Death by CTO

A few days ago, I pointed to an article written by Dan Luu. Ostensibly about recruiting developers, the article looks at some of the nastiest biases that come into play when we recruit software developers. It looks at the habit of only hiring the trendiest, only recruiting from the same six schools and ultimately driving up prices for junior developers who match a certain pedigree while rejecting vast swathes of highly competent and productive developers.

I am a Saskatchewan based startup founder and have felt the problems recruiting and retaining good developers. Startup developers are a rare breed. They have to be a little bit obsessive, prone to march down deep rabbit holes in the pursuit of worthy gains, and completely committed to the cult of early stage. They also have to be comfortable with bleeding edge stacks. You can’t just take someone out of a provincial government software development gig and expect them to be happy or productive in a tech startup.

Going fully remote is an attractive possibility, but it ignores some of the economics of startup developers. If you are a startup developer, unless you are extremely entrepreneurial, you have the most career opportunities if you live in one of about eight cities. These cities have major startup communities with highly advanced angel investor communities and entire ecosystems built to make startups succeed. Because of how sophisticated investors are and how much of an advantage the ecosystems are, smart developers tend to move to these cities because if they don’t like their job, they can walk down the street and get three more offers. This opportunity comes at a certain cost – cost of living tends to be higher. As cost of living increases, wages have to rise. Simply, if we raise money at Saskatchewan valuations and pay developers San Francisco rates, our companies will die.

So, what is a founder to do?

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Excellent article on recruiting programmers

When I relaunched, I vowed to avoid these weak, paragraph of text plus a link articles, but I can’t resist posting this. Dan Luu has written an absolutely amazing article about elitism in programming and all the amazing developers who get rejected because of elitist attitudes.

I feel like this article should be required reading for Saskatchewan based startup founders. If we keep our companies headquartered in Saskatchewan, we will not have effective access to the Bay Area’s talent pool. It isn’t that Saskatchewan startups are bad, just that there’s a crippling financial disconnect involved in paying Bay Area salaries at Saskatchewan valuations.

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