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Perhaps the reason startups are struggling to hire in NYC is not because there are too few hackers but because there are too many startups. Most hackers simply do not have aspirations to work 80 hours a week to make some MBA jackass rich off of his website which promises to revolutionize the world for apartment brokers, attempt to make print media relevant online, or sell last year's handbags at a discount.

I worked at a profitable, medium size company with a startup-like hacker culture and it was still very difficult to hire talented programmers despite being able to offer interesting work that provided a net benefit to society, normal hours, free soda and career development. We'd have to go through many, many candidates who looked good on paper (lots of experience, top tier education) but were awful once you presented them with basic programming problems. It was actually pretty demoralizing to have to reject the volume of people that we did.

I do agree that there are a lot of silly startups these days, but it doesn't mean that there isn't also a shortage of quality hackers.

If "startup-like hacker culture" means "engineering-driven", I doubt you'd have trouble filling seats.

The thing that seems (in my experience) to drive engineering loyalty the most is making it known to the coders that their opinions are valued by the non-engineers, and that the engineers can drive actual product change (as long as they can prove their ideas legitimate.)

Hiring blindingly smart people and then telling them to stop thinking about the aspects of the business that don't involve writing code is short-sighted and demoralizing to the staff.

Wow free soda! I can't imagine why top talent wasn't beating a path to your door!

free soda is typically an indication of a place that has not yet become institutionalized. Most startups have this perk and at some point some manager comes in and kills it off for <insert reason of the week>. It is a sign that things are changing which often coincides with top talent moving off. A canary in a coal mine if you will that there might be good developers there.

I do agree with you that canceling soda programs means doom is assured and it's time to bail, as with a dead mine canary.

However, soda, coffee and toilet paper and soap in the bathroom are very small things. Listing them in an ad as one of the key benefits of working for a company is also a mine canary, one that says the company has very little to brag about.

"[...]work that provided a net benefit to society, normal hours, free soda and career development."

They are not exactly putting on the table things that good engineers do not have at their current job. Also, perks like "free soda" only attract the young and inexperienced.

It seems like even among startups and small businesses that are reasonably well-run (meaning decent process, and developers aren't overworked because of management failure), it's very hard to compete with the benefits and compensation that a larger company can offer.

And is it really news that many companies are poorly run by clueless douchebags with MBAs? Surely this is just as true at larger companies as it is with startups. Larger companies are just better at covering it up.

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