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Tech workers think Silicon Valley and startups are losing their luster (qz.com)
243 points by prostoalex on July 9, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 323 comments

I spent seven years in the Bay area, and found it quite a questionable deal. Not that it was a bad place per se, but it was expensive and the stuff I was doing just wasn't very special.

My sense is that if you are going to go to the Bay area, and put up with those high high costs for everything, you need to make it pay. Spend your weekends doing unusual stuff that you can't do elsewhere. Take jobs that don't exist elsewhere. And if that doesn't sound like your thing, don't go there in the first place.

Good advice IMO. I personally love camping within a few hours drive on the weekends, kiteboarding (SF Bay and the Delta have world-class kiteboarding conditions), sailing, mountain biking, hiking, and some rock climbing. The weather is my idea of perfect with sun almost every day and no snow ever (I grew up with snow about 6 months of the year, and I'd personally find it hard to ever go back to that).

Lake Tahoe is also great for skiing compared to where I grew up, which had almost no hills and no ocean.

SF is great for clubbing and bars etc. I love that the people here are generally very chill and loving. The outdoor music festivals in CA are also fantastic if you're into that sort of thing.

For me at least, the rent is kind of just the cost of having an enjoyable life in the US. San Jose is crazy expensive for a suburb, but it's worth it for me because of all there is to do out here. The Valley is where tech happens, and as long as I'm in it as a career and as an interest, I'm happy to be at the epicenter. That it's in California, the place I grew up dreaming about, is the icing on the cake for me.

To provide a counterpoint, as someone who lived in Silicon Valley forever and still owns a place there, one of the reasons I moved away is that it is too far from good outdoor activities. Good mountains are 3-4 hours away, and while I made that trek on hundreds of weekends, it was far from optimal; I also hiked the hills around the Bay Area frequently but that isn't even close to the same. Similarly, the ocean around the Bay Area is okay but not great; no one would ever confuse it with Southern California, it has more in common with the Oregon coast.

By contrast, where I currently live (Seattle) is 45 minutes from the Cascades which has fantastic hiking, backpacking, etc (better than the Sierra Nevada in some ways) and a much more pervasive boating culture than exists in the Bay Area thanks to the history and geography of the region. Living here has made a high-quality outdoor lifestyle much more viable than it ever was in the Bay Area because the logistics are so much easier.

The tech scene in the Bay Area is unparalleled, but if you removed that aspect, there isn't that much to recommend a suburb like San Jose from a lifestyle standpoint. The South Bay in particular also doesn't have the mild weather of the peninsula and San Francisco -- it is more Fresno than San Diego.

The cloud cover in Seattle from November to March and the unpredictable sunny days make it a torture if you are not heads down in your work (indoor). The rest of the year and great surroundings make it up a bit.

I agree Seattle has a lot going for it, but the weather is simply unbearable for me. Yes, the outdoor activities are fantastic, but it's kind of pointless when it's cold and wet nine months out of the year.

When I was a student at UW, there was a really nice hiking trail that started literally outside my house. I must have utilized it three, maybe four times over the six years I was there. It's like you wake up in the morning, look out the window and see its overcast (again) and lose all motivation to go outside.

I grew up in the Santa Cruz mountains, just outside Los Gatos and think castle rock state park for example is amazing. One the best hikes is from castle rock through big basin down to the beach. Takes about 3 days to get there and so long as you have someone to pick you up at the beach it's pretty easy going.

[edit] from Los Gatos, Castle rock is 10 minute drive if your used to black rock road otherwise 20 minutes up highway 9

Henry Coe state park is 1 hour from SF on a good traffic day. It's 20+K acres with fantastic hiking. Mount Diablo is almost 4K feet, 1 hour from SF, and almost 4K feet. If you want bigger mountains, sure, other places are somewhat closer. Most people in the Bay Area aren't even aware of Henry Coe State Park.

You're right about Henry Coe, hands down the best backpacking in the Bay Area. Their backcountry is broken down into zones, inside those you can camp wherever you please.

Where does the peninsula end and the south bay begin? This has always been a bit blurry to me.

It's generally considered to be where San Mateo county ends and Santa Clara county begins, in other words, between Palo Alto and Mountain View.

Palo Alto is in Santa Clara County.

Any line is somewhat arbitrary, of course, but I would put it between Mountain View and Sunnyvale.

I think most people would encounter those terms while browsing http://sfbay.craigslist.org/search/pen/apa and http://sfbay.craigslist.org/search/sby/apa and the border seems to be the 85 freeway.

Not being snarky (and to each it's own) but what exactly do you like about the San Jose area? I personally never understood the appeal of San Jose to certain people, especially considering the insane housing prices. I used to live in Santa Clara for a year and that whole area was the most boring suburb I ever lived or been to. Everyone just zombies around in their cars between condo/house, dime in dozen office parks and whatever Safeway/Whole Foods. Maybe I missed something but living on the peninsula or even East bay has way more charm and things to do (at least to me?).

The appeal of the south bay is cheaper housing than the peninsula and the city, but also far less crime than the east bay (and less traffic, but not anymore). Also, most of the established tech companies are here: Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Intel, AMD, Nvidia, Netflix, Cisco, etc. The tech scene is not just about startups. These established companies employ a lot of engineers, and they aren't going anywhere.

At some point in many engineers' careers, the startup scene becomes a bit less appealing. This isn't just because of work-life balance or ageism -- it's because most startups only need a few senior-level employees. The majority of startup employees are young because startups need people to do entry-level work, and young people are willing to. If you want to do truly interesting, challenging, senior-level programming work, you are far more likely to find it at a large company than at a startup.

That's not to say that there isn't plenty of boring work at large companies, because there is a ton of it, but rather that large companies have more open positions for senior-level engineers doing interesting work than startups do. Their benefits are also quite good, which matters more when you have a family. Most of these large companies are in the south bay, and if you are going to work at one of those companies, you might as well live nearby and save yourself the aggravation of a long commute, whether it be by car, train, or Google bus.

I know plenty of people who live in SF, and frankly some of them end up going out in San Francisco less often than I do. Most of their weeknights consist of going home, eating dinner, and watching TV or reading a book, just like most people. The big difference is that they pay over $3k for their apartments, and I pay half that. If you're going to have a conventional, boring home life 5 days a week, you might as well save some money. I can go to San Francisco whenever I feel like it.

Agree on your points about proximity to jobs. But there's plenty tech jobs in SF (and even east bay: Oracle, GE) and I noticed more companies rent coworking spaces in SF to accommodate employees who don't like the suburban lifestyle.

It's hard to agree on pricing though, San Jose has one of the most expensive prices per sq. foot in the country. According to certain charts even higher than SF. Which I never understood, the density is much lower and there seems to be more space but from what I understand it's because most properties are big(ger) houses on large lots that take up a lot of space.

Apartment rent and house prices are a lot lower in San Jose than in SF. The average is probably skewed by certain areas. I pay less than $2000 for a decent one-bedroom with reserved parking and onsite laundry, in a low-crime area, a few blocks from a train station. Try finding that in SF.

San Jose has one of the most expensive prices per sq. foot in the country. According to certain charts even higher than SF.

I have to think the ranking would be a lot different if it was calculated on (or to account for) lot size.

It's access to the mountains. If you're In to hiking an mountain biking it makes sense.

Silicon Valley is 3.5 hours from the Sierra (in good weather, without traffic, but there's always traffic). If that's the standard for "access to the mountains", the entire eastern seaboard also has "access to the mountains".

I like the bay area; I lived there for 10 years, and I travel there regularly. But the myth that it has some unique access to the outdoors is absurd. At my house in town in New England, I can walk out my back door and ski in the winter, and the Appalachian Trail is about 5 miles away.

It's 10 minutes away from Rancho San Antonio, 30 from the parks along Skyline, and an hour from Pacific Ocean beaches. You can get to a half-day hike with 1000 feet of vertical elevation change with under an hour of total driving time. And the weather is good enough for this 11 months out of the year.

I used to live in New England. There were definitely parts I liked - I really miss the seasons, and I grew up 15 minutes away from the birthplace of the American Revolution, and there are some charming walks in the woods. But there are very few places that give you the combination of beaches, marsh flats, mountains, redwoods, urban attractions, and the weather to enjoy it all that the Bay Area has within an hour drive.

