and cities that want to tell their story.”
Because McKenna thinks the key for many San Francisco area tech companies is to find good talent at prices lower than they can in the uber-expensive Silicon Valley region, there’s no desire to import those tech workers to the west coast.
“Places like Silicon Valley are at a tipping point,” he said.
Instead, McKenna said, OAW is helping Silicon Valley companies hire workers who will work remotely or to set up offices in places like Indianapolis.
“There are companies in Silicon Valley that are desperate for talent,” McKenna said. “And there’s not a great way for growing companies in Silicon Valley to access talent from outside Silicon Valley. That’s where we come in. We make connections between these places that have the talent and the companies looking for talent.”
OAW has a data tool that helps it locate ideal cities for its program, McKenna said. The not-for-profit has published a landing page on its web site featuring Indianapolis’ attributes as a tech hub.
“If more people in Silicon Valley knew of the talent in Indianapolis or Pittsburgh, I’m confident they’d be willing to open an office there,” McKenna said. “But they don’t know how to get started in those markets.”
Several factors attracted OAW to Indianapolis.
“Indianapolis has a very high quality balance of four factors. College educated talent. That talent is at a measurable lower cost than Silicon Valley, 40% less,” he said. “Quality of life in Indianapolis, though not well known outside the region, is extremely high. The city offers amenities—parks, sports, the opera, culture—that are very important to people. And the fourth factor is access. Indianapolis has done a very good job building out its airport and its offering of direct flights. And it has strong [Wi-Fi] connectivity.”
The sizable presence of California-based tech giant Salesforce is a “validating point” for Indianapolis, McKenna said.
“People out here know about Salesforce,” McKenna said. “The fact that when they bought ExactTarget, they stayed to utilize the talent in Indianapolis, that makes a statement.
“Indianapolis has a tremendous story that needs to be told,” he added.
McKenna is convinced by creating more opportunities for tech talent off the coasts, the entire national tech ecosystem benefits.
“When one America works together, America works,” McKenna said. “That’s where the name of our organization comes from. We want to create more tech hubs in more locations.”
OAW was founded in 2018 and has recently launched initiatives in Pittsburgh and Columbus and in September is making its first foray—with a virtual event—into Indianapolis. The not-for-profit is also launching this year in Nashville, Tennessee. And it has done work in a handful of other cities including Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City, Utah, and is planning a move into Kansas City.
In Indianapolis, McKenna said he’s working with local officials and looking for a local director to help him connect Silicon Valley companies with local talent.
OAW also helps Silicon Valley tech workers looking to get out of the expensive region by finding jobs in cities—like Indianapolis—with a lower cost of living.
In September, OAW is hosting a virtual recruiting event to introduce Silicon Valley tech talent to Indianapolis area companies. Similar events in Pittsburgh and Columbus had 12 to 20 companies from those regions participating and had hundreds of employees apply to be part of the event, McKenna said. OAW is still finalizing the date and nailing down which local companies will participate.
But the bigger thrust is to introduce Silicon Valley tech companies to local talent, and McKenna aims to build a long-term relationship between Indianapolis and his organization.
“I founded One America Works with this key tenant: There is talent everywhere,” said McKenna, who grew up in a small town in northern California. “I knew from my experiences that there were tremendously talented people that, because they weren’t living in San Francisco, weren’t getting the same shot. And I saw that the companies in Silicon Valley weren’t getting the benefit of that talent.
“We don’t create the talent,” McKenna added. “The talent is out there. We just create the bridge between the talent that is out there and the opportunities.”
In a normal economy, McKenna said OAW can have a “big impact” in a city like Indianapolis within a year after moving in.
And, he added, that impact extends to existing local tech companies—especially startups and scaleups.
“We’re elevating the brand of Indianapolis as a destination for tech,” McKenna said. “If you are startup in Indianapolis, you get a lot of benefit when venture-backed companies locate offices there. Indianapolis needs to tell its awesome story so it will attract more talent, more companies to employ those people which in turn attracts venture capital that builds a cycle of talent, companies and capital.”