The Download: Rosetta Stone looks west for developers, designers

Rosetta Stone, the Arlington-based foreign language software company, said last week it will eliminate 64 jobs in Virginia as part of a move to open offices and add employees in Austin and San Francisco.

Executives said the shift reflects a broader change in the company’s technological needs as it delivers more of its interactive software to foreign language learners on the Internet rather than discs.

More from Capital Business

Video cameras in hand, CoStar enters apartment market

Video cameras in hand, CoStar enters apartment market

Fresh of acquiring Apartments.com, CoStar Group plunges into booming rental market.

Local vodka company expands overseas

Local vodka company expands overseas

Fou-Dré, based in Upper Marlboro, is sold in about 30 area stores, as well as in Australia and Japan.

Animation studio Pigmental sets up shop in the District

Animation studio Pigmental sets up shop in the District

D.C. economic development officials courted the company with grant, other incentives as part of Digital D.C.

“The Austin and San Francisco operations represent part of our investment in new platforms and technologies, and the positions in those offices are therefore fundamentally different from those we eliminated today,” spokesman Jonathan Mudd said Tuesday.

“Some current employees with the appropriate skill sets are indeed relocating to the new offices, but most of the roles there are being filled by new individuals with experience and know-how to support our evolving strategy,” he added.

Those offices are expected to hold a combined 100 employees, the company said. The firm also has product and technology hubs in Harrisonburg, Va.; Boulder, Colo.; and Arlington.

The office in Harrisonburg will be hardest hit by the jobs cuts. A spokesman said the company plans to cut 48 positions there, nine at its headquarters in Rosslyn and the rest in other offices.

Rosetta Stone is hardly the first Washington area company to seek technical talent outside the Beltway. Some start-ups have uprooted from the region altogether in hopes that Silicon Valley, Boston, Austin or other prominent technology hubs offer more fertile pastures.

“By opening offices in Austin and San Francisco — hotbeds for technology with deep talent pools — we are attracting some of the country’s best developers and designers to help us strengthen our platforms and bring innovative new products to market,” chief executive Steve Swad said in a news release.

The company intends to launch its first product for children later this year, as well as intermediate and advanced programs for English language learners, the statement said.

Rosetta Stone counts 1,500 employees who work in offices as far flung as London, Tokyo, Dubai and Sao Paulo.

South by Southwest

District Mayor Vincent C. Gray returned from his economic development trip to South by Southwest in Austin last week without any business deals in hand. But then again, that’s not really how SXSW works.

The annual entertainment and technology festival, like many start-up tech shows, is known for its fluid nature and the almost nonexistent line between work and socialization. There were no formal meetings. No exhibit booth.

“We certainly didn’t go there to close deals or anything like that, but we let people know we were serious” about growing the sector, Gray said.

The visit included a 40-person dinner Saturday night that allowed the mayor’s economic development staff to hear local techies debate whether D.C. lacks venture capitalists or investment-worthy ventures, and how the city’s tech sector can better push for policy changes.

Those reportedly in attendance included Revolution investors Bobby Ocampo and David Hall, Washington Kastles owner and venture capitalist Mark Ein, 1776 co-creater Evan Burfield, Verizon’s Mid-Atlantic Vice President Anthony Lewis and LivingSocial Chief Technology Officer Aaron Batalion, who now lives in San Francisco.

Gray said his administration will seek to renew plans to lower the city’s capital gains tax rate in an effort to spur investment. A similar measure was cut by the D.C. Council from a previous tech incentive bill after some complained it clearly favored the District’s wealthy residents.

“One of the big questions for us is the continuing importance of incentives being made available to the tech sector and making clear what the government role will be. And I don’t mean as a regulator,” Gray said.

“There will probably have to be some regulation at some stage, but that’s less important to me. What can they count on from us in terms of incentives. . .to generate talent, to facilitate investors to come in and support these fledgling investors,” he continued.

To that end, Gray said his administration plans to meet quarterly with members of the local tech community to discuss policy goals, having done so once last February at the headquarters of Personal in Georgetown.

Immigration reform

Executives from 100 of the nation’s leading technology companies and trade associations sent a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders last week, urging them to pass legislation that would make it easier for highly skilled immigrants to remain in the United States.

Tech companies have long pushed for changes to the way the country doles out visas to those with advanced degrees in science, technology, math and engineering. Advocates say these individuals can fill current job openings and have the potential to create their own businesses.

“Five high-tech companies alone — IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle and Qualcomm — have combined 10,000 openings in the United States,” the letter states. “Each one of these jobs has the potential to create many others, directly and indirectly.”

But reform has been slow in part because many other interest groups want Congress to pass comprehensive reform that addresses immigrants at all economic and educational levels. The issue gained renewed traction following the influential turnout of Latino voters in the last presidential election.

Last week’s letter is signed by industry and trade association heads from the likes of Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Zynga, Oracle, Panasonic and Intel.

Local signatories included Revolution investor and ex-AOL Chairman Steve Case, iBiquity Digital chief executive Robert Struble, Consumer Electronics Association president and chief executive Gary Shapiro, outgoing National Venture Capital Association President Mark Heesen, Spinnakr founder Michael Mayernick and iStrategyLabs chief executive Peter Corbett.

 
Read what others are saying