> But there are very few places that give you the combination of beaches, marsh flats, mountains, redwoods, urban attractions, and the weather to enjoy it all that the Bay Area has within an hour drive.

Exactly the same conditions? No, of course not. Functionally equivalent (better in some ways, worse in others)? Absolutely there are lots of other options. I don't have the ocean, but I have better mountains than the bay area, and wonderful rivers. That's a win in my book, but reasonable people may disagree.

I don't see anyone on this thread saying that the bay area is bad. As I said, I love the bay area, and I'll probably live there again. It just isn't a magical land that's better than anywhere else on earth.

If mountain access is your primary goal, there are absolutely better options. Salt Lake City comes to mind, where you're literally minutes away from world-class terrain in the Wasatch, or Boulder/Denver. Both cities offer lots of job opportunities compared to the more traditional mountain towns. Boston and Seattle are also options, though they come with their own long drives. And there are other, smaller cities to consider in the US as well.

But SF is unique in that you have a major, cosmopolitan city that's relatively close to a wide variety of terrain and environments, from beaches to forest to mountains, etc. SF is a compromise like any other option, but if you love the outdoors, it's one that gives you a hell of a lot of flexibility while still enjoying the benefits of a large city. It's not Jackson Hole, where the mountains are right there, but no one expects it to be.

This is very well put, but I don't think San Francisco is exclusive to this, especially in California. I'm sitting in Orange County right now and every thing I could want to do is at most an hour and a half away. Twenty minutes to the ocean, and hour and a half to Lake Arrowhead/Big Bear, an hour from Los Angeles and an hour from San Diego. An hour away is also the desert (amazing for camping.) Hell for anyone who's still into CES Vegas is four hours away, three if you go a little faster than you should.

Although I get one of the biggest appeals to SF besides the flexibility is the large tech industry, but you'd be surprised how many meetups, companies and stuff you can get to because of the close proximity to two major metropolitan cities, and Irvine (believe it or not) is huge in tech but just business in general here.

Boulder/Denver is pretty amazing, and there are a lot of job opportunities. It has its own set of downsides though. The influx of people is crazy and housing prices are really, really high. Not Bay Area high, but Seattle high. Public transportation is OK for a US city (I don't have experience elsewhere) but traffic is - IMHO pretty bad.

I'm not saying "don't come here" (like many Coloradoans do). Just do your research.

Wait, what? Why do people from Austin and Denver always say their home prices are comparable to Seattle? The average home for sale is Seattle is $666k. It hasn't even broken $350k in Denver. I'm looking at homes on Redfin within 1 mile of the University and there are dozens of ~2k sq ft, 3br 2+ bath homes listed under $500k.

List prices don't tell the whole story. I've got several friends who have purchased homes in the past year or two and if you aren't ready to sign on the day you look at the house with $20k - $50K over asking you won't get the house.

That $350k number probably includes Denver and the surrounding area - the "under $500k" (like $450-499) number is more appropriate for closer to downtown.

Edit: According to Zillow you are correct http://www.zillow.com/denver-co/home-values/ http://www.zillow.com/seattle-wa/home-values/

The Denver Post says $400, but that's still not Seattle prices. http://www.denverpost.com/2016/06/03/denver-median-home-sold...

As a native, I'll say it then. Don't come here; or rather, don't move here. ;-)

No, don't move to Colorado. You'd hate it ;)

There are no mountains comparable to the Sierras within 3.5 hours drive of anywhere on the Eastern seaboard.

The Coast Ranges -- to which eastern seaboard mountain ranges might be loosely comparable -- are a lot closer to SV than 3.5 hours.

Now, if you are concerned about skiing, the limiting factor for SV is access to snow, not access to mountains.

I was going to mention a few places on the east coast that have the Sierras not only beat, but the whole region beat. But I'm going to shut up b/c I don't want people going there. Pulling my Bolinas card.

Sounds like you are ignoring the Santa Cruz Mountains which are full of excellent hiking and Mountain biking.

I've hiked nearly the entirety of the Santa Cruz mountains, and much of the northern Diablo range as well. They're pleasant, but fall short of what I would consider "excellent hiking". If that makes me a hiking snob, so be it =).

And what do you think of Mt Tam?

I confess a certain fondness for the steep ravine -> dipsea loop.

The Santa Cruz mountains are less than half an hour away.

Where do you live? I want to move there :)

Lebanon, NH, but almost anywhere within 5 miles of the AT in northern New England fits the description.

If I found a remote job, I'd probably move to Asheville. Such a cute little town with great food and views, but no tech jobs whatsoever.

I moved to Asheville after I had a remote job secured for a while. The problem is that Asheville, like much of the country, lacks jobs in general and that what's there pays rather little for even North Carolina even though the cost of living is the highest in the state. This offsets a lot of the cost advantages of being on a tech worker salary. A devops job I saw here paid $45k, and you can easily get $90k even in RTP.

Now I'm moving again a year later after I bought a house (rental options are terrible in small towns) mostly because my spouse has basically zero job prospects here despite some great credentials which meant an effective 30% pay cut on top of what I took to be a remote worker instead of onsite in a large metro area.

Don't move to Asheville specifically unless everyone in the house already has a job lined up or is really good at cooking or being a server.

Seconded. Asheville is one of the prettiest, most eclectic places in the entire country, with a reasonable cost of living to boot. Unfortunately all the jobs are in banking and the service sector.

> no tech jobs whatsoever

That really surprises me, given the Contra Dance scene in Asheville.

Amazing beer scene.

The nightlife scene in SF is mediocre at best. SF is by far the dirtiest city I've been to in the US; parts of it are downright disgusting. SV (excluding SF) is a terrible place to be a single man. It's fine for outdoor activities, but no better than you'll find in many other cities. The main advantage in terms of the outdoors is the weather. It's admittedly great, but it's similarly great along the entire 500 mile coastal stretch from San Diego to San Francisco (except SF is colder, cloudier, and windier than the rest of that stretch).

I moved here for the tech scene. Beyond tech, it just doesn't compare favorably to many of the other places I've lived. I realize this puts me in the minority -- my San Franciscan friends never stop talking about how amazing SF is. I think this mantra helps them justify their rent check each month.

> For me at least, the rent is kind of just the cost of having an enjoyable life in the US.

That's really sad. Since you grew up in a place with "with snow about 6 months of the year" and with "almost no hills and no ocean," SV must seem pretty great by comparison. But the US is a very big place, with a lot of really great cities and towns. I hope you get a chance to discover how much more is out there.

He must be from Minnesota or some other midwestern state.

tbh fatbiking is fun as shit in the snow.

The night life in SF/Oakland is fantastic depending on what you are into.

Mediocre might have been too harsh, but it's not significantly better than other cities I've lived in.

My biggest issue with the nightlife? The people. I'm tired of being surrounded by loud, drunk techies talking about apps, tech companies, coworkers, Ivy League schools, and venture capital. Maybe I'm going to the wrong places, and this doesn't describe everyone in tech, obviously, but it's in high enough concentration to consistently be noticeable and unpleasant.

I guess to each their own.

I never found the clubbing in SF to come close to any of the places in Asia (Tokyo, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Taipei). Similarly for bars Japan, at least for me, have SF beat by a long shot. You have your choice of quiet bars. Bars with 5 people. Bars for every type of drink. Themed bars. In SF all I found was extremely loud and crowded bars. Maybe it was just the bars my friend chose in SF the 7 years I lived there.

SF has tons of crime. Walk down any street in SOMA or the Mission and you'll see piles of glass from all the cars that were busted into in the few nights before.

Down in the south bay you lose any of the "city" benefits as it's all just suburbia. If you like suburbia (kids/family) that's great but it wasn't for me.

I lived in the area for roughly 2.5 years and absolutely agree with you.

There are many 'no-go' areas at night in SF, try to find those in Singapore, Tokyo, etc.

In addition, you know in Asia that the likelyhood someone is pulling a gun on you is mighty low. (Not to trigger a gun discussion)

During that time I have been to several music festivals. In the main area they had chairs....chairs! This is a rock-concert what do you need chairs for? Hardly anyone was dancing. Compare that to festivals in Europe. It is not even close.

Napa and Tahoe are beautiful areas. But come with a price tag.

I totally agree with you on Southeast Asia beeing hip, but (as an upcoming graduate), it is very hard to find a job there without fluency (or some cases, with total lack of knowledge of the language).

Yeah, the clubbing in SF has nothing on other places.

