Northern Virginia's status as an East Coast tech hub got a major lift last week when Yext, a New York-based tech company that acts as an all-purpose information pipeline for businesses that advertise online, announced plans to hire 500 people over the next five years at a new office in Rosslyn.
Yext founder Howard Lerman said in a recent phone interview that his company chose the Arlington location to benefit from the area's pool of skilled technology workers who hail from the government contracting ranks. There are no tax incentives involved, he said.
"Northern Virginia is a reservoir of untapped talent," Lerman said. "I think it's the quiet next Silicon Valley."
Yext is coming to Northern Virginia at a time when the region's technology community appears to be on the rise. For years, it has been an engine of job creation, consistently outpacing its neighbors.
The area has struggled for years with widespread office vacancies, leading local economic development boosters to aggressively recruit companies from elsewhere. They have succeeded with a string of influential corporations setting up offices and headquarters in places such as Rosslyn and Tysons Corner, many of them lured by generous tax incentives. And Crystal City is a winning site for half of Amazon's second headquarters, something that has promised to deliver about 25,000 jobs.
Yext plans to occupy the top three floors of 1101 Wilson Blvd. and display its logo on the Rosslyn skyline near buildings occupied by Deloitte, CEB and Nestle.
The publicly traded company specializes in digital knowledge management technology, which small and large businesses use to connect their information to more than 150 digital platforms that consumers use to look up information about local businesses. Companies including Marriott, T-Mobile and Ben & Jerry's use it to ensure that information about store locations, hours and product information are fully and accurately represented on platforms such as Google Maps, Facebook and Instagram. Most of the company's customers come from the financial services and health-care industries.
Lerman gushes about the company's mission to "get the truth online everywhere" by ensuring that consumer information comes directly from the source. The company is looking to fill the ranks at its Rosslyn office with not only engineers and software developers, but also those with an expertise in advertising and digital marketing.
The company will remain headquartered in New York, but the Rosslyn venture is a bit of a homecoming for Lerman.
He hails from the Vienna, Virginia, area, as do colleagues Sean MacIsaac and Tom Dixon, who are both executives at Yext. The three friends founded their first company, a software consulting firm called Intwine, at nearby Reston Town Center. They moved to New York when Intwine was acquired.
They founded Yext in New York in 2006 and it grew with the help of venture funding, pulling off an initial public offering in 2017.
"If you look at the history of the internet, it all started with AOL in Loudoun County, and all of that traffic still flows through there," Lerman said.