How to Get a Job as a Group, from Jason Calacanis

You remember when the cast of the TV show Friends negotiated their contract as a group? They realized that since the show didn’t have a single star, no single one of them had any leverage. Individually they were significant players. As a group they were the star. So if they wanted higher salaries, they’d have to negotiate as a block.

You can do the same for a job in tech. At the Future of Web Apps conference in Las Vegas, I chatted with Jason Calacanis, CEO of Mahalo, about his recommendation on how to hack the tech hiring process: Get a small collective of your developer friends and build Web apps for six months. Then show them to Facebook, Yahoo and Google. While it’s a risky approach, in what he calls the talent starved market of Silicon Valley you could actually sell your team for $1 million a developer.

In a sense, this is what incubators like Y Combinator and TechStars are doing, says Calacanis. They’re grooming talent. In response, angel investors and acquisition people are looking and pouncing. Calacanis predicts we’ll see hundreds of sub-$50 million deals being made from the top dozen players.

Calacanis is looking for A+ talent himself, but he knows he can’t compete in salary dollars with Silicon Valley’s 500-pound gorillas — Google, Facebook, Zynga, Twitter and Yahoo. Instead, he uses his social media footprint to try to hire. He asks new talent for three to four years of their time (he usually gets two). Beyond a salary, they’ll learn from the Jedi master on how to begin a startup. If they leave, he may angel invest in their company or sit on their board of advisors.

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July 13, 2011 at 7:44 am, Mike said:

Interesting idea. However, what percentage, of the total number available, of “tech jobs” exist in Silicon Valley? I suspect there are many very capable tech workers outside of SV with no interest in creating the next wunder-app. Rather, they simply want a decent job, at a decent salary, doing (what for them is) interesting and meaningful software engineering, system engineering, etc. How do those folks break into a market that on one hand is portrayed as lacking in good tech candidates while on the other hand seems to have many opportunities.

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July 13, 2011 at 11:25 am, David Spark said:

Jason’s suggestion is definitely not for everyone. And you have to understand I was interviewing him at an event called the “Future of Web Apps” for which about 80% of the room were developers at at least 80% of the room was working for start ups. So it was specific to that audience. Also, he was suggesting it just as a “hack” because this is the behavior he’s seeing in the circles he’s working. It’s definitely not for everyone.

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