Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A new weapon in the war for talent

A few weeks ago Fred Wilson reflected on the tight market for engineering talent:

"[T]here is a war for talent, particularly developer talent, going on. Not just in Silicon Valley but also in NYC and many other places around the country."

In chemistry terms, developers are now the limiting reagent for high-growth software firms. The scarcity of talent is especially acute in Silicon Valley, leading many big players like Zynga, Facebook and Google to set up shop in relatively less competitive markets like Seattle.

Some of this market pressure is cyclical: plummeting costs and a flood of new capital sources for early stage software innovation have created a bloom of new startups (and startup investors), many of which won't survive the inevitable down cycle. But the fundamentals of this market are here to stay: at least in the earliest phases of software innovation, capital will continue to chase talent and not the other way around.

In this context, we've been on the lookout for a new company that can inject real liquidity into the market for engineering talent. AngelList has done an incredible job of adding transparency and liquidity to the capital side of new venture formation, but that's only intensified the crunch on the talent side.

So where's the AngelList for badass engineering teams?...  Meet GroupTalent.

Co-founders Gordon Hempton and Wes Hather are Y Combinator '08 alums (TeamApart) who experienced first-hand the intense tug-of-war for Bay Area engineering talent. Based on that experience, they've created a new kind of marketplace for skilled hackers that reflects many of their core beliefs about how the current system is failing:
  1. Teams vs. Individuals

    While most traditional job sites focus on the individual, high-performing software developers tend to self-organize in teams. Some of this is functional - different people tend to settle at different layers in the software stack - and some is generational. "Millenials"- the demographic cohort that describes the current 20-something generation - grew up in school and social environments geared toward collaboration. In the words of one demographer, "these are the kids who even went to school dances in groups rather than one-on-one dates." GroupTalent helps high-performing teams market themselves as production-ready units, not individual contributors.

  2. Hacker cred vs. Business cred 

    LinkedIn is a brilliant discovery platform for business talent, showcasing a professional's education and career history. But the best hackers aren't necessarily sorted by school and title; it's what they've built that matters. GroupTalent treats each team member's GitHub profile as a core source of profile data, and also makes it easy to showcase the side projects and open-source contributions that are the real benchmarks for performance among their engineering peers.

  3. Geography + false scarcity

    Many Bay Area folks are convinced that there's only one place to build a software startup. Mark Suster's recent post - "Can You Really Build a Great Tech Firm Outside Silicon Valley?" - tackled this boneheaded assumption head-on. Great software teams are forming across the country and around the world. Some of those folks are willing to relocate and some aren't, but thousands of them have the capacity to build amazing products and successful companies given the right combination of mentorship, capital and support. GroupTalent aims to shine a light on those amazing teams wherever they are, bringing cross-geography liquidity to a market that leans way too heavily on a few schools and cities to meet demand.
GroupTalent is a new idea. Like many new ideas, some of it is dead-on, some isn't quite right, and lots is still missing. What the GroupTalent team needs now is feedback - lots of feedback. If you're a member of a high-performing engineering team, create a team profile and let them know how it feels. And if you run a company that's on the hunt for killer devs (and what company isn't), build a profile for your company and see what kinds of teams are out there looking to make a connection.

We're putting our money where our mouth is on this one: Founders Co-op is a proud supporter of  GroupTalent. Congrats to Gordon and Wes on shipping and excited to see where the community takes us.