Nike opens high-tech office in San Francisco

Nike opens high-tech office in San Francisco

Nike on Thursday unveiled its Nike+ Fuel Lab in San Francisco, a development announced last October. The company keeps its Digital Sport Team at its World Headquarters campus near Beaverton.

Last spring and summer, the company launched and operated its Nike+ Accelerator program in offices near Portland’s Pearl District, offering technical and management help for 10 startups. At the time, that was the latest tech development for the company’s efforts in that arena led by the introduction of several digital products developed mostly at the company’s World Headquarters campus near Beaverton.

A statement the company issued Thursday in response to questions about the San Francisco office says:

“We’re excited to open the Nike+ Fuel Lab space in San Francisco today and are confident the space will allow us to have richer day-to-day collaborations with the strategic partners we are engaging with. In fact, many of the companies we are working with are within walking distance of the Nike+ Fuel Lab space, which allows us to have deeper conversions on a continuous basis. Our Digital Sport team is headquartered on campus in Beaverton and the Nike+ Fuel Lab is just one extension of our partnering and innovation efforts around NikeFuel.”

Later Thursday, Nike issued another statement saying Nike’s employees in the San Francisco Nike+ Fuel Lab space would be Oregon-based.

Nike’s Digital Sport function is located in Oregon and there are no plans to change this. The Nike+ Fuel Lab announced today is a space for our Oregon-based employees to engage with partners while in San Francisco (similar to the space we created in Portland during the Accelerator). As I said before many of the companies we are working with are within walking distance of the Nike+ Fuel Lab space. This type of engagement model is not unusual within the tech community. With regard to your question about employee numbers, those using the San Francisco facility are all existing Oregon-based employees.

Of the digital products and services jobs listed on Nike’s help-wanted website, the vast majority of jobs are based in Portland. And several jobs located in cities other than Portland include “Relocate to Portland” as part of the job description.

However, a local marketing expert who works with technology startups questioned Nike’s decision to open the office so far from its ancestral home in Oregon. Carri Bugbee of Big Deal PR says in an email a Fuel Lab in Oregon would have helped developed that industry here:

I understand why Nike would want to base its tech lab in the world hub of IT innovation: it means easier access to other corporate partners along with high-profile advisors and investors for Accelerator startups. However, Nike built its corporate image on being a maverick, so it’s disappointing to see it go the predictable, conventional route now. Plus, Nike got a sweet tax deal from Oregon, so it would have been fitting for Nike to help attract and develop a better infrastructure for startups instead of taking the easy route to a place that already has all that. Everyone wants to work with Nike; it doesn’t need to be within walking distance of other companies to get their attention.

But Rick Turoczy, author of the Silicon Florist Blog and general manager of the Portland Incubator Experiment, says in an email that he understands Nike’s rationale and notes further tech development by Nike is possible.

I think the reality is that Nike has a much larger pool of talent from which to draw in the Bay Area. I don’t think there’s any argument there. It just makes business sense. They need to go where they’re going to get the most traction the most rapidly. I was really happy when they chose Portland as a spot to test this concept with the Nike+ Accelerator. However, given that they have proven the value of the model, it made sense to test it elsewhere. And San Francisco is the logical place to do so. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few more pop up, globally, in the future. And I’m most excited for the next experiment Nike proposes locally — I’m assuming there will be more — given the success of the TechStars powered accelerator. That’s where Portland excels: trying new things and testing new concepts.

In a news release published on its website Thursday, the company says of its new high-tech home:

The Nike+ Fuel Lab builds on the work done through the 2013 Nike+ Accelerator program and continues to drive the power of Nike’s digital services for athletes by establishing NikeFuel as the universal way to measure and motivate for any kind of movement. New NikeFuel partnerships, built through the Nike+ Fuel Lab, will bring tremendous added value to the Nike+ community, currently at 28 million people worldwide and growing.

“We are excited about evolving NikeFuel to deliver richer experiences that make it easier for all athletes to reach their potential,” said Stefan Olander, Nike’s Vice President of Digital Sport. “The demand for simpler data-powered experiences is soaring, and all-day sensing is more available on mobile and wearable devices than ever before. Nike is committed to broadening the use of NikeFuel through collaborations with industry leaders to create smarter products and services.”

Through the Nike+ Fuel Lab, Nike aims to expand its NikeFuel platform with industry-leading companies including MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper and Strava. By integrating NikeFuel into these companies’ products, over 100 million potential new athletes will be able to use NikeFuel to measure, motivate and improve. These partnerships will give athletes a common universal currency to monitor and evaluate their many forms of activity.

Nike’s history of developing strong partnerships includes working with Apple to develop products since 2006, when the two companies introduced Nike+ Running. Nike has since created Apps for iOS including Nike+ FuelBand, Nike+ Training Club and Nike+ Move which launched in Fall 2013.