Consumer electronics retailer Best Buy is opening a new technology development center in Seattle, joining a legion of technology companies attracted to the region’s engineering talent.
The new 32,000 square foot office — located in The Seattle Times building — will be just a few blocks away from Best Buy’s retail rival Amazon.com. It will house about 50 engineers, product managers, web architects and developers in the next year, with room to grow to as many as 100 employees.
“The fit is perfect for us in Seattle,” said Best Buy CTO Bala Subramanian, who joined the retailer two years ago after a long career at T-Mobile.
The company did look at other markets for the tech development center, but it chose Seattle because of its “great talent pool” in e-commrece technologies and “thriving tech community,” said Mary Lou Kelley, president of e-commerce at Best Buy.
“There’s the heritage of Microsoft, Amazon, Expedia, Nordstrom….,” said Kelley. “There are just lots of great technology-focused companies here, and I think that builds a community.”
The office will open in the late Spring, with Best Buy already advertising about 30 open positions. The dev center will complement Best Buy’s engineering staff Minneapolis, where the company employs about 180 e-commerce engineers.
Even so, the Best Buy technical leadership believes they have a unique story to tell, one which will resonate with engineers.
The big selling point: scale.
During the most recent holiday season, Best Buy was the third most visited Web site in the U.S. The company conducted $10.1 billion in sales during the 9-week holiday period, with $1.49 billion of that occurring online.
“All roads in shopping go through digital in my point of view,” said Kelley. “Our opportunity is to take the intersection of the physical and the digital and create a truly innovative experience for customers.”
The new technology development center will focus on cloud engineering, mobile development and the omnichannel customer experience. “That kind of talent is very good here,” said Subramanian.
Just two years ago when Subramanian arrived at Best Buy, he said the technology operation was behind the times with just a handful of engineers and most of the operation outsourced to technology consultants. But the company has made significant strides in the past two years, investing heavily in developing its own cloud infrastructure and mobile applications.
Subramanian said that e-commerce was not as much of a priority as it is now, with the mentality at the company shifting dramatically in the past two years. He said there is now a strong technology foundation from which to build, one of the reasons why the company wanted to open the development center.
“We believe now is the right time,” he said.
Best Buy — with 1,400 stores in the U.S. and 130,000 employees worldwide — is still looking to recruit a site leader for the new office.
To help jumpstart the new facility, Best Buy received a $200,000 grant from Gov. Jay Inslee’s strategic reserve fund.
“Best Buy is an exciting addition to Washington state’s powerful community of e-commerce and mobile technology innovators here in the Cloud Capital of the World,” Inslee said in a statement. “We’re proud to have this dynamic, leading-edge company bringing great jobs and drawing on the talents of our outstanding tech workforce, which numbers more than 176,000, including some of the best cloud-application developers anywhere.”
Previously on GeekWire: From Apple and Alibaba to Salesforce and Splunk: A guide to tech giants with outposts in Seattle