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Work for Pie is Shutting Down (workforpie.com)
42 points by piqufoh on Aug 2, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 40 comments

Yet another company I've only heard of because they're shutting down. This seems to be a recurring theme on HN and I think such companies should be a kind of cautionary tale to the rest of us. If people are only hearing of you because you're closing up shop, there was something wrong with your marketing plan. At least on HN, nobody was talking about them with sufficient frequency.[-1] [0]

In my humble opinion, this shouldn't be the last month for them. They should correct what's deficient in their marketing and business plans, and keep the show going even as a side project until it can sustain them and their families. To quote Tim Gunn: make it work.

Second point, it's really hard to get to their main site from their blog. There's no clear link and this is going to almost certainly profoundly negatively impact conversions. Visitors are lazy; don't make them work.

Lastly, to the founders of Work For Pie, I'm terribly sorry you're closing down and I truly wish you well. If this is Work For Pie's final month, I genuinely hope you go on to found new, vastly more successful businesses in the future and can look back on this as an amazing learning experience.

[-1] http://i.imgur.com/UDPouuM.png

[0] http://i.imgur.com/UHaEGRu.png

"If people are only hearing of you because you're closing up shop, there was something wrong with your marketing plan."

I mostly agree with this, but as someone in tech but outside of the direct SV bubble there are also lots of companies being acquired (eg. approximately half of the Yahoo acquisitions) that I only hear of as they are being acquired. So it is possible that if the goal of these companies is a quick acquisition or bust, maybe their strategy was sound but they just didn't happen to be one of the chosen ones.

However, I still think that such a situation is long-term toxic for the overall market of startups. I never use small non-established startup SaaS products anymore due to being burned too many times due to quick shutdowns due to both lack of traction and/or talent acquisitions that involve quick shutdowns of the previous service.

Yeah, finding the homepage should probably be easier to do from the blog. I normally try to link to the homepage in the first couple sentences of the post, but not always, and not in this case unfortunately.

Edit: and I agree we could have done more with marketing. We were new entrepreneurs at the outset of this, and did a lot of things that I would completely change now that I'm a bit more seasoned. Marketing would be one of those things.

I know the founders and have been enjoying watching my Work For Pie score grow (but unfortunately did not find a job through them, as my score is just starting to gain some merit). I think if they had been in a more tech-friendly city they would have been in a better position to develop successful marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, Memphis does not have the best climate for startups or tech businesses. I wish Brad and Cliff the best on their future ventures!

Can you elaborate on why you think Memphis was a bad idea?

With the ability to talk to people anywhere by phone, email, Twitter, forum, blog post, etc, what do you think is the drawback to being in Memphis? It seems like their customers are geographically dispersed, rather than concentrated in a more tech-friendly city.

I guess since I've moved to Portland, I've been spoiled with what a thriving tech scene can be like. I also went to a hackathon in Nashville right before I moved away and was impressed by their community. Brad (one of WFP's founders) is the organizer of the Memphis Python user group, which is (as far as I know having moved away from Memphis mid-May) one of Memphis' few tech meetup groups. There's a reason that a disproportionate number of startups come out of Silicon Valley. The culture there feeds into itself, and networking opportunities are orders of magnitude greater. You mentioned that you not hearing of them was indicative of a marketing failure on their part. My own take on it is, if they had been in the silicon valley area, they would have had many more opportunities to get their name out. The Memphis tech scene is too far from any of the big hubs, and, yes, it's true that anything that can be done in person can be done over the wire as well, but in practice, not having the ability to put yourself in meatspace with people who might be interested in your product/startup is still a huge disadvantage.

I guess I've never thought of it that way. I've always been quite happy to talk to people from far, far away.

Agreed - basic internet marketing could've helped them. You can't just build a product and hope that word-of-mouth scales you.

You can click the logo, but in this case that doesn't make sense as the "header" is much larger then the logo. But it's still standard practice for a logo to get you to the homepage.

I didn't realize the logo until I went back and looked for a link (the first time I gave up after mousing over a few of the links above the blog header).

The logo looks like a header for the sidebar; having never been to "Work for Pie" I'm not familiar with their logo.

It would help if:

- their logo on the sidebar had a solid background

- their logo was on the tab for the blog instead of the generic WP logo (I don't know how hard this is to do, but frankly this looks sloppy)

- they had a small "Work for Pie" + logo link above the blog header

It took me quite a bit to find the link to their homepage. I made two misclicks and then moused over every link in the header to try find the correct link. There was no such link. I eventually had to edit the URL to get to their main site (no visitor should ever have to do that!), but went back to their blog to figure out whether there even was a link to their homepage! That's when I saw the hyperlinked logo in the left sidebar — completely unintuitive.

