Tech companies desperate for "rockstarninja engineers"

With launch costs low and valuations soaring, startups and tech giants are locked in a talent war.Interactees let those trying to hire in-demand techies advertise their job openings -- everywhere they go. By Laurie Segall, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- With launch costs low and valuations soaring, startups are multiplying like rabbits in tech hot zones like New York and Silicon Valley.

That has sparked a talent war over the industry's scarcest resource: skilled engineers and developers.

"There are a lot of ideas, but to actually do it you need someone to build it," says Daniel Gruneberg, who co-founded Zozi in San Francisco last year. The daily-deal site sells discounted activities like bicycling tours and wine-tasting trips. As an added lure for employees, Zozi offers some of its deals up for free to its staff -- and to the people who refer them.

"There is definitely a strain on engineering and developer hiring, especially mobile developers," says Gowalla founder Josh Williams, who relies on mobile coding gurus to enhance his company's location-based check-in application.

"The boom in app development has left a big need here all around," he says. "Those positions still take us the longest to fill."

Everyone is in the hunt. On any given day, Twitter is filled with tweets advertising open spots for "rockstar" developers. IPhone app developer Bump went one better, soliciting by tweet for "rockstarninja" engineers and designers.

Entrepreneur Francisco Hui even launched a business venture to cater to the constant recruiters: His Interactees shirts let those who are hiring literally wear their job ad. Need a UI designer? There's a t-shirt for that.

The battlefield

The startups are competing for talent not just with each other, but also against established companies with much deeper pockets. A study by consulting firm BDO found that 46% of top U.S. technology companies plan to increase their employee headcount in 2011.

Google (GOOG, Fortune 500), which recently gave its workers an across-the-board 10% pay raise, often starts new computer-science college grads off at salaries that top $100,000 -- and it's willing to pay more if there's a competing offer from rivals like Facebook or Twitter. It's also on a hiring tear, looking to add at least 6,000 workers to its ranks this year.

At SEOmoz, a Seattle startup that sells SEO tools, engineers are so prized that the company offers a $12,000 reward for referrals that lead to a hire.

"Things have gotten harder," says CEO Rand Fishkin. "Prices are going up, competition is heating up and there's a much lower supply of engineers on the market."

With the job market so fierce, companies often find themselves covetously eying their neighbors' engineers. Poaching is a time-honored tech industry practice -- one that some businesses go to extremes to fend off. A full 15% of Facebook's staff previously worked at Google.

"Good talent is always employed," says Shannon Callahan, who recruits for companies backed by venture capital firm Andreessen-Horowitz.

That can lead to some sticky situations. "As CEO, one generally doesn't have many true friends in business and raiding your friend's company is a sure way to lose one," Andreessen-Horowitz partner Ben Horowitz wrote last month in a blog post on the ethics of poaching.

As one New York entrepreneur recently put it, right after wrapping up a $1 million funding round: "Hide your designers, hide your developers, because we're recruiting everybody out there." To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,279.74 13.75 0.08%
Nasdaq 4,579.79 -13.64 -0.30%
S&P 500 2,010.40 -0.96 -0.05%
Treasuries 2.59 -0.04 -1.60%
Data as of 4:20am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Yahoo! Inc 40.93 -1.16 -2.74%
Microsoft Corp 47.52 0.84 1.80%
Bank of America Corp... 16.95 -0.09 -0.53%
Oracle Corp 39.80 -1.75 -4.21%
Facebook Inc 77.91 0.91 1.18%
Data as of Sep 19

Sections

Law enforcement officials say Frank Tamayo was the middleman in a $5.6 million insider trading scheme that involved him eating pieces of paper to cover up the crime. More

Scotland's clear rejection of independence has eased fears that it could suffer the kind of decline seen in Quebec after it failed to break away from Canada. More

It's really good to be Larry Ellison. The Oracle founder is stepping down as CEO, so maybe he'll have more time to enjoy his glamorous life. More

As Occupy Wall Street goes on its debt-abolishing tear, thousands of people across the country are begging them to forgive their loans. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.