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Alibaba CTO Jeff Zhang speaks at the company’s Technology Forum in Bellevue, Wash., on Saturday.

Alibaba has moved its Seattle engineering office to Bellevue, the Chinese tech giant confirmed today.

The Hangzhou, China-based company, which hosted a Technology Forum in downtown Bellevue on Saturday, employs 40 people — mostly engineers — at the City Center Bellevue building, just down the road from Microsoft’s headquarters.

Alibaba first opened a secretive Seattle office in 2014, just down the street from its rival, Amazon. There were rumors that the company, valued at $211 billion, would move its U.S. headquarters from Silicon Valley to Seattle, where founder Jack Ma first discovered the Internet more than two decades ago.

The crowd at Saturday's event was largely Chinese-speaking and engineering-focused.
The crowd at Saturday’s event was largely Chinese-speaking and engineering-focused.

But the San Mateo, Calif. office remains Alibaba’s U.S. hub. A company spokesperson told GeekWire today that there are no plans to grow the Bellevue office, but no plans to shrink it, either. Alibaba has two job postings for the Bellevue office on LinkedIn.

While Seattle is known worldwide for its robust tech ecosystem, Bellevue is home to several large tech companies like Expedia, Concur, and T-Mobile, and more than 1,000 startups. The Global Innovation Exchange (GIX), a new technology institute opening later this fall as an equal partnership between University of Washington and China’s Tsinghua University, is also based in Bellevue.

Alibaba is one of more than 80 out-of-town tech companies that have engineering offices in the Seattle area, hoping to tap into the technical talent base in a region that is also more affordable for many folks looking to re-locate from the Bay Area.

Jeff Zhang became Alibaba's CTO in April.
Jeff Zhang became Alibaba’s CTO in April.

Asked about why Alibaba has an office in the Seattle region, Alibaba CTO Jeff Zhang, who gave the keynote address at Saturday’s event, said simply that the area is one of two “technology hubs” in the U.S.

“One is Silicon Valley, and one is Seattle,” said Zhang, who became CTO in April and joined Alibaba in 2004, through an interpreter. “We have offices in both places. It’s not unique to Alibaba — it’s just where the technology hubs of the U.S. are.”

Zhang was one of six top engineers from Alibaba who spoke at the event, where 300 people — lots of engineers, and largely a Chinese-speaking crowd — gathered to learn more about the technology and engineering that powers Alibaba’s business. The company, which is essentially the Amazon, eBay, Google, and PayPal of China, all wrapped into one, said it was not a recruiting event, but rather something to educate folks about Alibaba and connect Alibaba and its team to more people outside of China.

Alibaba, which made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange in September 2014, held similar events in the region two years ago, prior to the company opening its Seattle office.

We’ll have more from Zhang on Alibaba’s global growth strategies, its view of Amazon, and other tidbits about China’s top tech giant later on GeekWire, so stay tuned for that.

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