Do people move to SF for . . . "clubbing"?

The rave scene in SF was pretty good for a while. Then the club scene hit, followed by dotcom implosion, and the good times never really recovered. There were some dope dnb/jungle scenes that went down in small clubs/bars, but the large club scene in SF is not great.

I would say that the SF rave / underground music scene continues to be one of the strongest in the country

As someone who recently moved and previously spent 5 years within the Northern Europe underground techno scene, what's a good in to these circles in the bay?

This is what has trapped me now. I'm not too keen on living here anymore, but don't want to miss out on ski + climbing + hiking.

Vancouver, Canada. I am about an hour from skiing, sailing, canoing, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, et al; throughout most of the year.

The trick is to work for a Valley firm, making Valley wages, and telecommuting; SAP is the only local shop that pays a decent wage.

We Vancouverites are spoiled. I just finished an 18 month stint in the Bay Area. One of the biggest inconveniences was the driving time (especially with traffic) to get to the mountains.

In Seattle now and it's a great compromise. Similar wages to the Bay Area but similar geography and outdoor access as Vancouver. And even with the exchange rate housing is cheaper than Vancouver.

I spent a summer in Seattle and did more hiking, kayaking, and biking than I did in the year prior. It's an amazing place to work if you like the outdoors.

I heard Vancouver is almost as expensive as SF - at least housing. Is that the case?

In SF, house prices and rent are pretty close. In Vancouver they are disconnected. Equivalent rent can be about half or lower of what the mortgage would cost. Even though the average house is about $4 million now.

The bigger problem is the relatively low wage.

And on top of that everything is more expensive in Canada.

Seattle is definitely the economic sweet spot, and I would live there if it wasn't for the weather and the companies I can work for.

Anecdotally: 640 sqr feet around Stadium station is about 2300 CDN/mo.

Is it tough to move to Canada as a US resident w/ a US job?

Consider Colorado. A strong tech scene and world class in those activities.

If skiing/climbing/hiking are what you want specifically, you can do a lot better than the bay area in the US. The bay area is good for these things, but there are plenty of places in north america that are closer to better opportunities for them (especially skiing!)

Yeah once you live in the Rockies you realize how overcrowded the California resorts are, and how bad the snow is relative to what you get at 10-14k feet.

Do you feel sick at 14k? I will go to Colorado to ski for the first time this year. Wanted to go last year but then we had a great season at Tahoe.

No, but I was living at 7k in Santa Fe at the time. Also that will be just the top of the lifts, pretty sure all the bases are below 12 or 13k.

There's nothing lift-serviced in the US above 13k feet. Colorado has a number of 14ers, but no lifts run that high; the highest is Breck, where the highest lift runs to just below 13k. That's high enough to make everything more tiring, but low enough that there's no serious effects for most people. Even in CO, most ski lifts top out between 11k and 12k.

> I love that the people here are generally very chill and loving.

Until you put them behind the wheel of a car! I find Californians to be super friendly and welcoming in general... but I've also seen a fair share of Prius road ragers freaking out at pedestrians and cyclists!

There are bad drivers everywhere. I don't know what it is about driving that makes people think their state's drivers are the worst.

> I don't know what it is about driving that makes people think their state's drivers are the worst.

Comparisons to other states they have lived in? Oregonians are way more mellow on the roads than Californians, bar none.

This is all based on highly subjective impressions of course, but in my experience the problem with SV drivers is the opposite of what you're insinuating. If there's a stereotypical SV driver, it's someone who is mellow to the point of endangering everyone else on the road- merging onto 65 MPH freeways at 30 MPH, putzing along in the fast lane going well below the speed limit, not using turn signals, rolling up to stoplights and stopping multiple car lengths behind the car in front of them, screwing around with their phones while driving, and just generally being very lackadaisical, careless, impolite, and unaware of what's going on around them. The drivers tend to be nonaggressive, unaware, and pokey to the point of being a source of actual danger to others.

I think back in the early 90's I read something which said "your house doesn't matter, because you won't be spending much time in it with all of the outdoor things you can do and the nice weather".

Now it's "your house doesn't matter, because you'll be spending nights and weekends in the office. But it's OK, we have free meals and beanbag chairs."

As Californians say - there is a sunshine tax baby (refering to higher cost of living there )

There's also a sunshine tax referring to the actual high taxes in California.

This is not correct. The weather in San Diego is a lot better than the Bay area but the cost of housing is a lot less. The tax is access to high-paying tech jobs.

As most users on HN are young males, I'm pretty surprised the dating scene almost never comes up.

If you do a short experiment wherein you sort of tinder-hop - take a tinder profile from one city to another via GPS spoofing - you'll find that san fran is probably the worst place to find young dating women (ages 20-35).

This is backed up by the dating age male to female ratio and my own anecdotal evidence. The bars in the bay area are pretty bleak.

Dating is a big part of my life as a young guy, and the main reason I choose not to live in the bay area.

I was out to dinner last night in the mission with my GF's dad who's visiting. He says to me, "Where are the women? What are all these men going to do when they want to find a partner? Surely this is a problem."

one of the reasons i tried sf for a year (couldn't take the commute though so moved back to peninsula). is your username relevant to your experience? SF was decent dating scene using tinder/okc, date every week. much better than peninsula for online daters.

I'll be honest in saying that dating doesnt work for me in the states anymore.

I'm american but I've been spoiled by europe. Both personality-wise and looks-wise, northern european countries have just been so much better for me.

As I work remotely, I travel back and fourth on a whim. I've stayed for months in various big american and canadian cities. Every stint has been pretty lonely :/

This is all dating via okcupid and later tinder when it became available. I didn't meet women through network so that isn't it.

Maybe the peninsula is worse, but it's all about what you compare it to. It's also true that dating taste is pretty personal, although I think people make too big of point about that. Most people agree on what is attractive but not to what degree.

Move to NYC, then?

Different Strokes. This was my primary reason to choose between New York city and the Bay Area some 6 years ago. The 250 miles radius around the bay area has lot to offer. That said, I do feel there's a deprecation at play. You can only make so many trips to Tahoe and Santa Cruz.

If Los Angeles had 1/3rd the tech scene that you've here in the Bay Area. I'd move there in a heartbeat. By tech scene I mean a good mix of big tech co., an unicorn or two, and buzzing startups.

A 250 mile circle around NYC has a lot of stuff. The Adirondocks, various flavors of Atlantic shore stuff, etc. Lack of things to do outside isn't a reason that holds water :)

To me, California is where you go if you hate winter and like outdoorsy stuff. The unique Californy things are unbelievable, but the reality is most people are living in generic developments and driving to generic office parks, and doing very little else. You can do that in Toledo.

I do not entirely disagree. I don't hate winter but icy sidewalks are scary:) I also agree with your assessment that "...most people are living in generic developments and driving to generic office parks..."

But that begets another questions - is it more about finding a passion that keeps you high spirited 24x7 anywhere or finding a place that is stimulating everytime?

Offtopic, but thank you for not saying "begs the question" incorrectly.

Snapchat is in LA, and you have a bunch of tech companies there.

A huge problem in my opinion, is employee equity and compensation. No doubt, VCs are risking their money. But when you look at the system taking a few steps back, you see tons of VCs have made insane mounts of money in the last decade. Enough to buy castles, sports teams, and their own private islands.

Then you look at the swaths of tech workers who were there at the early stage. I've seen multiple large exits in startups. Places I've worked at or have had close friends. People who were there at the seed stage with barely a MVP, who built products, pulled all-nighters, and worked 7 days a week. Upon acquisition, the VCs made 10s of millions, the founders made 10s of millions and the employees got new car money (for 2 years of intense work getting paid well below market).

EDIT: Another interesting point that is a bit too off-topic and lengthy for this comment is that most startups simply don't realize the value of (5+)x engineers. I've worked with people that are astronomically more efficient than entry or mid-level engineers who make 100-130K, yet they make around the same amount. Its very worth it to find these people and pay them 2-3x market and retain them. I'm not talking about algorithms wizards (although these people tend to be decent algorists too), I'm speaking of engineers who can work on all levels of the stack and ship code that is simple and works. They understand business needs and don't get caught up in self-gratifying projects. They use a mix of new and old tools, selecting them for reliability and efficiency.

The problem with the "10X" hypothesis is that I have NEVER met an engineer in my life who believes they are a mere "X" (let alone sub-X). And quite frankly, I find the overwhelming majority of self-professed 10X'ers to be delusional assholes.

