4 Technologies Startups Are Hiring For

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As demand for tech talent continues to increase, startups looking for skilled developers seem to be honing in on some specific technologies. Here are four that are in particularly high demand.

JavaScript (specifically Node.js)

JavaScript offers a lot of opportunities at startups, and popularity is rising. Node.js facilitates server-side development of Web applications, allowing developers to focus on both the server-side and client-side to create entire applications.

“People involved with startups are creating the latest technologies, and frameworks are a part of that,” says Tim Jahn, Co-Founder and CTO of Matchist.com, a startup matching projects with developers. Because JavaScript powers user interfaces, the demand is high. “Everyone needs screens, from the financial industry’s most secure technologies to the latest startups looking to become the next Facebook,” he adds.

Ruby on Rails

“Finding Ruby on Rails developers is my biggest recruiting challenge,” says IT Recruiter Paul DeBettignies of Minnesota Headhunter.

Software Developer Tony Collen, who runs Ruby.MN meetups in Minneapolis, has also noticed that there is more demand than there is supply for Rails developers. At the past few meetups, anywhere from three to five companies have expressed a need for full-time Rails developers.

“Rails is very popular because it’s very quick,” says Jahn. The whole point of Rails is to get you up and running very quickly, in terms of making a simple Web application. Because startups need to get up and running quickly, or change things on the fly, many startups use Rails.

“Rails is essentially a big toolbox of things to pull from as you’re building a Web application,” Collen explains. “It gives you a collection of best practices to use while you’re developing an app, makes certain decisions for you and leaves you free to focus on solving the business problem or domain problem and not having to worry about how to connect to the database or other low-level details you’d otherwise be wasting time on.”


“You’ll find a lot of positions for PHP developers within Web development firms or agencies because it’s an older technology” and many startups have clients with PHP apps and websites, Jahn explains. He believes another reason PHP developers are in demand is because PHP powers WordPress. Because WordPress is so popular and used for small businesses all the way up to large organizations, there’s an even greater demand for talented PHP developers.

And because PHP is an older language, many technical directors at startups are already familiar with it and already have existing sites built in PHP. They’re looking to hire developers to make improvements, fix bugs or build new features.


Because Microsoft is more of a niche programming area, there aren’t as many developers with experience with it.  “We have trouble finding .NET developers because it’s traditionally an enterprise language, and we’ve catered to a lot of startups” Jahn explains.

Those working in enterprise are often less likely to leave their full-time positions to work at startups, but developers from .NET backgrounds are sometimes hesitant to learn a language totally outside of what they’re used to.

Image: Bartosz Zakrzewski/Shutterstock.com

13 Responses to “4 Technologies Startups Are Hiring For”

  1. Great article but personally I don’t really get why someone would be that interested in working for a start up. IT is pretty unstable as it is these days and I would rather work for an established organization.

    • Nightcrawler

      That’s what I was thinking, too. These companies are highly unstable, more than a few are outright fly-by-night scam operations, and none of them have any money. *Maybe* this is okay if you are strictly doing contract work for them, but the “no money” aspect is still there even in that case. You need to insist on at least 50% upfront to protect yourself.

  2. From someone who has made the shift from enterprise to startup, for what it’s worth there are a couple reasons why someone (including myself) would be interested in working for a startup:

    1) Your work has a much larger effect on the success of the business as a whole as opposed to simply being a tallied FTE on a P&L.

    2) You have much more decision power and ultimate understanding of why people use your service and what you can do to make your software better for them and are empowered to fix it.

    3) I would disagree that IT is unstable these days. All of the above mentioned technologies are in great demand and truly offer much more competitive compensation. My transition from ‘established organization’ to startup has been much more lucrative, for example.

    4) The day-to-day has a much more interesting variance as compared to what a typical operational IT function within an established company may experience

    5) Startups are far less silo’d, meaning you may actually integrate with other business functions (HR, marketing, PR, sales, etc) on a more mutually beneficial level which proves to be a great learning experience. Too many times have I experienced a seemingly endless power struggle within an enterprise between these silos.

    6) You work on new and interesting things. Typical enterprise systems are riddled with legacy systems continuously being upgraded to do the exact same thing in new technologies. Building new businesses with new technologies seems much more interesting. Ofttimes these systems also come with less-than-malleable development processes that are (in my opinion) painful and ineffective.

    • Nightcrawler

      The overwhelming majority of small businesses fail within their first year of operations. Not only is IT not immune to this, but an argument could be made that it’s even more prone to failure, simply because what’s hot and trendy today could be deprecated and have zero value tomorrow.

      I get what you’re saying about the work being more interesting, etc., but working for a start-up is an enormous risk. Of course, working for an established company is not without risk, but if you make an apples to apples comparison, the start-up environment is probably riskier. And I say this as someone who runs a two-person start-up operation (not in tech).

