A plucky Silicon Valley company, forced to compete for talented engineers, is trying it all — recruiting billboards; workplace perks like treadmill workstations and foosball tables; and conference rooms named after celebrities like Rihanna and Justin Bieber.
The name of that arriviste company? Wal-Mart.
The world's largest retailer, which for years didn’t blink at would-be competitors, is now under such a threat from Amazon that it is frantically playing catch-up by learning the technology business, including starting @WalmartLabs, its dot-com headquarters.
The two retail behemoths, one the king of the physical store and the other the conqueror of the online world, are battling over e-commerce — competing for the most talented engineers, trying to gain the upper hand in the new frontier of same-day delivery and warring over online pricing.
They want to control not just internet shopping but all shopping. Even as Wal-Mart pours money into technology, Amazon is building a physical presence across the nation, adding warehouses and pickup locations. Both companies’ moves indicate that they believe the future of commerce is not just stores and not just online but a combination of the two.
For the first time in decades, Wal-Mart, which drove company after company out of business, has a competitor it sounds a little scared of.
“Don’t think for a second that Jeff Bezos is not a capitalist,” Neil Ashe, chief executive of Walmart Global E-Commerce, said of the belief of Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon, in low prices and paper-thin margins. “They’re just playing a game, which is, ‘We’re just going to wait out the world.’”
Amazon declined to comment.
Although the fierce competition between Wal-Mart and Amazon is occurring in all areas, to get the technological edge Wal-Mart has to succeed in San Bruno.
The company has had a small presence near Silicon Valley for more than a decade, but until recently, engineers in the area barely knew it existed. It signed a lease three years ago for the San Bruno office, north of the valley — and across the street from YouTube — and is opening another this fall in