How do you measure "X", anyway? During the whiteboard interview process? We all regularly discuss how subjective and broken that process is. Do you measure it after the hire, by tracking the number of story and task tickets closed? Now you just have people gaming the system, with a sprint board full of bullshit.

Everyone wants more money. No one wants to work for less than a certain baseline. Everyone's pissed when they find out what their peers make. So if you're an employee who thinks you're underpaid, then test the market. And you're an employer who routinely offers great candidates many multiples of the market rate, then please let me know where I can send my resume.

> How do you measure "X", anyway?

By hiring. Or, rather, not hiring.

At every single company I worked for we had huge trouble finding new people skilled enough to understand our product/codebase and extend it. A task that took a new hire two weeks to do sloppily would take any of our engineers about two hours to do properly. Recently we had one guy build nine prototypes of a test jig over the span of two months and none of them worked reliably. I ended up drafting my version one evening out of boredom (it wasn't even my responsibility) and not only it worked - it ended up being the favorite of our test team.

Needless to say, we had to lay off that engineer. He simply wasn't producing the value we paid for him.

I'm not saying there are 10x programmers. Maybe there's just 1x and 0.1x. Maybe it's 3.33x and 0.33x. But the discrepancy is there, and it's disheartening.

That's not a very compelling argument.

The Lake Wobegon effect is prevalent in almost any self-assessed skill. Nobody wants to admit that they're below average.

Of course, that doesn't change the fact that there is an underlying distribution. Just because everyone thinks they're an above average driver doesn't mean there aren't some people who actually are.

It's perhaps not about 10x, but rather avoiding 0.1x?

Also, wouldn't everyone start at 0X (beginner) and gradually accrue X's with time and practice? That's how most other skills work...

You measure "X" with data.

Like revenue generated, or cost saved, or lines of code saved, or time needed to deliver work, based on current or previous work.

Is this bullshit for you?

> Is this bullshit for you?

Honestly? Yes.

I have no idea how many dollars of "revenue generated" or "cost saved" are attributable to me as individual. Or anyone else.

Using lines of code as a performance metric? Get ready to see a multi-line Javadoc on every local variable, or get ready to see some insane Perl-style one-liners, depending on how you're using the LOC number.

"Time needed to deliver work"? Again, what is "work"? If your data consists of JIRA tickets, then get ready for a culture of writing JIRA tickets at a contrived (and inefficient) micro level of granularity.

There's no good way to objectively measure your "value" at your CURRENT company. And what do I do when interviewing you to come here for your next job... just take your word for your measurements at the previous gig?

Out of curiosity, are you a programmer? Because subjectively making stuff up, while under the honest delusion that you're guided by objective numbers, is the single most "MBA" trait there is.

That you have no idea how much revenue is attributable to you as an individual doesn't mean revenue in general can't be measured and attributed.

Hypothetical example. Your employer has 1 billion users. You create compression that cuts down storage costs by 4%. Run the math and you see how much you saved.

If you saved $0.01 per user, you saved $10m. If the average salary is 100K and you saved $10m, you performed at 100x.

I agree the potential for "X" performance is hard to spot or measure when one isn't in proximity to big problems.

Except no matter what, no engineer functions in a vacuum. In your compression hypothetical, how do you measure the contribution of the engineers who did the code reviews? Who maintain the build environment and test suite that let the "100X" engineer quickly and confidently develop? Who wrote the initial code such that it was possible to add this compression after the fact at all? Who spend their time fixing bugs so the "100X" engineer had bandwidth for this compression project at all? Without those people, the "100X" engineer would have taken longer and made more mistakes, or never even attempted it at all. So it seems unreasonable (and even potentially demoralizing to the rest of the eng team) to call that one engineer a "100X engineer".

Things are accomplished by teams, not individuals.

That's true, but what about the sales guy that takes 5% of a $10 million deal as commission? Or the exec team that gets a 10% cut of the increased profits this year?

There was always a huge amount of players at work helping the upper execs and sales teams, from the devs to HR.

I guess OP's post was and the article itself are noting that working your ass off and making a big contribution in SV as an engineer can sometimes be a bad deal, especially when the engineer in question really is talented.

Smaller hypothetical example. The Apple I wasn't designed and hand-built by a team.


I do not think it is crazy that that work could all be done by the same engineer, testing and building and debugging and all.

With a small experienced team and proper division of lager into vertical slices, that can be done.

You created a brand new compression algorithm that saved the proverbial 4% or applied an existing compression technology that proved to be more efficient for that specific use-case? In the former the employee is obviously 100x (and earned some juicy pied piper patents as a bonus), in the second case the company knew of an existing problem and needed someone, anyone, to take a look at it and optimize it.

I understand your frustration, because when people measure by silly things like LOC then you get a bad environment for developers. I looked on your website, and you have an impressive background and have worked on lots of super interesting projects!

Yes, all of those are easy to bullshit. Someone can put them on their resume and it's not that easy to check. Why do you think we do whiteboard interviews?

I'm not really sure.

In a modern environment, never have I been asked to solve a business problem with:

No internet access, No configured editor, With massive time pressure, In a room full of strangers, In my chicken scratch with a fat marker.

It's not that whiteboard interviews are bad. They're just severely outdated.

They stem from a previous time before it was cheap and easy to interview engineers on actual hardware.

We know that whiteboards are a bad metric. Dozens of scientific studies show that the most effective hiring practice is a general intelligence test coupled with a work sample test.

It's easy enough to create a coding problem as a work sample.

Why do we test a proxy for the work, rather than the work itself?

Because it's easier to gracefully reject people who are abrasive/awkward/black/gay/otherwise a bad 'culture fit?'

Except that will drive away most good engineers. Most good ones I know will refuse to do "take home" problems for interview purposes. I understand them. It is demeaning.

When I get offered one, I send back a quote to solve their problem, at my standard contracting rate.

I've only ever had one dev do that and I paid it (I ended up not hiring him but because of his code, I was impressed he asked about payment!). I have no problem valuing someones time and desire to be compensated for it.

Some companies do all day interviews or at least 3-4 hrs, what is really the difference between spending the day in an office or at least few hours versus at home with your tools and setup?

Are you less offended if I give you 2 hrs of problems to whiteboard while I watch?

There is no situation in which a company can not spend at least some time evaluating your skill set. For me the best would be to hire you based off your resume and see how it goes for 90 days. However, its often unfair to the employee - especially if they have a position currently.

Hiring is a skill for both parties. some people are good at the process naturally, other people put time into being good at it, the third group has no clue and has no interest in learning.

It is a far bigger waste of my time to fly across the country to scribble answers on a piece of plastic while someone stares over my shoulder.

I've yet to encounter any place that had a good way of measuring angry of those things and attributing them accurately to individual developers. On the easier measures, you might be able to reliably attribute them to particular dev teams, but that's pretty much the limit.

    > “There is more opportunity for tech professionals in more places than ever before,”
    >  wrote Terence Chiu, vice president of Indeed Prime by email, citing cities such as
    > Austin, Boston, Seattle, and New York City.
Or simply from home. I've been working from home the last year, doing coding for a startup idea (for others, not my own project).

Seriously, in the age of the Internet, and of looong traffic jams on 101 and on the various Bay bridges, if an employer insists every programmer has to hang around in that area something is off in their thinking. As someone who did hang around there (during the dot com boom), at several companies and visiting many more as part of the job, it is overrated, especially for programmers. Sure it's better to be around the coworkers everything else being equal - but everything else is not equal. The costs of doing so (not just monetary) is very high.

It's a beautiful area alright, I lived in the Presidio at the end (that's the huge park right next to the Golden Gate bridge), perfect. But not all people can live in the same place... (PS: By the way, the East Bay has great places too! The Oakland hills near the top, for tens of miles, have some of the most beautifully located properties in the entire Bay Area. Plus endless parks and trails and horse riding, etc., not to mention the incredible views. And in Oakland visit Jack London Square and then walk downtown.)

There's a common attitude that goes something like, "It's the Internet age! What in the world could be stopping X from employing Y who lives in a place Z?!"

