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Why SafeGraph Moved its HQ from San Francisco to Denver

December 7, 2020
by
Nicole Berger

Where should a company’s official headquarters be located? As many companies become more distributed - or, like SafeGraph, fully distributed - it’s a question many are wrestling with.

To be clear, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Every company will have different things they’re optimizing for, and different employee makeups that may dictate one option over another. 

Up until mid-2020 SafeGraph was legally headquartered in San Francisco. That made sense because it’s where we were founded and started in 2016, and over 80% of our early employees were located there. We had a large physical office, and held monthly “remoter’s weeks” in that office where all non-SF-based employees would come so we could all be together. There was no strong argument SafeGraph could make to be based anywhere else.

Fast forward to 2020, and SafeGraph has morphed in a way many companies have over the past year. We decided to lean into a remote work environment a year or so prior to the pandemic, which has unsurprisingly only accelerated that change. 

Even a completely remote workforce can have a team Halloween party.

As we pass the 50 employee mark today, we have less than a quarter of our team working or living in the Bay Area. Many that were previously there have moved - to Miami, southern California, Colorado, Seattle, and Texas, just to name a few - and even more that have recently joined are based out of other locations. We anticipate the percentage of SF employees  will likely be under 10% soon. 

SafeGraph's remote working environment allows employees to live and work across North America.


Although our CEO still lives in San Francisco, we don’t have the ties to the city that we once did. While we love San Francisco - its vibrancy and its beauty - the city has long been too expensive and offered too few services for the cost. SF is also increasingly unfriendly to businesses, making it hard to make long-term plans to be there. Crime has also gone up - a few of our employees have been mugged or assaulted in the middle of the day.  

San Francisco no longer makes sense to be set as our corporate headquarters.

So, why Denver? There are several reasons we decided on the Mile-High City. In no particular order:

  • We already have a good number of employees located in and around Denver, including two VPs, and anticipate that number growing over time. Though it’s not necessarily a legal requirement - depends on who you ask - we thought it was smart to choose a location where at least a few employees were located. Texas was another option we considered, but we only have one (newly relocated) employee there and it didn’t feel as “defensible” of a choice.
  • Colorado is considered a business-friendly locale. San Francisco, and California more generally, is the opposite. Business taxes are more manageable in Denver, and the government is much friendlier and more receptive to businesses based there. This will be very valuable if SafeGraph is profitable in the future; we were profitable in 2019 and it is likely we will be again. This may also open up tax grants or other similar opportunities that would not have been available without being legally based in Denver.
  • It’s very possible that our employee benefits costs will go down. As a distributed company who offers health insurance to all our employees, we are forced to be priced based on our headquarter location. This means an employee who lives in, say, Chicago is paying for their health insurance as if they lived in San Francisco. While the Bay Area isn’t the most expensive in the US, there are much more competitive markets (mainly due to the high average cost of medical care in San Francisco). Denver is typically more affordable, and we’re eager to see how much savings we can gain here. Health insurance is an ever-changing industry, though, so we won’t know what this means as far as savings until our next open enrollment period.
  • Denver is known as being a popular place for remote employees to live. The reasons for this are many, including the more affordable cost of living, great climate, outdoorsy nature, great airport, etc. While we don’t plan to focus SafeGraph’s hiring in any given city, we do like that our headquarters is in a place with a longstanding connection to remote-friendly work.
  • It’s a beautiful, fun, thriving, growing place! We’re proud to say we’re “Headquartered in Denver”, and think it’ll be a great location to all get together as a company when times return to normal. 
Our Denver-based employees enjoy exploring the area. Washington Park is a favorite spot.

There are likely even more reasons for our HQ move that we haven’t yet discovered. We look forward to finding out what those are!

Nicole Berger
Nicole Berger
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SafeGraph is just a data company

That's it – that's all we do. We want to understand the physical world and power innovation through open access to geospatial data. We believe data should be an open platform, not a trade secret. Information should not be hoarded so that only a few can innovate.