Why Squarespace is hiring in Portland after shunning Seattle

Aug 5, 2014, 2:37pm PDT UPDATED: Aug 5, 2014, 5:19pm PDT

Malia Spencer

Staff Reporter-Portland Business Journal


When New York City-based Squarespace was looking for an outpost in the Pacific Time Zone it narrowed the field to Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.

Those cities emerged despite heavy recruitment efforts from Las Vegas and Phoenix, said Chief Operating OfficerJesse Hertzberg, seated in a lounge in the company’s temporary Portland office.

The company, which makes a website publishing platform, expects to sign a lease on its permanent space next week and intends to move into its new spot around the first of the year.

So how did Portland end up at the top of the heap?

“We’d rather be a big fish in Portland, there is too much competition in Seattle,” he said, noting that large companies likeGoogle and Amazon make competition steep for talent in Seattle.

“And the Timbers are a better football team,” added Hertzberg, an avid soccer fan who also founded the websiteBigSoccer. Hertzberg's in town for this week's MLS All-Star Game, which takes place Wednesday at Providence Park.

Squarespace has an urban culture and wanted to be in a city where it could have a downtown location. Portland had the right mix of urban amenities — restaurants, bars, public/bike transit — at an affordable cost of living.

“It’s important for people to have a career with Squarespace and to live (near the office),” he said. In New York, with the high cost of living that was difficult, so it’s a consideration for other locations.

The Portland office opened in temporary space in the Portland Development Commissionbuilding in June. By Monday the company will have 50 employees. By the end of the year the company expects 100 employees in Portland.

The permanent office is being built to house about 220 people. The company was put in touch with the PDC through Hertzberg who went to business school with Portland Seed Fund Venture PartnerJenn Lynch. Lynch’s husband Bill Lynch is the PDC entrepreneur in residence.

The company was being recruited by other cities but didn’t receive any meaningful financial incentives to land in Portland, he said.

The Portland office is for customer care, which Hertzberg stresses does not equate to a call center. The reps do interact with customers on the phone but also through email and chat support. The function also includes quality assurance testing and documentation writing.

Of the company’s 350 employees, about 220 are in customer care, Hertzberg said.

Most of the company’s employees start in customer care, which has intense training. These employees can then move to other functions and grow within the company. Hertzberg said the strategy has been critical in the company's growth.

The company has a 24/7 customer support policy. An office in the Pacific Time Zone can easily take over online chats and emails from the company’s Dublin, Ireland office, he said. The Ireland office is eight hours ahead.