Vivek Ravisankar

Enough has been said about the war for talent in the valley. It’s definitely hard to hire good engineers and it’s just ending up in a zero sum game where Google tries to poach from Facebook, Facebook from Twitter, Twitter from … and so on. And then there are a few engineers in these companies who’d like to work for a startup mostly because they’d want to do one in the near future. In fact, someone built a site for that.

It’s getting increasingly easy for good hackers to start companies. Startups are becoming almost risk-free because even if you fail, a team of good developers might be worth  $1M * no. of hackers, going by the recent acqui-hires.

*I’m one of the founders of Interviewstreet and we conduct programming contests to match programmers with companies. 1 Over the last year we conducted a lof of contests and what surprised us most was, out of the 40-50 developers who were hired through us, 85% were international candidates. The companies which hired weren’t large enterprises but really good tech companies like Quora, PocketGems, Evernote, RocketFuel, etc. They got some of the best hackers to work for them.

*Sweet spot
*There’s a cap on the number of H-1b’s that can be issued, primarily because the US govt. fears that immigrants are going to eat away local jobs. This is SO wrong. Increasing the cap will make the world much better or at least the US economy. Here’s why:

Talented hackers are everywhere and since it’s so easy to know about different technologies, the geographical limitations don’t come into play.2 The odds of finding a good hacker in India might just be about the same as finding one here. And talented hackers want to move to the valley because they love building things and valley is the epicenter of it.3 They’d love to get plugged into the ecosystem, work for a great startup and eventually build something on their own. This almost sounds like a biopic of  some of my friends who’re doing fantastic right now creating more jobs. I personally know people who’ve rejected offers from Google & Amazon in India to work for lesser-known startups in the valley because it’s worth in the long term. This is a sweet spot for both the companies to get great talent and hackers to work on the path breaking companies.

We conducted a contest for all the IIT’s in India. The top rankers are going to join Facebook this fall. Increasing the cap will only help creating more companies or greater value in a much faster pace. It’s sad that the H-1b cap for this year is already full and if you make an offer to someone right now, she can join only in Oct 2013. It’ll be fantastic if the immigration policies and rules can be relaxed or more favorable. It’s only going to create a much better place.

*1 Lets not debate whether ACM style programming contests are the right way to judge a programmer. There needs to be some starting point and this seems to work best at least for programmers from 0-2 years of experience.
2 It’s not true for designers. I don’t know why, but the odds of finding a good one here is much higher than India.
3 Why can’t hackers build stuff wherever they are? or why is Silicon valley a better place?

a. Access to investors (money) is higher. Web startups aren’t cheap to build, servers are. To hire one developer + a designer, you’ll need to spend at least $200k/year.
b. There are no technology limitations here. For eg: you can assume a large number of people have iPhones and a good majority are always connected to internet. This leads to identifying a lot of interesting ideas to work on.

*Shameless plug
*We’re conducting a series of monthly programming contests starting October to hire the best international candidates before the larger companies take them on board. If your company is interested to participate, e-mail me: vivek [at] interviewstreet