As part of a series about the advantages New York has over Silicon Valley and why it may become dominant, let’s take a look at how they handle talent.
There has been a lot of writing about the talent shortage in the Valley now that large companies like Google and Facebook have gone into a talent arm race, prompting some to think that this could be the beginning of a new bubble.
New Yorkers used to talent wars
Bubble or not, the New York tech scene has been used to technical talent being poached. Because there are other dominant forces in the city, New York startups have often fought the talent wars at a monetary disadvantage. Wall Street can attract some of the most talented mathematical minds with interesting problems and extremely high salaries. The media and advertising world has been appealing to creative types and people who enjoy being close to the spotlight.
The New York tech scene was born of those people who felt that there was more to life than working for a large company, making gobs of money, or hanging out with famous people. People in the New York tech scene tend to be people that view the tech field as attractive for its own sake, a place where one can build an interesting business. So talent wars have always been part of the make-up, just another business problem to solve.
By comparison, the valley had it easy as it was seen as the place to go if you are a techie, always replinishing its engine with fresh new talent and the supply always was roughly equivalent to the demand for new talent, leaving the system mostly properly balanced.
Now that larger actors like Google and Facebook have gone into hyper-hiring, demand in the valley has been exceeding supply, reaching a level that is probably no different than the one people in the tech field in New York are used to. But for people in the valley, this is a new dynamic to adapt to; for people in the city, it’s business as usual.
There is also a virtuous circle to the rise of New York turning it into an ever more attractive place for members of the tech field. As Fred Wilson recently pointed out:
If you are a 22 year old man or woman just starting out in life, would you rather live in suburbia and work on a campus or would you rather live in Williamsburg and work in Flatiron?
So the more successful the city becomes as a tech center, the more attractive it becomes to people who want to help it become more successful as a tech center. The quality of life element is going to be an important challenge the valley will have to change if they want to survive the New York onslaught.
New York, however, will have to continue, as Fred points out, its effort to foster local talent straight in college. While it is OK to import talent from the schools along the rest of the northern corridor, other cities could try to stop that migration. It is up to New York’s academic circles to start developing the next version of Stanford locally if they want the current growth to be sustainable.
Takeaway: Everyone poaches techies – the New York tech scene was born of those people that can’t be poached and found ways to attract like-minds.
Update: This post is part of a series of why New York may gain the top position in the tech world, displacing Silicon Valley. The whole series is now online: Intro, Culture Part 1, Culture Part 2, Talent, Adversity, Business