Mark Suster had a great post yesterday on Starting a Technology Company in LA. Mark was the spokesperson for our city in Fast Company’s series of profiles of startup hubs outside Silicon Valley. All of these are definitely worth a look. Check them out here: LA, NYC, Austin, Boulder, Chicago, Boston.
I’ve started two companies in LA: TaskUs and Smarter Social Media. Neither one is really a tech company. But we have had to hire tech company people – developers, content creators etc. – so I’ve begun mixing in the tech start up scene here. From my experience I’ve found one major advantage and one major disadvantage of being a tech startup in LA and they both relate to talent.
Let’s start with the negative: Developers are VERY hard to come by. Finding a competent, affordable developers is very difficult. Finding one with a good attitude, who is prepared to work hard is damn near impossible. Competent developers will run you $80K – $150K, easily. Then they’ll work 6 to 8 hours a day and keep their work totally obscure. I’ve written before about my $12,000 mistake in this area. Maybe, great developers are hard to find everywhere. But something makes me think they’d be easier to find in Menlo Park.
Now on to the positive: Non-development talent is cheap! If you are looking for content creators, American Administrators (in the case of TaskUs), or Social Associates (in the case of Smarter Social Media) there is no better city in America than LA. All of these positions can be hired for $10 an hour and the hires themselves aren’t dopes. We’re talking Harvard, Standford and UCLA graduates. Why you ask would someone of that pedigree work for $10 an hour? They are living the dream baby! They are aspiring actors, writers and directors. As long as you offer them flexible working hours they’ll work hard at $10 an hour. This phenomenon was pointed out to me by my fried Tyler Crowley. It helped him and Jason build Mahalo into the most popular Question and Answer site online today.
One final note on why I love the LA startup scene. All of the people in tech here are amazingly approachable. In stark contrast to the hierarchical, ego maniacs in our city’s entertainment industry, everyone in the startup scene here is relaxed and friendly. Over the past few month’s I’ve had great conversations with some of most successful people in the industry like Matt Coffin and Mark DiPaolo.