Good news for computer engineers: There are jobs in New York.
Bad news for tech startups in New York: There aren’t enough engineers.
While Cornell Tech is looking to solve that problem, startups in the city are faced with the challenge of recruiting an engineering team.
In a panel hosted at Cornell Tech in March, leaders from four New York City startups talked about some of the challenges they’ve faced recruiting engineers and how they’ve overcome them.
Finding Big Fish in a Small Pond
Most people would never think to call New York City a “small pond.” But when talking tech startups, the city’s industry is just beginning.
Compared to Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, with over 45,000 startups listed on AngelList, New York’s startup environment is still in the early stages — about 12,500 companies listed.
For Peter Brodsky, CEO of HyperScience, a startup creating artificial intelligence for enterprise clients, the relatively small ecosystem in New York has made finding engineering talent easier.
“Depending on what you’re doing, there’s a little bit of a big fish/small pond advantage [because] it’s not as hard to build something really interesting and get noticed,” Brodsky said.
Being a deeply technical company in the city — 24 employees, all engineers — Brodsky said HyperScience has built a reputation with engineers in New York, which has helped them recruit top talent, something that might have been more difficult in California.
Building the Right Tech at the Right Time
Not all startups have a focus as technically challenging as artificial intelligence, yet they all need to recruit top engineering talent.
Simply put, there are fewer engineers in New York than Silicon Valley. The Valley has garnered a reputation for being “the place to be” for engineers.
With a smaller talent pool, startups in New York may need to be more strategic when building an engineering team.
Marcela Sapone, co-founder and CEO of Alfred, a weekly subscription service saving subscribers time by doing chores like laundry and grocery shopping, said Alfred fills their engineering needs with careful planning.
“You need to build the right tech at the right time for the right reasons,” Sapone said, making the most effective use of the engineers you do have. She also noted the importance of recruiting a well known engineer that will in turn attract more talent.
Recruit and Retain Talent With a Positive Work Culture
With or without a landmark recruit, one of the most useful weapons in a startup’s arsenal is their culture.
A positive company culture will help build a reputation to bring talent in and then keep them there.
Mike Jaconi, co-founder and CEO of Button, a platform that connects all a user’s apps, learned this lesson the hard way in a previous venture. As the company grew and was acquired, the culture changed and they lost their “star power.”
“From day 1, what I wanted to make abundantly clear to every person that came in the door is that we were going to invest in them as employees and as people,” Jaconi said. “By doing that I think we’ve enabled ourselves to have a better recruiting pipeline than I’ve ever seen at a company of our size.”
Bring Talent To You Through Branding
In addition to building a culture, brand awareness is powerful asset to recruiting talent, engineering or other. Word of mouth really is the best recruiter out there.
Steve Martocci, co-founder of BLADE—basically Uber for helicopters—said general brand awareness has been huge in building their team.
“We get more applicants to Blade than you can imagine because it’s a “thing” in New York.”