Getting from the blog to the main site should be one of the easiest actions a visitor can make. It should be so very obvious how to do it with one rapid error-free click.

(This comment is going to have a lot of HR and Marketing bullshit terms-- I'd like to apologize for these in advance.)

It's rarely a good thing to read about a company closing its doors, and I hope that you guys have more luck in your next venture, whatever it may be.

I suspect that you had a really, really tough time getting companies to pay you for placement (that is where you make your revenue, right? I don't see any other way). You've created some strange hybrid of, essentially, a gamified resume', and while the little graph is a neat trick, you probably figured out pretty quickly that companies with the money to throw at recruiting services simply do not care one whit about how many internet points a potential new hire has on some random site.

As a hiring manager, I can tell you what I'm interested in when seeing a potential new hire: a well-written, concise resume, links to code samples (whether on Github or elsewhere), and how well they're going to work with the rest of the team. Work for Pie appears to take the long route around coming up with an executive summary (of sorts) for just one of these three attributes. It seems highly impersonal and I'm surprised that you got any developers to sign up for it even with the promise of free internet points.

Also, I'm sure you found out the hard way about how intensely competitive the whole third-party-recruiting game is. It is not a market for the weak of stomach; I cannot tell you the number of phone calls I get as soon as I post an opening, and nearly all of these calls are extremely, extremely aggressive. Here's the average phone call: "Hi Mr. M242, I'm Recruiter from ColdCallCorp, and I saw you had an opening for a developer, I have a person coming out of JustShutteredStartup and she did X, Y, and Z, which I noticed on your listing, she has N years of experience and is extremely excited about coming to work for you, when can I tell her you're free to interview?" (This is without me saying any words past "Hello".)

> As a hiring manager, I can tell you what I'm interested in when seeing a potential new hire: a well-written, concise resume, links to code samples (whether on Github or elsewhere), and how well they're going to work with the rest of the team. Work for Pie appears to take the long route around coming up with an executive summary (of sorts) for just one of these three attributes. It seems highly impersonal and I'm surprised that you got any developers to sign up for it even with the promise of free internet points.

Work For Pie actually compiles a score based on StackOverflow scores and Hacker News karma, in addition to Github and Bitbucket contributions. I would argue that actually touches on two of those points mentioned, because you could get a sense of a candidates coding ability, in addition to their personality from their HN and SO accounts (to be fair, assessing a candidate's personality and cultural fit is really outside the scope of a third-party recruiting platform). As a developer who was signed up for WFP and logged in regularly to see how my score was coming along, I thought it was a fun, arguably gamified approach to measuring my growth as a developer. It doesn't cost anything (for developers) so I'm surprised that you're surprised developers would sign up for it. Logging in for my first time was actually a huge wakeup call because I realized how disassociated from the development community I was, as well as how little I had to show besides a CS degree. I didn't ultimately get a job through WFP (possibly because I stubbornly chose to move to Portland, and it appears that most of their connections are in Memphis or SV). But I think their WFP 'score' is a useful and fun metric for budding developers such as myself (and theoretically it should be for hiring companies as well)

Could not agree more. Best of luck to the team, and I hope each finds happiness in their next ventures.

To pile on with the challenges of using these types of metrics to describe the worthiness of a candidate, see a comment from more than a year ago https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3804389

Usually the best metrics to throw on a dashboard are the hardest to measure, and the easiest to measure (# tweets, # of github commits, # LOC, etc) have the weakest correlation with substance. I believe it's because the easiest to measure are the easiest to game.

Regarding your phone call example. In my experience, most call from unlisted phone numbers, and they will keep trying to engage you in conversation until you hang up.

>To both our users and our clients, we’d like to recommend that you give Coderwall and Pitchbox a try if you haven’t already done so. Despite being a competitor, Matthew Deiters (founder of both companies) has always been supportive of and open to us, and we consider him a friend and, more importantly, someone who shares a similar vision. Coderwall/Pitchbox has a high degree of respect for developers and puts them first, and they also happen to be building something that’s pretty close to what we’d hoped Work for Pie might become.

This is a very classy nod on the way out.

I've never understood the idea of ranking a developer based on activity on Github, Bitbucket, HN etc. I've been writing code for more than 15 years and don't have a single line of code on an public repo. "Why?", you may ask. Because everything I have done (besides a couple side projects that were never meant for release) has been paid work for an employer/client. Nothing to put in a public repo. And my activity on HN or other boards really has nothing to do with my coding. I'm sure I would score very poorly if I signed up for something like this. So I never would. And that now limits your dev pool to only a certain type of dev... and not necessarily the best ones. So knowing that and looking at it from that angle, if I was looking to hire a dev, I also would not use a site like this. "Why?", you may ask. Because I'd be looking for good devs... not just good devs that happen to release a lot of public code and/or post a lot on HN.