      If I were looking for a job, I would rather work for a small but established company, one that’s not having difficulty making payroll and keeping the Internet on. That way, you get the benefits (wearing many hats, interesting work, etc.) with less risk.

  3. Michael Rains

    Good article. I am an enterpise .Net developer, but first and foremost I am a programmer, I got into programming because I love it. Therefore, I am not at all hesitant to learn new languages and paradigms, and for the past 3 years have onboarded to jQuery, Ajax, backbone, etc. etc. – and loving it. In industry I witness 80-90% of developers on average just don’t get it, but 90-100% of management can’t differentiate those who get it from those who do not, and that’s why 85% of projects end in failure or significant challenge. But I digress, I love the new technologies, and start-ups are fun, unlike the beauracracy-laden corporate death march projects.

    • Michael, I like your accurate description of the large corporate companies. “…the bureaucracy-laden corporate death march projects”! They are death march projects! 😀

  4. robert stokes


    I call shenanigans on this post and posts like it for several reasons.
    1) You mention a programming language and a platform (JavaScript and Node.js), a programming language and a framework (Ruby and Rails), a programming language (PHP), and a framework (.NET). So basically you suggest that I learn 3 programming languages, two frameworks and a platform that isn’t very widely used (I’m not knocking Node.js but it just isn’t super popular). Not only that but to use JavaScript, RoR and PHP you really need to know HTML, CSS and maybe some XML or JSON. To use the .NET framework you need to know C++, C#, VB or one of the many other languages that can take advantage of the .NET framework (IronRuby, IronPython, ad infinitum). And after I do all this I can then get a job at a startup? Oh happy days! It’s not like most startup fail.
    2) This was obviously written by someone that knows less about programming than I do. “JavaScript offers a lot of opportunities at startups, and popularity is rising”. JavaScript is everywhere! I can guarantee that every single top 1 million most visited site on the web has JavaScript running on the front end. How can you say JavaScripts popularity is rising?! It literally is responsible for AJAX (or web 2.0 if you like that kind of thing). It is like saying food has become popular for feeding people. “PHP developers are in demand because PHP powers WordPress“. Or maybe PHP developers are in demand because PHP is the most popular server side web scripting language by a huge margin. I saved the best for last! “Because Microsoft is more of a niche programming area”. Are you just toying with me now? Did you even think about that before you wrote it?

    Here is an idea, instead of telling people to learn JavaScript, Ruby, and PHP why not tell them to learn programming concepts? Variables, If’s, loops, basic data structures (arrays, stacks, queues, lists, trees), functions/ methods, classes, OOP concepts and recursion; once you know how to do those in any language you can learn them in another language in weeks.

    • Great post! This is just another article to propagandize that there is some “shortage” of tech talent and to justify more H1Bs. Experienced IT people are fully capable of learning of new technologies on the job without this nonsense about “shortages”. Companies…let your people get experience on new languages and platforms instead of getting H1Bs.

    • Quote: “Variables, If’s, loops, basic data structures (arrays, stacks, queues, lists, trees), functions/ methods, classes, OOP concepts and recursion; once you know how to do those in any language you can learn them in another language in weeks.”

      Nope. It is necessary to be a competent programmer. But it is not sufficient to learn many modern languages.

      Take C++: a few people would be capable read through two primary manuals / references, Stroustrup and Josuttis, that are necessary to learn, respectively, the language and its standard library. Then try to write, for example, a rather run of the mill template, distinguishing between classes that have select member classes.

      Many otherwise competent programmers never have a patience to learn the language. Others learn most of it in 2 to 5 years. But even with 20 years of experience, you routinely encounter a stuff that is new to you.

    • Unca Alby

      @Robert, I agree about your assessment of the “languages” being discussed.

      I also agree about learning the fundamentals of programming concepts.

      UNFORTUNATELY, like it or not, very few of the hiring companies are hiring people based on their knowledge of the fundamentals of programming concepts.

      Do a search on Dice. I’ll wager there’s no more than a couple dozen out of the 80 something thousands job postings asking for fundamentals. What the employers are looking for are a specific set of laundry list items: JavaScript, PHP, HTML, etc.

      If you know PHP you can get a job. If you know the syntax for a loop, so much the better.

  5. least complicated

    I don’t think thre’s a suggestion to learn everything on the list, nor does it say it’s popular outside of startups. Maybe this article is for people who actually want to work at one. Looks like this was written by someone with their finger on the pulse. JS popularity is rising AT STARTUPS, which is different than saying it’s rising everywhere. PHP *is* used primarily for WordPress at startups, and MS IS nichey at startups.