Well, I worked at a place where most of the team was remote. It absolutely sucked. I barely knew what the coworkers were doing (sure, my boss had a better idea than I did, but I am certain even he would have preferred to have employees physically around him for routine interaction), what kind of people they were, and the reverse was true with respect to their knowledge of myself. The time zone difference only exacerbated the problem. This "lack of people knowledge" problem at remote workplaces causes everyone to under-invest in building long-term relationships with everyone else (because nobody really knows what everyone else is really like), and the culture nosedives. [1]

Now, clearly, remote employment can be necessary (consulting offers a typical pattern), but the common attitude that there's no reason at all for not just having everyone work remotely is incredibly annoying.

[1] Speaking of culture, remote workplaces offer a clear explanation via counterpoint of the vaunted but often misunderstood term "company culture"---culture is what you don't have when everyone is working remotely.

My experience is that you can easily just as well not know what your coworkers are doing when they sit right next to you. I don't think it has much of anything to do with if they are onsite or not, but with other factors in your organization.

For example, I found it very valuable to already have a great relationship with everyone else. We kept the conferencing software going all day, the boss in it too, and it never felt like being watched, instead it felt like being connected to people I like. Whenever we had an issue we talked, voice or chat depending on the issue, just like in the office.

When you try the same in an environment where you already don't care much for one another - I'm not even talking about negative feelings! - the the same setup will only make it worse and lead to even less cooperation. When I'm not sure of someone then of course I use remote work as an excuse to interact with them even less.

But that's not a question of working remote or not - only that "remote" enhances dysfunction that's already there. Yes, when it doesn't work it works better on-site, which is not an argument against remote, but to fix the atmosphere and the relationships.

> My experience is that you can easily just as well not know what your coworkers are doing when they sit right next to you

That's typical of situations when you aren't really collaborating with those people, and that's fine. In my case, I ought to have been collaborating, but the remoteness plus time difference (plus language difference!) exacerbated the communication problem.

IRL communication is incredibly high-bandwidth. If a person sits next to you and doesn't communicate with you much, you already know something about that person: that he or she does not enjoy chatting. When the absence of communication is due to remote location, you don't even know that.

The communication problem at remote workplaces causes everyone to underinvest in building long-term relationships with everyone else (because nobody really knows what everyone else is really like), and the culture nosedives.

> That's typical of situations when you aren't really collaborating with those people

You disregard the rest that I wrote, probably because of an unfortunate habit of mine to edit my initial two sentences again and again until I end up with 20 more sentences half an hour later... my commenting habits are more appropriate for chat.

In any case, my point is collaboration is not a question of distance. A lot of highly successful projects by distributed teams not least in the open source scene show that too. Even in my current pre-startup project I'm working with another programmer whom I only met once long after we had already done a lot of work together, very successfully and requiring a lot of cooperation. It is a people/personality issue though, thinking of all the programmers I can think of it's true the same thing would definitely not work with all of them. It's good you bring that issue up.

>>My experience is that you can easily just as well not know what your coworkers are doing when they sit right next to you.

Not in my experience. I mean, if you never, ever talk to them despite sitting next to them, sure. But most people aren't that anti-social.

Even if you don't make an effort to talk to people around you, general office chatter (e.g. water cooler talk, conversations in the lunch room, etc.) should be sufficient for you to keep a finger on the pulse of everything, so to speak.

That's a management and culture problem, not a remote problem. You need good management who understands remote in order for it to work.

Umm, at a small startup you're lucky to even have a manager.

You have a founder (or several) or you are the founder, so sure you have or you are a manager. They may not be managing - that's a different problem.

Small as in value->0 as t->years++? Sounds correct!

That seems to be the core problem - strong remote teams need strong written communications and some overhead as far as project manager, product manager, or both. Some companies can afford that pverhead, others don't.

I've worked remote for a year and my experience is the exact opposite. I generally know my coworkers well enough that I feel comfortable when I've actually been around them. We use Slack, we have daily "standups" for scrum, etc.. Almost everyone has some clue what other people are working on. Everyone works in NA, so there aren't serious timezone issues.

My experience has so far been that I never want to step foot into a real office again if I can avoid it.

Which is why everyone needs to spend time in communicating. IRL communication is accidental rather than deliberate. Distributed teams need deliberate communication.

> ... if an employer insists every programmer has to hang around in that area something is off in their thinking.

Yeah, I think that one of the only potential issues with working remotely is that timezones may cause issues, but as long as meetings are planned well ahead of time and there's some kind of overlap with time so coworkers and bosses can communicate, working remotely makes more sense than working in an expensive place like the Bay Area. However, even with respect to timezones, companies such as Zapier have no issue with working remotely as far as Thailand (iirc) even though they're based in the Bay Area, so even that issue may be moot.

My experience as a full time remote worker since 2011 is that it can be tough in those ways, but at least for me, office work has its own challenges that nobody seems to give much credence. If you compare them without defaulting to office work, it's pretty balanced.

I find it more difficult to get work done in an office environment, so whatever downsides there are re: meetings, (and I'm not certain that most meetings deliver a lot of value) there are upsides in terms of personal productivity that outweigh them.

Typically a good remote team should have "core hours". Usually 4 - 6 set hours each day where team members are expected to be online. Some team members end their day with the core hours, while some begin their day with it.

It makes _most_ locations doable, but I've had some far flung teammates with odd sleeping schedules to account for it.

It's weird that people don't consider the East Bay when it's often faster to get to downtown SF from Berkeley or Oakland than it is from e.g. the Sunset. Great place to be and the weather is nicer.

I don't know what's meant by "tech workers" but as a programmer I can't really think of a better place with more jobs, more events, more everything that matters. All my former coworkers and friends live here. There are meetups all the time. I don't see how it's losing its luster. Yes it's expensive, but I BART in from a place with cheaper housing costs. I don't have to live in downtown SF to work there.

"everything that matters" is quite subjective. I live in the mountains, with endless outdoor activity within minutes of my place. I can drive to 8 national parks and monuments in half a day. I have a great place to raise my kids, and I am NOT surrounded by tech events and meetups... I am surrounded by people who like to spend our free time outside. All of those things matter to me.

So whether or not Silicon Valley is important to you has everything to do with what you value in life. As the article said, there is a big generation gap here. I'm an older coder who doesn't give a crap how many opportunities are around because I only need one at a time. And with remote work becoming ever more prevalent, I just don't foresee ever having a desire to move to SV.

I live where I can lead the life I want, not work the job I want.

That pretty much describes where I live in Berkeley. I'm within easy walking distance of some nice short hikes and reasonable driving distance of more intense hikes or rock climbing. It's not literally in the mountains but there are some pretty incredible hills, forests and, of course, ocean beaches.

I also don't see how being "NOT surrounded" by tech events could possibly be a good thing. If you're not interested, you don't have to go. It's not like tech is forced on everyone! But if you suddenly feel like going to an engaging talk—whether it's on a JS framework or on combinatorial game theory—you always have the option. You wouldn't have that choice otherwise.

> I also don't see how being "NOT surrounded" by tech events could possibly be a good thing. If you're not interested, you don't have to go.

The monoculture of "tech" is a grind after you visit other places. The Bay Area is a fine place if you get excited by networking events and like asking people at a bar about their deck, but I find it mind-numbing.

It was one of the primary reasons I left SF for NYC. There is still world-class tech employment to be found here, but it is surrounded by world-class industries of all other kinds, too.

My tech employee friends in NYC, who work for respected names and are great at what they do, don't spend weekends at hackathons or weeknights running from tech office to tech office for free food at meetups. Here, it is okay and even normal to finish a work day and go experience art, culture, history, etc... things which all do exist in SF and are often great quality there, for sure, but which in certain employment circles seem to be pretty much ignored.

To each their own.

NYC has some pretty brutal work life balance expectations in pretty much every industry I've talked to people from.

Outside of SV startups, many companies in the Bay have reasonable hours. There is definitely a workaholic expectation in NYC.

That's a common sentiment, but woefully exaggerated: it's not like the Bay Area is only tech. I mean, it's not New York, but neither is anywhere else in the country. The Bay Area has all the art and culture and music you'd expect of a cosmopolitan city, it has the same generic business/sales/finance/law professionals, it has two of the best universities in the country. It has everything you'd get elsewhere and tech.

It's a perfectly diverse metropolitan area with tech as an addition, not as a replacement. That's strictly more than many other cities I've spent time in from Ottawa to Charlotte. Calling it a monoculture is simply not accurate or, if it is, so many cities don't have even that.

Ehh, I don't think it's exaggerated at all - having lived both in SF and NYC.

