Doug Ludlow and his MainStreet start-up want to move skilled people out of the Bay Area.
As they launched last week, they grabbed attention by offering to pay workers $10,000 to leave the Bay Area and work remotely from anywhere they choose. If they work for a year, then they get $10k.
Speaking to Ludlow last Wednesday, he indicated that they’d already had 2,000 emails respond to the $10k offer in about 36 hours. The first phase is designed to grab some headlines and momentum before they launch their long-term approach next year.
Ludlow and his wife both grew up in Modesto before it was ravaged by the recession and changes to the economy. They believe communities outside of the very expensive Bay Area offer both housing affordability and a quality of life that will be desirable to people. He also believes that the way people work is going to continue to shift so more and more workers will be remote.
Big companies already have workers situated around the globe.
He and his co-founders worked for Google and have brought to MainStreet some of the best practices they observed there when it came to remote workers. Armed with that knowledge, their goal is to create well-paying, remote jobs in rural and suburban communities with people who are employed by companies located in the urban areas such as Silicon Valley or San Francisco.
Key support for remote employees will start in 2020 when MainStreet opens a remote working facility in Sacramento. The goal is to have 100 people working there daily, although they may be working for 100 different firms. Each employee will have a dedicated work station with a video connection.
Ludlow said that working remotely doesn’t work for about half of the people who try it. He said statistics show that 50 percent want to quit and find a traditional job after six months. Many feel isolated and worry about falling behind in their career because they are not in the office. It’s that challenge that the remote working centers are designed to handle.
Ludlow observed that the technology is developed for working remotely—it’s the human part that’s broken.
The Sacramento facility will be followed by one in Salt Lake City. He said these are the two top locations where Bay Area people are moving (Portland and Denver are others) and many big Silicon Valley companies don’t have offices there. They’re looking for locations with good schools and affordable real estate.
The long-term goal is facilities in 500 cities across the country. They hope those will allow skilled workers to find good remote jobs without leaving the town where they grew up.
They are betting that their approach will help retain workers because their revenue model is companies paying them a retention fee monthly. They win when the employee and the company win.
Ludlow is a serial entrepreneur starting this third company. He sold his first firm to AOL and shuttered his second home service firm after three years before moving to Google.