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A startup's bid to pay workers to leave San Francisco is catching on in a big way

Nick Robertson
Senior Producer

A Silicon Valley startup created plenty of buzz earlier this month when it announced a $10,000 incentive for workers to leave the San Francisco Bay Area.

Yet it’s apparently proving to be anything but a marketing gimmick, as a swarm of people have signed up, according to MainStreet CEO Doug Ludlow.  

“One out of every 1,000 households in the Bay Area have applied,” Ludlow told Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM. To put that in perspective, the San Francisco Bay Area has about 2.6 million households according to the most recent Census figures available.  

MainStreet works with companies to recruit and retain remote talent — operating out of “remote-first” offices in other cities free from the crushing daily life expenses afflicting many people in places like the Bay Area or New York City.  

‘People are looking for opportunities’

In fact, Ludlow isn’t surprised by the flurry of interest from local residents. San Francisco’s frothy real estate market — and accompanying sky-high prices — has created a housing crisis in the region that some are eager to escape.

“People are looking for opportunities,” he says.  “It’s very rarely about the $10,000 incentive. It’s about ‘I want to afford a home for my family — I want better schools for my kids.’” 

Those interested have until the end of November to apply.  

A street of colorful iconic San Francisco row houses.

Bay Area home prices have finally begun to cool in many spots after years of dizzying increases. Still, the median price for a new or existing home in the region is still above $800,000, an eye-watering sum for those who don’t have big Silicon Valley salaries or stock options.

“This $10,000 incentive is really a way to capture people’s imagination and let them know that there are other places to live where you’re going to have a fantastic job,” Ludlow argued.  

“The first few cities we’re going to are Sacramento, Tulsa, Salt Lake [City], and Portland [Oregon],” he said. “There’s already a huge amount of remote work happening [in these cities].  There’s a huge amount of talent.”

Securing the $10,000 moving incentive comes with a few strings attached to it.  

“Once we connect you with a company and once you decide to move or work remotely with a company in an area outside of the Bay Area, you do need to be there for a full year,” Ludlow explained.  “[It’s] to make sure the role is working out with you, and the company that you were hired with.”

Ludlow has high ambitions for the growth of MainStreet, should its initial experiments succeed.

“Our vision is to be in roughly 500-1,000 cities by the end of the decade,” he said. “We’re starting off where there’s a lot of interest and attention.  We hope to be in every main street across the country.”

Nick Robertson is a senior producer at Yahoo Finance.

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