Nor will you understand it if you keep being a developer that doesn't contribute anything. The idea that you only did paid work for an employer being the reason for why you have no activity on GitHub is a false dichotomy.

Seriously, you never wrote any helpers, or maybe a library that you wanted to reuse across projects?

And in regards to IP, any sane employer would agree that open-sourcing pieces of code that aren't central to the business logic is OK, since if others find it useful, you'll get bug fixes for free.

>a developer that doesn't contribute anything

Excuse me? That is rather rude.

He means that you don't contribute anything to open source, which is what you said. I don't think the guy was trying to be rude.

"The idea that you only did paid work for an employer being the reason for why you have no activity on GitHub is a false dichotomy."

Time. Not everyone wants to spend their spare time coding as well as their work time.

"Seriously, you never wrote any helpers, or maybe a library that you wanted to reuse across projects?"

These might be owned by the employer.

"And in regards to IP, any sane employer would agree that open-sourcing pieces of code that aren't central to the business logic is OK"

A minority of employers think like that in my experience.

A lot of employers are not sane by this definition. I work at a bank and can't release anything, nor do we contribute back our patches to open source projects, because the management/approval/review cost is just so large and everybody's far too busy to do this kind of stuff. Company policy forbids us from posting on forums during working hours anyway.

Unfortunately, I think this is common in finance, and perhaps to a lesser extent in embedded and a lot of other fields.

Sorry for the news.

Maybe I'm just not into competition, but I don't feel easy with a badge with a number that's supposed to tell much I've contributed to git repos, HN threads and StackOverflow questions, just like I'm uninterested and slightly annoyed by Klout.

>Work for Pie isn’t generating enough revenue to allow us to continue working on it full time.

>We failed to secure additional funding to support the company as we built the business.

I looked around and couldn't find anywhere to, well, put any money. You weren't charging any money. For instance, there was no way for a company to pay for privileged access to developers using Work for Pie.

We made money from matching our job seeking users to companies. We contracted with companies to do this. If you go to the hiring? link at the top you can see some of that. Most of our sales outreach was direct though.

This is unfortunate but hopefully their experience helps them as they get back into the working world.

In the past 3 months, I signed up and canceled an account. The issue I have with internet points is that whatever the algorithm is that powers the score is ultimately arbitrary. A few days ago I noticed my score dropped by ~10 points and I couldn't figure out why so I canceled. Similar situations have happened on StackOverflow in the past.

This used to upset me until I realized that there's no counter stocked full of silly putty and plastic frogs where I could redeem my points. In hiring instances, I definitely see value in SO and Github because they can expose you to how someone communicates (in both English and code). But I imagine it's a hard sell to market an aggregated score from unaccredited sources.

What was the thinking behind the name? The only association I can make here is a cardboard sign "Will Work for Food".

The original intent of the company was to link startup founders with technical co-founders. In essence, developers could work for 'a slice of the pie'. This model did not get much traction, so they pivoted into a more traditional job matching / recruitment service.

I have to agree. The bit of my head responsible for tasteless comments would have a field day here if I was drunk enough to let it. Is the sort of name that will have some companies paying you late just because they find it funny.

Sorry to the people involved if this analysis seems harsh, I know it sucks to have your company fold.

The metrics used to rank the coders seem a little odd. The top leaders, who have cumulative scores of 95, have decent github participation (however that's measured) scores in the 80-range, but have Hacker News scores of 97...which means HN karma was weighted considerably more than repo participation.

It's a nice looking site but I think ranking coders will require more granular metrics...and in the end, the coders likely to dominate such metrics will already have no problem finding suitors.

HN contributions only amounted to about 5% of the total score. Mostly it was Github contributions (measured by number of forks and watchers and a couple other things) and Stack Overflow participation.

what the heck is/was Work For Pie? I can't figure it out from the blog. Or is that what it was, just a blog?

Cofounder here. Since you guys are speculating, I thought I'd jump in and try to answer a few questions and help where I can.

tl:dr it's a really hard business because matching developers to companies who are willing to pay for your services to find those developers is extremely hard work. Mostly the companies have some issue that makes it hard for them to find people, which is why they hire you in the first place.

First off: mark242, you're right about some of what you say, but not all of it. The truth is that the "talent war" isn't really as bad as a lot of people make it out to be. The real problem is that there's a huge disconnect between what developers want and what companies want. To give one example, a lot of our really highly talented developers really only want to work remotely. For some, there are family obligations, and for others it's just preference. But most SV startups don't really want to hire remote workers. And the ones that do, well they honestly don't have nearly as hard a time finding people who want to work for them. And as such you're right, they don't really care to pay any company 20% of first year salary to do their recruiting for them.

