Hero Digital Waves Goodbye to San Francisco Welcomes Chicago

hero digital waves goodbye to san francisco welcomes chicago.jpg Technology

In a significant business move, Hero Digital, a prominent tech consulting firm, has announced its relocation from San Francisco to Chicago. The shift, which follows an August 14 merger with consultancy Avionos, marks the end of an era for Hero Digital in the Bay Area. The company has been embroiled in a series of corporate shake-ups over the past few years, including a change in private equity ownership, the replacement of its founding CEO, and the acquisition of Omnichannel Commerce, all amidst a string of layoffs that saw five major job cuts in the previous year.

The relocation signals a dramatic downsizing of Hero Digital’s Bay Area workforce, which former employees claim has been reduced to a mere fraction of its original size. Despite the company’s reassurances of maintaining a presence in San Francisco, the number of employees to be retained remains undisclosed. The firm’s tumultuous journey, from a workforce of 70-100 in 2019 to a recent operating capacity of 25, paints a stark picture of its shrinking footprint in the city. Coupled with a shift to a hybrid work model and an increased reliance on Latin American engineers, Hero Digital’s story is a testament to the changing landscape of the tech industry in the Bay Area.

Hero Digital Relocates to the Windy City

Hero Digital, a tech consulting firm known for its consulting, engineering and marketing services to clients like Comcast, is leaving its home in San Francisco. The company is shifting its headquarters to Chicago as part of an August 14 merger with consulting firm Avionos, based in the Illinois city. This move follows a turbulent period for Hero Digital, which included a change of private equity ownership, a new CEO, the acquisition of another digital consulting firm, Omnichannel Commerce, and a series of layoffs.

A Gradual Downsizing

Over the years, Hero Digital has gradually whittled down its Bay Area workforce. Four former employees, three of whom wished to remain anonymous, reported the firm had significantly reduced its staff across the board. However, company spokesperson Mattie Van Gundy assured that Hero Digital will maintain an office and employees in San Francisco, though the number of remaining Bay Area-based staff is not specified.

Former employee John Burke, who was recently laid off, revealed that the firm had executed five substantial layoffs within the last year, affecting at least 15 workers each time. The company, which claimed to have 420 employees on its website, has not updated this figure since July 2021.

From Bustling Office to Suite

Burke also noted that the company has downsized from a 150 Spear St. office that housed 70 to 100 employees in 2019, to a suite on Montgomery Street with a capacity for 25. This shift happened in 2021, coinciding with the adoption of a hybrid work model which allowed the firm to tap into a global workforce. This suite would remain as Hero Digital’s San Francisco presence. The firm has also begun relying more on engineers based in Latin America, according to Burke and two other former employees.

High-Profile Hires Amid Layoffs

The layoffs, which felt "continuous" to some former employees, were a stark contrast to the firm’s high-profile appointments and acquisition announcements. In late 2021, Hero Digital was sold from CI Capital to AEA, an investment firm seeking to expand its West Coast presence. At the time, the seller touted Hero Digital’s acquisition spree of five strategic add-ons within five years. In 2023, the trend continued as Hero Digital acquired Omnichannel Commerce and merged with Avionos.

A Trend Among Tech Firms

Hero Digital’s move from San Francisco is in line with a recent trend among tech firms. Several companies have relocated their headquarters from the high-cost Bay Area for operational efficiencies and employee flexibility. Notable moves include Evernote’s centralization of operations in Europe, Skillz’s relocation to Las Vegas, Belong’s move to Miami, and Oracle’s shift from Redwood City to Austin.

Final Thoughts

Hero Digital’s move reflects the dynamic and often challenging landscape of the tech industry. While the company continues to adapt and evolve, the impact on its employees and the San Francisco tech scene cannot be overlooked. The trend of tech firms leaving the Bay Area raises important questions about the sustainability of the region as a tech hub, particularly given the high cost of living and operations.

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