Yammer Talks Your Head Off

1355MarketYammer Reception5

Yammer joins the advanced guard civilizing San Francisco’s Mid-Market Street

THIS ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED IN THE ‘Q’ – THE REGISTRY’S PRINT PUBLICATION – IN APRIL 2013

Photography courtesy of Stephanie Dewey, Reflex Imaging

By Sharon Simonson

[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ammer Inc. helps people blab. The online service is variously described as Twitter with a business plan and Facebook with an enterprise orientation. But unlike Facebook, only a company’s employees can participate in conversations.

If modern office-interior design is supposed to enhance company culture, then consider this fact about the new Yammer headquarters in San Francisco’s gentrifying Mid-Market neighborhood: Twenty percent of the 80,000-square-foot space is dedicated to conference rooms—64 in all. So a company devoted to remote communications also believes it crucial to provide plenty of space for in-face communication.

Chief Executive, Chairman of the Board and founder David Sacks was enmeshed in selecting the headquarters’ location and designing the floor plan, including the surplus of conference spaces. Sacks is a PayPal alumnus—the former chief operating officer who helped take the company from startup to initial public offering to eBay Inc. sale.

Unlike many CEOs, Sacks didn’t just set a tone then leave the details to underlings. “David and I walked the floor plan 10 times,” said architect Tim Murphy, who designed the Yammer interiors.

With only 400 employees, why does Yammer need five large conference rooms big enough for 35 people apiece, 20 medium-sized rooms large enough for 14, and a whopping 45 small conference rooms? Immediate communications, Murphy said: “David wanted an open room to always be within sight line.” He also wanted no need for a reservation system.

For Murphy, Yammer’s interiors embody the mind’s tension when asked to hold competing thoughts at once. The concrete floor, ductwork and copper piping plus exposed 14-foot ceilings (the tallest of the building’s 10 office floors) convey the industrial aesthetic so popular among the South of Market crowd. At the same time, the furnishings, color scheme, lighting fixtures and finishes present a highly refined atmosphere. If dozens of workers packed into a quirky, grungy workspace characterize the adolescent startup, the Yammer digs are the perfectly coiffed, college-aged sister. “The building just has good bones,” said Mark Trento, the project executive for San Francisco general contractor Skyline Construction, which completed the $8 million project.

Yammer began looking intently for new digs in late 2011 as it outgrew its space at 410 Townsend St. next to the Caltrain station. The pickings were fairly slim. The company settled on 1355 Market St., San Francisco’s former furniture mart building, an albatross in a dicey section of the city. “We found space that had not been attractive to or valued by anybody for decades,” Murphy said.

Yet the building offered a lot of what Yammer wanted. Number one, it allowed Yammer to stay in San Francisco, which the company believes is crucial to business success. The location also helps to capture the cool and funk factors that attract tech workers. “It is cutthroat right now for [software] developers, and has been for the last three or four years,” said Yammer Executive Vice President Mark Woolway. The building’s huge floor plates also mean Yammer can house all employees on a single floor.

“We briefly toyed with the Financial District, but engineers don’t want to work with private equity and accounting firms,” Woolway said. “This building was unique, and we thought it was a golden opportunity.”

Finally, the temporary payroll tax-exemption approved by the city of San Francisco for Mid-Market office buildings likely will save Yammer several million dollars over the course of the company’s seven- to eight-year lease.

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