Should You Worry About This Tech Trend?

Suddenly, big names in tech are spending capital on new buildings.

Tim Beyers
Tim Beyers
Feb 24, 2013 at 2:15PM
Technology and Telecom

Silicon Valley's biggest names may be flush with cash, but owners -- i.e., shareholders -- aren't reaping huge dividends. Instead, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL), and NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) are joining Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) in expanding their corporate digs.

Google and NVIDIA last week went public with plans to expand their existing office space. Vanity Fair published an exclusive preview of the new Googleplex, which is to be designed by architecture firm NBBJ and occupy 1.1 million square feet.

NVIDIA, meanwhile, is planning to add a new reptilian-looking HQ across the street from its current Silicon Valley digs. In a blog post, co-founder Jen-Hsun Huang described the project as embodying the company's ambitions.

"The design harmonizes smart functionality and a shape that connects with and inspires our employees – a triangle, the fundamental building block of computer graphics," Huang wrote.

Sounds awesome, right? It must be if you're an employee of either of these companies. Or, for that matter, Facebook, which months ago revealed plans to build a decked-out new space for 3,400 engineers.

Less clear is whether these efforts are necessary steps to sustained growth or a severe case of Apple envy. Steve Jobs presented plans for the Mac maker's forthcoming HQ, which looks more like a spaceship than an office complex, at a Cupertino town hall meeting months before his untimely death.

Is this a troubling trend? A little, yes, but Silicon Valley is an intellectually driven economy, and top companies win by attracting and keeping the brightest minds in their fields. Appealing space can be a recruiting tool.

But I also wouldn't mind seeing these companies use some of their cash as a substitute for dilutive options grants that eat away at profits and cost shareholders gains. Do you agree? Disagree? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.