Two years after moving its headquarters to Texas, Bakersfield’s biggest home-grown tech company is pulling out of California as part of a consolidation it hopes will make the company more nimble and surround it with like-minded firms.
Lightspeed Systems announced it will close its 19th Street offices, which house about 80 employees, and move those willing to relocate to Austin, Texas, where it has 29 workers.
An undetermined number will be allowed to work remotely from Bakersfield, it said, but others must move to the Lone Star State by sometime next year.
“Bakersfield has been a great home to our company and our employees for many years and we will miss it,” Lightspeed President and CEO Brian Thomas said in a news release dated today.
“But to achieve our goals and continue our growth,” he continued, “we need to be centered in a technology hub and we’ve decided Austin is the right place for us. We’ll always have ties to Bakersfield and the great people here but we’re excited about the future and about the new opportunities ahead.”
Lightspeed builds Internet filtering systems for schools, as well as a mobile device manager giving students remote access to their curriculum and software that allows teachers to monitor their pupils’ computer activity. The privately held company says it has sold products to more than 5,500 U.S. school districts. In 2014 it reported having annual revenue of about $40 million.
Founded in 1984 as McCarthy & Associates, Lightspeed has gone from developing computer interface software to providing Internet service to, in the late 1990s, focusing exclusively on education-related products.
The company moved its corporate headquarters to Austin in July 2014. Four months later, founder Rob McCarthy told The Californian, “We’re not pulling up stakes and leaving Bakersfield. ... This is my hometown. My dream is to get back here some day.”
Today’s news release described Austin as a centrally located technology hub and home to “many other key educational technology companies.” It said moving there will give Lightspeed “the greatest growth opportunities.”
“Keeping the majority of employees in a single location will allow the company to stay agile in a fast-moving market,” the release said. “In addition, Austin has the start-up mentality and culture of innovation (and the barbeque!) that have been keys to Lightspeed’s success.”
The company’s relocation “does make sense” as Austin challenges Silicon Valley’s tech dominance, said Nick Ortiz, president and CEO of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce. But during the next 20 to 30 years, he added, the Central Valley may be called on to support California’s tech industry as a manufacturing center.
“What our region could be poised to offer is a very cost-efficient, very business-friendly region that is proximate to (Silicon Valley) that could be home to some tech or renewable energy or some other type of manufacturing,” Ortiz said.
Lightspeed’s Bakersfield operations are housed in a historic building McCarthy owns at 1800 19th St. A company spokeswoman said no decision has been made about what to do with the structure once it becomes empty next year.