There exists things that aren't tech in SF, but the scale of which is much lower than other major cities like NYC. More importantly though, even in non-tech scenes, tech is always there. It's the guy at the party that seems to find you no matter how much you move around the room. I found it suffocating - no matter where you go you can never fully disengage from the industry.

The measure of a tech monoculture isn't (IMO) the existence of other things, it's whether or not tech tags along with all of these other things.

Right, because that's the only thing to do in the Bay Area.

There are plenty of cultural events in SF not involving tech. Museums, art shows, live music, etc.

Yes, those things also exist in every other city and they [mostly] manage to do it without the hordes of brogrammers.

I agree with your general point, but it sounds like you have a very one dimensional understanding of what the bay area is.

> I can drive to 8 national parks and monuments in half a day. I have a great place to raise my kids, and I am NOT surrounded by tech events and meetups... I am surrounded by people who like to spend our free time outside.

Literally all of this is true of the bay area, pretty much as soon as you stop living in the densest urban part of it (and even then, for some people: my cousins are raising a kid in the city and they love it, including the ability to drive to tons and tons of different state and national parks).

Sure, and more power to you I think it's awesome that you are happy where you are, but that really doesn't have anything to do with an argument about Silicon Valley losing its luster. The bay area is a great place for someone who wants to work in technology, in fact I can't think of a better place. There are lots and lots of outdoors things to do, but if that's what you want it doesn't really have anything to do with tech and where people in tech work in my opinion.

You can drive to 8 national parks and monuments in half a day from SF.

I live in northern Italy, half a day trip include most of the peninsula and southern France.

Sure job opportunityes are few, especially of the interesting kind, and pay is awful, but overall it's very hard to beat.

I don't really get the point of people pretending it's for the entartainment, especially if whatever you do starts with a three hours drove to get out of the urban area.

That doesn't really sound a high quality lifestyle, but to each their own.

> to get out of the urban area.

To get out of the suburban sprawl..

1/2 day is 4-5 hours. Try and list 8 parks.

7, but redwood national park is just too far. All without traffic of course.

Kings Canyon Sequoia Yosemite Lassen Volcanic Pinnacles Muir Woods Point Reyes

Even ignoring traffic, you are counting the same park multiple times. Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Yosemite, Lassen Volcanic, Pinnacles is not bad but it's not 8.



But, Muir Woods is part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes are not separate parks.

Two more national monuments I did not know about. Not parks. Was fun to see what's near by.



Don't forget Henry Coe State Park.

Sounds awesome, where do you live?

Looking at this:


I'm thinking Seattle area is likely.

Nah, Central Utah -- there are also a couple national monuments nearby that are not shown on that map.

I lived in Utah for three years and also loved the national parks and outdoor activities, but the culture (i.e. heavy Mormon influence) was pretty unbearable.

Out of curiosity, what did you find unbearable about the culture?

I've lived in both places (SLC, the Four Corners, SF, Menlo Park) and spent many weeks at a time in Delta, UT, in addition to places in New Mexico.

I'd love to live in Torrey and I'd move back to SLC if I could get a job in an industry that doesn't suck, but all things considered I'd take the bay area over anywhere in Utah.

"I am surrounded by people who like to spend our free time outside."

Spending free time outside pretty much defines the bay area. We're here because it's always sunny and not too hot so we can spend our time outside.

I think they meant spending time in the outdoors, not spending time drinking an $8 IPA on a patio, or going to the rooftop deck of Facebook for a hackathon.

> everything that matters

I pay $1150 to lease a 1600 sqft house in Houston, and make more money than I'd make in the Bay, and control my stack instead of being a worker bee.

More than in the Bay is hard to believe for Texas considering software engineers can get >400k these days if you know where to look. I'm assuming it's an oil company?

No, it's not oil; it's related to shipping, and not tied to the region. (see my HN profile) I won't of course disclose my income, but I'm not picking extremes when I make that comparison. After all, I'm sure there's junior devs somewhere in Houston making $30k. I'm really just challenging the notion that success in software means accepting the reality of life in the Bay.

Engineers in the bay can make $1 million or higher, if you know where to look. You will likely never get that in Texas.

Both you and the parent comment are saying "if you know where to look". I'm sure those positions exist for specialized needs, where they'll pay anything. I'm not talking experts in middle-out compression here but rather up the middle developers. The kind who will interview for below market in exchange for equity, or at best, get market rates even though their living will cost 3x what it would cost in Houston.

You're unlikely to get it there either.

I will never draw a Bay Area salary. But I have a great house and a kid in a good private school for <50% of the cost to live in SFO.

> considering software engineers can get >400k these days if you know where to look

That is far above average.

please do share where to look or examples. I run my own company (flair.co) and have no interest in looking for another job as long as we are continuing to make money. But I find the idea of 400K+ as an engineer to be crazy. Is it for some particular/niche experience or academic background? Is it execution speed? I feel like I can whip up whatever software I need and fast barring super deep academic bits but can't imagine who would pay my 400K.

> I feel like I can whip up whatever software I need and fast barring super deep academic bits but can't imagine who would pay my 400K.

I don't know about the 400k specifically, but I hope you might want to change your attitude: you don't need to sell for what you believe is reasonable and can imagine; you want to be selling to people who have more money than sense.

because they dont want you to change companies.

You can make that at Google without becoming a manager, if you know something they really want (or are otherwise technically senior enough).

I find Houston to be ever more appealing as a number of my friend move over there and buy giant condos/houses for what would barely get you a box 2 hours south of San Jose.

Yeah, real estate is great. However, it doesn't have a culture that someone from San Jose would find appealing. Even though it's only a 3 hour drive, Houston isn't Austin. (though there's pockets, like Montrose) The heat is miserable in the summer, and the job market is somewhat narrow (more .NET and a fewer industries to pick from than you'll find elsewhere)

Interestingly, Houston has more (live) theater seats than anywhere else except NYC.. tons of awesome museums, and the most racially/ethnically diverse large metro area in the country (which makes it a great town for foodies)

I love Austin, but it's probably arguable that its "culture" (in the art/culture sense of the word) even approaches Houston's. "Houston is one of only five cities in the United States with permanent professional resident companies in all of the major performing arts disciplines: opera, ballet, symphony, and theater"


And Houston is cheaper than Austin, too... but I've found Austin's tech scene to be slightly up on Houston's (if only because Austin is more compact and so getting around to the nearest meetup is a bit easier... also, Austin has a much better VC scene, but Houston does have a surprisingly large tech scene, even given that Houston is probably going to become the country's third-largest city.) http://www.businessinsider.com/r-americas-city-rankings-set-...

But bdcraven is right... modern here tends to mean .NET or Java at most of the larger Fortune 100 companies based here (mostly oil and gas, medicine, and finance.)

You'll need a lot of air conditioning and maybe a swimming pool (or two) during the summer though.

I probably misused the term culture - I'm meaning more the culture of the people: red state with all the attitudes you'd associate, and many of the stereotypes that people associate with Texas aren't far off. A transplant who thinks those mindsets are wrong rather than different would probably experience alot of angst living in Houston.

I agree! although, as an import from CA myself, I actually found a healthy divergence in viewpoints rather refreshing.

Don't forget the insufferable mosquitoes. As if the heat and humidity isn't bad enough.

I went to all those tech meetups and events when I was in the Bay area. It wasn't that great for me. The topics covered tend to be basic (this is true for most presentations, they need to be able to appeal to a wider audience). Not only that, but the larger meetups live streamed them or they were uploaded to Youtube later.

The networking benefits are real, but is that worth the cost of living, commute, lack of options for housing?

This was a pleasant surprise about Sydney, Australia. The quality of tech talks is very good in my experience.

A lot of the jobs I see offer surprisingly low pay and I'm not even factoring in cost of living. I've seen salaries out in SV that I wouldn't even consider in Atlanta and I don't come close to spending near half of my paychecks on rent.

Pay depends on the stage a startup is in if you want to work at a startup. Very early stage startups can pay very little, but you don't work at a startup like that for money. Google, Facebook, and even companies like New Relic, Zen Payroll, thousands of other companies easily pay 6 figure salaries to engineers. Starting out pay for new engineers is close to 6 figures. I don't know maybe that's low for you, but it is enough for me.

