Starting up during this bubble

Over the past few months I’ve often been heard saying what a wonderful time we’re in to start a company.  The convergence of mobile, cloud services and social media has created a boom of opportunities ripe for the picking.

But after being here in the Bay area for just over a month, I’m starting to think this is actually a pretty terrible time to start a company.  Mostly cause I’m convinced we’re in a bubble …

1.  Tech talent is incredibly hard to find right now.

It’s well documented how hard it is to find technologists right now.  Google, Facebook, Apple, Zynga, and others are resorting to pretty extreme measures recruiting talent.  It’s hard to compete with those guys when you’re a startup.  New York times had a good article about the competition for talent.  I’ve gone to about a dozen networking events, and talked to enough startups to see this first hand.  EVERYONE is pulling out all the stops to try to find technical help.  EVERYONE!

2.  Tech talent is incredibly expensive right now

I’ve spoken to several developers and recruiters over the last month.  iPhone developer contractors are making $200 / hour, sometimes $250.  That’s ridiculous.  Permanent full time developers are making upwards of $180/year.  That’s insane.  As a startup, you’ve gotta promise a lot of upside to overcome those numbers.  Chatting with Otavio Good last weekend at Super Happy dev house about recruitment challenges really highlighted this for me.  His company Wordlense is a super hot startup right now, and IMO, the sky’s the limit with their potential.  Yet recruitment is posing it’s own challenges for them now (albeit they are looking for elite A++ level talent).

3.  Now’s a perfect time to SAVE!

You really can make a killing right now in the market.  Why not save up some cash, wait for the market to hit the tank (and developer salaries to plummet) … and THEN use your savings to fund your startup.  Use this time to hone your skills and build your network.

4.  It’s hard to be heard through the noise

Simply put, competition is steep right now.  It’s more difficult to be heard by your market.

The biggest challenge with starting up during a bubble like this is finding technical talent that isn’t going to break the bank.  The biggest challenge during a downtime is finding funding.  I’ll take my chances on the latter thanks ….

An inspiration for 4 days in the valley

4 days in the valleyEarlier this month I launched 4 days in the valley.  I’m stoked to be working on this program to help foster entrepreneurship at the University level in Canada.  I blogged about one of the inspirations on the 4daysinthevalley blog but I thought I’d share the inspiration here on my blog as well …

About 1 month after graduation from the University of Regina with a Computer Science degree, I attended my first interview.  2 kids about 22 years old wearing Bermuda shorts, flip flops, and ragged looking t-shirts welcomed me at the door (I was wearing dress pants, a shirt and tie).  They led me into their board room, where on the middle of the floor sat an old picnic table.  We chatted about the job, about how they still didn’t know exactly what product they were building, but that it was going after a general pain.  They were using php, but thinking about changing to Java.

I still remember thinking to myself “what am I doing talking with these bozos?”  I left the interview thinking about how I couldn’t wait to go talk to Sasktel, or SGI … companies that clearly had their sh#$t together unlike these dudes in their $10 tee shirts.  In hindsight, I really wish I’d had someone tell me that taking that job would have been the best career decision I could have ever made.

Things worked out well for me.  I took a job at a company called Saflink in Edmonton, ended up by some strange twist of events starting a Attassa with 2 awesome friends, was able to get that company acquired, and had the time of my life doing it and can’t wait to do it again.  But it was mostly luck that I was exposed to the startup world.  That experience really inspired me to make more students in Canada aware of the possibility of starting a technology company.  The valley is a fantastic place … but there’s nothing in the  water here that makes people smarter.  There’s no reason you can’t make something big in Edmonton, Regina, Toronto, or Gull Lake Saskatchewan!  72 valley hours is a great way to start spreading that message.