TikTok parent ByteDance sets up Bellevue WA office as first official presence in Seattle area

A new ByteDance office inside Bellevue’s Key Center was furnished but not yet occupied when GeekWire visited the building on Tuesday morning. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

ByteDance, the Beijing-based parent company of social video app TikTok, is expanding in the U.S. with a 44,000-square-foot office in Bellevue, Wash.

The space, subleased from enterprise tech giant SAP at downtown Bellevue’s Key Center office tower, is the company’s first official outpost in the Seattle region.

Job listings and employee profiles confirm it’s an engineering hub. ByteDance currently lists more than 40 open positions in the Seattle area, focusing on areas including algorithm engineering, iOS and Android app development, e-commerce technology, backend and frontend software engineering, and network engineering.

ByteDance joins more than 130 out-of-town tech companies to establish engineering centers in the Seattle region, as tracked by GeekWire.

The new location positions ByteDance to recruit engineers from other tech giants in the region. ByteDance has hired engineering, research and product leaders in the Seattle area in recent months from companies including Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and others, LinkedIn updates show.

The new office is the latest sign that the controversy over TikTok’s presence in the U.S. has largely blown over after it came within hours of being shut down in the country by then-President Donald Trump. The hit social app has continued to grow rapidly, recently reaching 1 billion users monthly.

ByteDance has been hiring aggressively in the region for the past few months, as reported in August by the Puget Sound Business Journal. However, it wasn’t clear until now that the company planned to open an actual office in the area, a step that is no longer guaranteed in the era of remote work.

The sublease was noted as part of a roundup of recent deals in a market summary from commercial real estate brokerage Broderick Group. ByteDance representatives did not respond to requests for comment about the new office. Real estate brokers with knowledge of the deal said they weren’t authorized to provide further details.

During a visit to Key Center on Tuesday morning, GeekWire found the ByteDance logo and name on the frosted glass of locked door on an upper floor of the building. A lobby and conference room were visible behind the glass, with a ByteDance promotional video playing on the display on the interior wall. Knocks on the door went unanswered.

SAP, which subleased the office to ByteDance, is the parent company of Bellevue-based expense management tech company Concur.

Responding to an inquiry from GeekWire about the sublease, SAP said it’s “committed to the greater Seattle area and providing flexible working options for employees as part of our Pledge to Flex. We have made the strategic decision to sublease part of Key Center. We do not comment on specific lease agreements.”

Under traditional office occupancy guidelines, the 44,000-square-foot space could accommodate as many as 200 people. However, that depends on configuration, which has become more uncertain in the pandemic, given social distancing requirements and the use of touchdown spaces for employees who may spend part of their work week at home.

ByteDance also has offices in U.S. cities including Mountain View, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, and Chicago. Its U.S. headquarters are in Culver City, Calif. The company also operates the news platform Toutiao in China, social media platform Helo in India, and collaboration app Lark in Japan and Singapore.

ByteDance joins a growing number of technology companies establishing offices in Bellevue, the growing city east of Seattle. Fueled in part by corporate frustrations with Seattle city leaders, the trend has been led by Amazon, whose CEO, Andy Jassy, said last week that the company now considers the broader Puget Sound region its “HQ1” headquarters now.

Microsoft was in talks with ByteDance to acquire the hit social video app’s operations in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, as President Trump was threatening to ban TikTok in the U.S. due to privacy and security concerns. Ultimately, TikTok struck a partnership with Oracle and Walmart that was shelved by the Biden administration earlier this year.

Satya Nadella, the Microsoft CEO, recently called the TikTalk negotiations the strangest thing he has ever worked on. Brad Smith, the Microsoft president, said the arrangement contemplated by Microsoft could provide a blueprint for Chinese technology companies to operate in the U.S., if government leaders in the countries can resolve issues of cybersecurity, data privacy and disinformation.

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