> you don't work at a startup like that for money

Then why the hell do you? To make someone else rich? To help VCs get a few extra dollars? Slave away with 60 hours weeks for years only to see an exit that nets you less than what you could have made working for any of the big companies? So that you can experience wanting to move on after a few years but worrying about losing stock options? SO you can sit around wondering when the company is going to IPO and you can actually make some cash? (meanwhile the CEO cashed out years ago, and doesn't want to IPO ever)

Ideally you touch every part of the stack, learn some new stuff, play fast and loose with everything, cash out leaving your '10x developer' code for someone else to maintain, and tell people you have experience with a million trending technologies while omitting the superficiality of said experiences. It's all about the lifestyle.

I should have read the entire comment before upvoting. Just subtract -1 in your head when you see your upvote count.

Nah man, you work at startups because home delivery parrot rental service is gonna like disrupt the industry man. That's where all the cutting edge interesting problems to solve are.

Awesome sarcasm, made me laugh. Thanks!

Seriously though, I feel the tone and attitude you're satirizing are describing the startup culture pretty well.

Early stage startups don't have much VC funding if any. If there was VC funding then you can expect normal pay rates. As to why? I work at small startups because I love the challenge, I love working as part of a small team, I love being close to the customer and making a difference. I rather work there than phone it in at a big company for a bigger paycheck. My work is a big part of my life, I want to do things I care about.

The equity has never made up the loss of salary. As an employee your company has to become really, really big for it to be life changing and that's incredibly unlikely to happen for all but one or two startups every few years and there are many thousands of startups. As an employee working at a small startup can't be about the money, if it is then you are wasting your time.

You do it for the experience. 1 year of working in a startup will have you learning more than 2-3 at a larger company.

If you're good, you can advance much more rapidly through startups and then parlay that experience into either a lucrative BigCo job or consulting gigs.

Not just the two startups you mentioned, but starting salary for almost every funded startup is minimum 6 figures for new engineers these days.

From my limited experience with the tech scene here, Atlanta seems to have a ridiculously good compensation to cost of living ratio.

While there may be more jobs in the Bay Area, it's always a battle of compromises when you compare it to another place. For example, somewhere like Boston may have less jobs, but the rent/cost of living isn't as extremely high as it is in somewhere like San Francisco or a lot of places in the Bay Area, which means you can save more money for things like retirement, vacation, etc., and it has easy access to somewhere like NYC, meaning it may be a better fit for the people they interviewed. Friends can always be found where you go, and meet ups can be found in varying degrees, so the main appeal to staying in the Bay Area is mostly going to be job opportunities and networking, both of which are available in other cities like Boston, NYC, and Austin.

Most of the time it's usually worth living in a higher cost-of-living area for better pay. If you make $100k and spend $20k on rent and expenses, you have $80k left over. If you make $150k (50% more) but double your expenses, you have $110k left over. Your savings/retirement grow more rapidly.

Personally, I love the geography in the Bay, but the money argument works out too. Especially when it comes to things that are practically fixed cost relative to where you live, like flying (often cheaper from big cities) or travelling, or many consumer goods.

Except that for tech workers, the bay is still insane expensive and it does not pay better. I am a senior dev. My last job in St Louis paid 220k. That means you can buy a 4 bedroom house EVERY YEAR.

Expenses are far more than double in the bay. Pay is barely any higher in Top employers... Plenty of senior devs in the bay work for 160k plus options that they might or might not be worth anything, and that they will not be able to afford to buy if they leave, and might not see a liquidity event in 5 years. So they get paid LESS and the job is only worth it if they chain themselves to an employer. Netflix offers a better deal... But then welcome to Netflix's culture.

The money argument just does not work at the top end. My current employer is based in the bay, but a large percentage of the senior talent is remote, precisely because the bay is a really shitty deal for what most tech companies pay.

Just look at mortgages: the difference is not 2x, it's 5x. California taxes are huge. I did the math. For me, it's not even close, and that's assuming Netflix compensation.

> My last job in St Louis paid 220k.

You're definitely an outlier.

Every time I've done salary comparisons, SV vastly exceeds every other area especially at the upper end. For most other metros, you have only a handful of employers who are even willing to consider paying a developer >$180k. In SV, you can get competitive auctions going >$300k.

Your numbers are way off. Fresh grads (Bachelors degree) working at Google/Facebook are now making > $160k total compensation.

Forgive me, don't mean to offend you, but there is a reason a house in St Louis costs 200k. When they needed a dystopian city scape for "Escape From NY", they didn't even have to build it, they simply filmed in St Louis. It's just, objectively speaking, not as nice a place to live as Bay Area. Just to put it in perspective, in nice parts of Chicago area, which is much more like St Loius than it is like SF, a house can easily cost anywhere between 600k and several million.

This is how I always explain it to people. I pay 4x rent but make 5.5x as much as my previous living + working situation in a different state from 4 years ago. There is a LOT more left over.

"80k left over". Someone's forgetting about taxes

Another plus to Texas. No income tax. The property tax is considerably higher, but it's more than offset by home prices.

Which is dwarfed by home price appreciation in the Bay Area. I guess that is the elephant in the room

Post-tax income. Income tax varies from 0 in WA to considerably more in CA. It's large enough to be worth taking into account when ballparking.

You definitely don't have anywhere near that left over unless you somehow don't pay your taxes.

Feel free to consider the numbers to be post-tax if it helps you understand the point.

I know you were only using it as an example, but does Boston have a thriving startup community on par to SF/Austin/NYC?

In venture dollar terms, Boston is 3x bigger than Austin:


That list excludes biotech, and Boston is one of the top biotech hubs, so I suspect that would boost it even higher.

Interesting, didn't expect DC to be bigger than Austin as well.

Over the last year, I've seen Austin go from being mentioned as "second tier" startup city, to now being mentioned alongside SF and NYC. Has it really grown that much in such a short time? As someone just about to finish grad school, I may consider checking it out some more.

Depends on what you're looking for. I live in Austin and I love it. There are plenty of interesting companies to work for, and you'll live in a better home in a better neighborhood for your budget. Austinites are generally fantastic, welcoming people. It's probably a good place for you. Here are the exceptions:

1. Read https://breakoutlist.com/. If that argument matches your motivations, go to San Francisco.

2. Do you have a (relatively) niche interest, like VR/AR, machine learning, or blockchains? Go where those companies are: San Francisco and New York.

3. Do you want to experience a city where everything happens? Go to New York.

Otherwise, pick Austin. Maybe Seattle depending on weather preferences and distance from friends and family.

I'd chose Austin over Seattle any day, mainly because people really are just so nice in Austin.

It's hard to consider Austin as even a second tier startup city-- first tier would be SF/Silcon Valley and second would be NYC and Seattle.

I would be hard-pressed to come up with names of 3 successful startups from Austin, and I think most people would be too.

I'm not sure; I would guess it's on similar levels to somewhere like Austin or NYC since it's in the same grouping as it in the article, but I don't know first hand.

They just miss a proper city around there. There's no NYC or Hong Kong close by.

I think SF breaks down if younhave either children or you are coming from abroad and have no plans to settle in the states. I did the math more than once and it's not great. I can see the people by flying there too :)

Silicon Valley hasn't released a blockbuster app, website or company in a while. Particularly social media companies that upend the rest of the world and the way it functions. The directly consumer facing / social companies really move perception versus other companies that don't interact with the general public. There was also the iPhone 2007 which changed the way the entire world used their phones, and a lot of fallout change with it. I think the media attention seems to have lulled a bit since there haven't been what I'll call blockbuster techs in a while; e.g., some large consumer facing company that changes people's lifestyles. So maybe the glamour is missing. The amount of attention SV received a few years ago seemed to be bigger, with everyone eagerly awaiting new life changing tech that is as obvious as the iPhone, FB, Instagram, YouTube or other very consumer facing and widely used consumer companies.

Seems like Uber and Snapchat were the last game changing companies for how people interact with the world via tech on a large scale. IMO it's lack of media attention, excitement and companies that are very obvious lifestyle changers.

I wish we'd get back to science-tech instead of social-tech. Science requires a longer investment period (decades instead of a couple of years), but the paybacks are tremendous, particularly to society as a whole. I really like what Google is doing — essentially funding research that may not pan out, but that has the potential to be revolutionary if it succeeds (e.g. quantum computing).

