A European technology company with its major U.S. base in California has confirmed plans to occupy one floor of Seneca One Tower for its new East Coast operations center, with the potential to take up more space as the business grows.
Odoo S.A., an international business software company based in Belgium, will become the third major tenant to sign on to developer Douglas Jemal's vision for a technology-centered hub at Buffalo's tallest office building.
Neither the company nor the developer has decided which floor Odoo will take in the 38-story tower.
"We haven't been there for the last three weeks," Jemal said, referring to the shutdown of all non-essential business activity. "Needless to say, we do have a floor for them," he added.
The 15-year-old company, which employs 850 worldwide, is planning to employ up to 300 workers in Buffalo within four years. The workers will include sales, marketing, human resources, support, technical consulting and other functions, though the company's primary research and development operations will remain in Belgium, said Nicholas Kosinski, director of U.S. East operations for Odoo and a Williamsville native.
Kosinski said Odoo will initially bring on 20 people in early summer. They will work remotely until its space in the tower is ready.
A source familiar with the company's longer-term goals said officials hope to grow to three or four floors.
"This is the first time we have an international company coming into Buffalo that is not a startup. It’s a real big company," Jemal said. "You know that industry grows like crazy."
Odoo will join M&T Bank Corp., Seneca One's lead tenant, with the two primary base levels below the tower as well as 11 floors of the tower itself, and 43North, the state-funded business competition and incubator organization, which has moved into one tower level. M&T's space is being renovated and prepared for occupancy, but work has been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic and the state's business shutdown orders.
Founded in 2005 by CEO Fabien Pinckaers, Odoo provides a suite of business management software. It has more than 30 main applications, 2,550 partners, 4.5 million users and a host of apps.
Company leaders wanted to expand their U.S. presence but realized they needed to look beyond traditional high-tech centers like San Francisco, New York City or Boston, where the cost of real estate, labor and living is high, and the markets are so saturated with other technology companies that it becomes hard to hire and retain workers.
So they "started to direct our focus to smaller cities that are often overlooked for unjustified reasons," said Kosinski, who was based in New York.
While visiting his family for the holidays last December, he realized Buffalo fit that criteria, with its affordability, abundance of schools and college students, and fewer technology companies to compete with. Reading about plans for the tech hub at Seneca One, with M&T, sealed the deal for him.
"All the variables came together. It was a perfect concoction, the perfect storm," Kosinski said.
Kosinski reached out via LinkedIn to M&T Chief Information Officer Michael Wisler, who in turn connected him with William Maggio, managing partner of Lorraine Capital and CEO of the Jacobs Institute, and Eric Reich, CEO of Campus Labs and new co-chairman of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.
"Part of the reason they're excited about Buffalo is the continuity and stability it'll bring. They want people they believe can impact their business with more continuity and predictability than the costs and talent shuffling that happens in larger markets," Reich said. "We were able, through a coordinated team effort, show why this would be a great community for them to invest in and grow in."
Kosinski then contacted a colleague in San Francisco, who flew out to Buffalo with him in late January to spend four days here. They toured the tower with Jemal and met with Wisler, Maggio and Reich, as well as M&T CEO Rene Jones, Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown and Empire State Development Chairman Howard Zemsky.
"We got here, and the whole experience made sense, from the food to the culture to the community and willingness to collaborate," Kosinski said.
"My company is a very data-driven company," he said. "Of course they knew I was from Buffalo, but at the end of the day, it's all about the numbers."