How can you bring great engineering talent from Silicon Valley to New York? Our CEO, Seth Besmertnik, talks about how he's done it at Conductor.
New York City has traditionally been thought of as the home to several global industries—finance, media, publishing, advertising, communications, retail and fashion—sprinkled with lots of lawyers who sleep under their desks. Each of these industries is being reshaped by technology.
Every month new eReaders, trading platforms, marketing technologies, community buying sites and mobile apps emerge, all of which are technologies that directly affect New York industries.
However, when it comes to creating the world’s best technology and software, NYC is not typically #1 on the list. This is about to change and we’re starting to see a wealth of West Coast talent move to The Big Apple…you can keep Jason Calacanis, we’re talking about engineers.
So how do we bring them here?
We founded our search engine optimization (SEO) technology company, Conductor, four years ago and since then about 10 percent of our employees have moved from the Valley to New York. In finding and bringing the best talent (and their families) here, we’ve learned a few lessons along the way.
First, early stage companies need to carry passion for their city, New York. You are here for a reason and that excitement needs to come through when you’re recruiting. One of the unique aspects of Silicon Alley is that the startups that thrive here have a collaborative and enthusiasm that has, to some degree, been beaten out of the Valley. If you can communicate that sense of getting in on the nascent stages of ‘the next big thing’ to a candidate, the good ones will want to join you in your fight to create something amazing. Companies need a mission – and what could be a better shared mission for early stage companies to rally around making NYC the Technology Mecca of the United States in the 21st century? It’s a big goal… but so was reviving the NY Yankees when George Steinbrenner brought them out of the darkest days of the franchise in the early ’70s.
Another important point to remember is that the company environment is crucial when recruiting someone across the country. You’re asking something pretty big of a potential employee in both moving across the country, often with a family in tow, and helping to build a company rather than remain in the status quo of the Valley. I always keep in mind that I’m not just recruiting an employee – it’s often a family decision. So we bring the whole family to New York, buy them Broadway tickets and take them to see the great things our city has to offer. It’s all part of the uniquely NYC benefits package. It’s also handy to have some nice research on hand about how moving is a great thing for children to experience – as they develop critical skills required to succeed in life.
My goal is to create a haven for people who love their job—where their personal passions overlap 90 percent with their professional responsibilities. Enjoyable company culture fosters success and employee retention, something that will continue to drive potential employees from the Valley to the Alley. So having fun is almost as mandatory as our scheduled communications, whether it be Rock Band, free beer, free snacks, flexible work hours and vacation, etc. But it’s more than that. We’re completely transparent so every Conductor and every recruit knows exactly what’s happening in the company. We post our key performance metrics on the wall for everyone to see. I post my notes from board meetings on our internal wiki. We have no executive offices and only glass walls in meeting rooms. People need to feel confident that they know what they’re getting into.
My last tip would be for companies to stop seeing technology in New York as something so young and new (and therefore risky). There’s a sizable VC foothold in New York, a proliferation of early-stage investment firms and start-up incubators here, plus Silicon Valley VCs who are investing in New York technology companies—even Mayor Bloomberg is getting in on the NYC technology investment scene. The tech scene here is booming and it’s real. Communicating that to potential new hires can go a long way to alleviate their fears that if it does not work out there are no other opportunities. Luring technologists across the country will help New York grow as a technology hub capable of rivaling Silicon Valley and ultimately creating a more diverse technology ecosystem.
NYC has been great to Conductor and has inspired everything we do. It’s our #1 goal to even out NYC tax revenues between bankers and nerds. So pack your bags, break the status quo, and get on out here.