Peter Morelli already helped Salesforce and Twitter set up engineering centers in Seattle, so he’s familiar with the technical talent available in the Northwest.
That’s why Morelli, now VP of Engineering at Lyft, doesn’t expect to have much trouble hiring as many as 60 employees at the ride-hailing company’s new engineering office in downtown Seattle by the end of 2016.
Lyft already has six full-time employees working out of a temporary space in Seattle, but will soon move into a permanent 11,200 square-foot office at the National Building in Pioneer Square, the company confirmed today.
GeekWire previously reported on Lyft’s intentions to establish an engineering outpost in Seattle earlier this month.
The engineering office is Lyft’s first outside of its home base in San Francisco and will house employees working on DevOps, systems engineering, developer productivity, dispatch technology, and more. It will also be home for Lyft’s local operations team and provide a place for Lyft drivers to ask questions or pick up materials they may need.
“The goal is to have complete product and back-end system teams up there,” Morelli said today in phone interview with GeekWire.
Lyft joins a large group of tech companies competing for technical talent that have engineering offices in the Seattle region, including giants like Google, Facebook, Dropbox, Twitter, Salesforce, and Uber, a rival of Lyft which opened up its own center in Seattle this past March where it expects to hire 50 this year.
Morelli called Seattle a “big center of tech excellence” and a natural fit for Lyft’s engineering office, given its West Coast location and the fact that people living there already expressed interest in working for Lyft, which employs more than 500 — 140 of which are engineers.
“The amount of talent there is quite high,” he said. “For me, it’s like seeing a lot of what happened in Silicon Valley expand there. I also love the city itself and certainly don’t mind traveling up there.”
Lyft, which has raised more than $1 billion in venture financing since it was founded and now operates in 65 cities in the U.S., has offered its ride-hailing service in the Emerald City since 2013. The company said today that it has more than doubled the number of rides and number of active drivers on the Lyft platform in Seattle during the past year alone. It added that the estimated time of arrival for a typical Lyft ride in the city is down to three minutes.
“Seattle is a pretty important city for us,” Morelli said. “From the business side and engineering side, it made a lot of sense [to open an office there].”
Morelli, who joined Lyft this past March after leaving his post as senior director of engineering at Twitter, called his new gig at Lyft is a “fascinating challenge” with “very interesting computer science problems.”
“People view us almost like a utility — we’re moving people around,” he said. “There is less tolerance for hiccups and mistakes. It’s not like I showed you one fewer tweet — it’s very different when your car doesn’t show up. We’re using bits to move atoms; using computers to move people around.”
Along with engineers and operations staff, Lyft’s new “Seattle General Manager” Todd Kelsay will also work out of the new office. Lyft began hiring city managers in its biggest markets earlier this summer, following in the footsteps of Uber.
Kelsay was manager at Sun Microsystems and Microsoft before taking on the director of transportation and emergency management role for Mercer Island School District in 2005, a position he held for a decade.