This reminds me of a blog post (that I can't seem to find now) where he complains we've gotten so far away fro solving the hard problems that nobody is really doing it because it's too lucrative to make stupid apps that distract people. I have to agree with him and you. Facebook was a nice diversion but there are honest-to-God problems in this world that I think our industry could make a dent in. We need to get back to solving the hard problems.

Are you possibly thinking of this BusinessWeek article [1] about Jeff Hammerbacher and his famous quote: "The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads"

[1] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2011-04-14/this-tech-...

You might also find this other article interesting, posted to HN today: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12064083

Neither of those. But thanks anyway!

I seem to recall the blog post being by a guy who moved to Tupelo or some place like that. This was about 5-6 years ago.

> Silicon Valley hasn't released a blockbuster app, website or company in a while.

Uber? Was only founded 7 years ago, and took a few years before it really started to blow up.

I've found that there is a certain mindset that only considers the last 18-24 months as "recent" in the tech space. It's probably a similar mindset to that which makes you feel that only the latest and greatest frameworks are worth learning, for example.

Right, but 24 months isn't enough time for a brand new startup to become a 'blockbuster'. None of the current big tech cos like Google, Amazon, Facebook, were a 'blockbuster' within 24 months of being founded. If you want to see that kind of startup success, you HAVE to look more than a couple years back. Startups can grow very quickly, but not THAT quickly.

True. I think a better metric is the last 18-24 months of breakouts, rather than foundings.

Uber? Meh. All they've actually done is start to displace an incumbent rent-seeker by exploiting loopholes to charge a lower rent. It's great for the customer, but if that's you're idea of a revolutionary product...

Whether you personally like them is irrelevant. It's an extremely popular service, and the company has a very high valuation.

Snapchat hasn't changed anything. It's just a currently popular messaging app.

Snapchat obliterated Facebook's news feed with the younger generations under 25. Status updates are now Snapchat stories, and news feed items on Facebook are more like life milestones. So I think it changes the way younger demographics use social media. It definitely encourages a lot more trivial sharing of activities throughout the day with others.

All inside baseball. Nothing would happen if Snapchat disappeared overnight. People would send each other selfies by some other medium.

It's not that Snapchat is critical infrastructure. It's that they've captured the attention of a generation and are going to potentially build things in the future that could define how people interact with technology. I'm not saying that they will, it's too early to tell because they're just getting started. We'll see. But it's much too soon to dismiss it as just a chat app as well.

So they have a platform that's going to shape the next generations social interactions for the worse [1], and can only barely monetize (and if they can monetize profitably, its for an audience with the least amount of purchasing power in several generations)?

Pyrrhic victory.

[1] http://nypost.com/2016/07/04/im-a-millennial-and-my-generati...

Are you kidding? Advertisers trip over themselves for the chance to advertise to consumerism-drenched, trend-driven teenagers and soon-to-be twenty-somethings.

I'm not kidding at all. Advertisers spend money all the time that is literally no different than burning money in a dumpster fire.

I would say Tesla is on its way to make an iPhone-like impact, along with other self driving car technologies. I would consider the Tesla's Autopilot to be a blockbuster feature.

Tesla is important but will never sell anywhere near like an iPhone. Best case, in 10-20 years it's the self-driving fleet of choice and huge chunks of people ditch their cars for on-demand transportation. But even then in rural ares I'll wager there will still be many more people with iPhones than will be using Teslas.

Though I could be wrong.

> Tesla is important but will never sell anywhere near like an iPhone.

One of the best parts about victories that large is that the benefit decouples from the original product. You don't have to buy an iPhone anymore, you can buy that $4 android touchscreen phone that is dirt cheap but only exists because the iPhone blazed various technical and cultural trails that turned something new and magical into a boring commodity, to the benefit of mankind.

Just as the premium $500 iPad leads to the $50 amazon fire, so too does the $150k tesla lead to the equivalent $20k toyota in a few years. That's a huge deal.

And there is the supply chain argument.. A Drone is basically a flying smartphone. Every new hardware product uses the smartphone supply chain. Imagine the effects of electric car/battery supply chain, one obvious effect is that everything else is going to be electric from buses to boats. We can also see the effects of the battery tech on solar power. Once people can efficiently store the solar energy they produce themselves for days, and even sell it to their neighbors through blockchain.

"Tesla is important but will never sell anywhere near like an iPhone."

Well, you could say that about almost any other consumer product. The iPhone is a success orders of magnitude larger than the standard, IMO.

I've never used Snapchat and I hadn't used Uber until a month ago when I found myself working away from home and without a car. I haven't seen any truly revolutionary technology since smartphones became mainstream. Most of the social media applications unfortunately seem geared to the lowest common denominator, I don't see people like Mark Zuckerberg or Sergey Brin extensively making use of them. I have a very difficult time discussing meaningful topics when I am limited to 140 characters or can only share photos.

What's a recent blockbuster app that wasn't released by a Silicon Valley company?

Not to be pedantic but Snapchat is actually from LA and they're very proud of this fact. In the VC context, they did take money from (Silicon Valley) VCs, but their origins and workforce isn't from SV.

Being even more pedantic, SnapChat started in a class in Stanford. They moved to LA because that's where their early users were and where they started to go viral.

(Of course, being equally pedantic about other Silicon Valley companies - Facebook, Reddit, Dropbox, and YCombinator all "started" in Boston, and the critical events in both AirBnB & Twitter's history happened at SXSW in Austin.)

You're right about that, I forgot that they were LA based. Still, Olscore lumped them in with Silicon Valley companies so the question still stands.

One of the last consumer-facing, blockbuster level startups outside of SV (or California) that comes to mind was Groupon. But I don't consider them to be that great; kind of a fad that took off for a while and is now lingering. When I say blockbuster level startup I mean something that becomes a household name used by mostly consumers. Highly visible companies mostly. I lump LA/SV together because they're in the same state, and there seems to be a lot of inter-funding between the two areas. But I'm also from Chicago so maybe it's just me. Hah.

I'd argue that question, the way it's phrased, is very revealing the advance of tech and the things enabled by tech don't begin and end with smartphone apps. There's a pretty strong social/web/app mindset to the SV lens today and it causes a lot of people to undervalue and overlook what's happening elsewhere. For example, as other have mentioned, biotech/pharma is huge in places like Cambridge and is barely represented in SV.

I used the term "app" but I really meant company. But the important term in the question is "blockbuster". If people are undervaluing and overlooking what's happening elsewhere it's because those things aren't blockbusters. Biotech/pharma companies have been pretty disappointing in terms of blockbuster discoveries. Maybe CRISPR will change that.

London, Berlin, and Nordics are very strong for European startups. A lot of stuff starting to happen in Asia too (e.g. Taipei, Seoul, Bangkok)

Not recent, but these are some objectively popular examples:

- Angry Birds, 2009 (Espoo, Finland)

- Kik, 2010 (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada)

- Spotify (US launch), 2011 (Stockholm, Sweden)

- Candy Crush Saga, 2012 (Stockholm, Sweden)

I wouldn't call 2009 recent and Spotify has been around for 8 years now. It seems odd to draw a distinction for its American debut.

Clash of Clans?

Not recent but Jira Confluence etc.

Note that there may be a strong selection bias here, as not many "top engineers" in the Bay Area use Indeed.

Indeed, Indeed seems to attract the kind of engineers most likely to give the kinds of responses seen in their survey, like preferring large established brands over startups.

This is less likely (in my opinion) to indicate a shift in engineer preferences than it is to reveal the skew of Indeed's userbase.

Disclaimer: I work at Hired, a direct competitor to Indeed Prime, and live/work in SF. (Also note that although our customers often use competitors, they typically cite Indeed Prime as less effective for startup talent than much smaller competitors).

All that being said, I myself may prefer to move back to my native Seattle, or a select few other locations, after I have developed a career in the Bay Area.

The Bay Area is certainly losing its luster for "long-term living" given the current housing, transit, & public education situation.

"Top engineers" are probably not using job sites at all, but using their reputations in the tech community to find jobs. Also, I'd say AngelList is by far the best job site out there for the startup scene. Best thing Hired has going for it right now is the customer service on the recruiting side and the sign on bonus, but purely anecdotally, AngelList and HackerNews own monthly job board was far more effective during my own job search.

I'd agree with that (though I think Hired has a little more going for it as well, especially from the epmployer's perspective).

I might add StackOverflow Careers to the list of effective job boards, especially outside SV. It was the only place I could find decent senior talent when I was hiring in Bangalore.

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