What we'd hoped to accomplish, and fell short on in the end, was a way for developers with non-traditional backgrounds find gainful employment. In Silicon Valley, where I suspect you are, this really isn't that big of a deal. Every company out there is looking at Github before they're looking at, for instance, college degrees. But here in the middle of the country, this is still a huge problem. If I'm a developer without a CS degree or significant experience, it doesn't matter that I've been writing code since I was 8 years old. So, Open Source contributions were the first logical place for us to look for a more objective measure of ability. The system was far from perfect, but it was a start.

So who's paying 20%? Non-sexy companies, or large companies that can't really handle all of the recruiting work and would rather pay money than spend time, and companies that have something they're up against--maybe a bad location, or a specific need, or whatever. This isn't the case always, but it is often enough to make it a damn hard business.

And who among developers are looking for jobs? Folks with specific needs, or who are in weird locations, or who have something working against them, like a lack of experience or a desire to switch technologies or whatever.

So those two things don't link up too well. Developer Auction and other similar sites will probably figure that out soon enough. So if you're going to do recruiting for a company you're going to have to reach out to developers who fit, unsolicited, because those are the ones who match the positions you're hiring for. Only rarely will your existing pool of mostly misfits match up with your existing pool of misfit companies. And keep in mind I don't mean misfit in a derogatory fashion. I mean, literally, that they don't fit very well.

So that's what's hard, and we just didn't have enough time or traction for those two things to match up often enough for the business to be sustainable. Some others, like the ones I recommended, probably do, though I do wonder how long they'll keep it up. Some, I'm sure, will be making the same announcement we did very soon.

Hey Clifton,

Matt here, co-founder of DeveloperAuction.

Great insights in your comments above.

I generally agree that the "Talent War" is largely self-imposed: unwillingness to interview candidates outside of a 25 mile radius or relocate Engineers, being slow, disorganized or indecisive in the hiring process, trying to get Engineers to take massive paycuts from what they are earning at LinkedIn/SalesForce/Google/VmWare/Facebook, or simply requiring Engineers to work 80-hour weeks...

Some of the biggest & most successful companies also achieve major talent lock-in by compensating people really well, making it difficult for cash-strapped seed stage start-ups to compete with a lower budget.

Interestingly enough, RE: GitHub, we've seen zero positive correlation that having a GitHub account increases the number of interview requests that Engineers get on our marketplace when we analyzed our data.

Github helps technical managers get a feel for an unknown candidate. This helps when capturing arbitrage opportunities in the talent market. Your business is built on selling known candidates at a premium, or at least using the social signals of big name degrees and employers. Someone like daeken has enough of a track record to not even need those.

Hi Clifton--

Thanks for the reply. Very thoughtful. I have a couple of points.

"What we'd hoped to accomplish, and fell short on in the end, was a way for developers with non-traditional backgrounds find gainful employment."

First: I think you'll find that a lot of developers have "non-traditional backgrounds" (where by "non-traditional" you mean "didn't graduate in CS", I'm guessing). Is a person with a MS in CS going to have an easier time finding a job in, say, Iowa? Maybe they are, maybe they aren't. If someone is having a hard time getting their foot in the door in Iowa because they don't have a degree, giving them +K isn't going to help much (and I'm guessing you found this out from the companies you contracted with).

Second: "There's a huge disconnect between what developers want and what companies want. You're going to have to reach out to developers who fit." I know this is too late, but that statement should have been front and center on your site. You're hiding the true intentions of your application behind this layer of developer competition, when in reality "We can help you find a job" should have been your number one point. (In the language of your site, "Discover" should have been front and center, and "Compete" should have been 86'ed.)

Last, the remote thing: I don't think that there is -- yet -- enough of a market for recruiting agencies for remote workers, especially at your typical Fortune 500 company. Office culture is ingrained in this country, and probably will be for another generation or two. If someone is in a "weird location" and they're unwilling to accept a relocation offer, that's (currently) a massive hurdle in their career growth, and as a talent agent it's up to you to tell people this. It would be like a rookie in baseball with a no-trade clause; that doesn't work.

Anyways, good luck in the future and all that; I'm sure this was, if nothing else, a great learning experience.

between workforpie and path.to [0] shutting down within 2 weeks of eachother, there is something to be said about new attempts to try to crack the old recruiting regime turning out to be more difficult than one might think.

[0] http://blog.path.to/post/six-lessons-that-might-have-saved-o...

Big shame - had had a few chats with them, seemed like honest decent guys.

LinkedIn is the future of this space, available already today.

Where is the obligatory link to download all my data in CSV, JSON and text format?

wfp doesn't store any user data

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