Wednesday, December 28, 2011

    Lunch with Hackers & Founders

    One of the perks of working at is that I get to go to the lunches I organize for free.  Last week, I decided to attend a lunch run by Hackers & Founders (H&F), a startup club with a huge membership in the Valley.  H&F lunches usually draw a predominantly developer crowd, meaning that I get lost in most of the conversations. 

    However, that week in Berkeley it seemed everybody had a very different backgrounds.  At the table was an owner of a co-working space, a financial advisor from Merrill-Lynch, a German who had just come to SF three days ago after working in Shanghai for five years, a founder of an early stage startup, a recent TechStars admit and me the Galactic Emperor/Ops guy from  This diverse crowd had some of the most insightful conversations about startups that I have ever been part of.  Too many topics were covered for this blog post, so I will limit it to the two things that stood out.

    How to hire a developer
    It is no secret that the Valley has a huge shortage of developers/coders.  I have heard much about the high salaries and extravagant perks that companies have been offering to bring in talent.  As of last Wednesday, I did not think there was a way out of the status quo, besides perhaps dramatically increasing the amount of developers via education or immigration.  Enter Kyle the tech stars admit.  As a talented developer himself, Kyle had a fresh and most important of all, a credible solution to the problem. 

    Kyle’s solution was to hire developers to work part time.  He explained that developers love side projects, and are willing to work on them if given the chance.  The problem is that no company is giving them that chance because they only want the developer full time via a 40+ hour work week.  Kyle believes that employers should settle to hire developers for 10-15 hours a week rather than try to monopolize all their time.  He admits that this does have limitations, but to him it is the difference between having some talent to build product versus none at all. 

    I can think of a couple of pitfalls to his idea, but none that could not be resolved given time.  The idea of more using part time developers is very interesting to me and I hope it will be further explored.  God knows, there are a lot of great ideas out there that are simply not able to be built due to a lack of technical expertise.

    Silicon Valley Lingo
    The Valley’s lingo was on full display at the H&F lunch.  After six months on the job at and spending countless hours on startup blogs, I finally have gotten a hang on the startup lingo. 

    At lunch, I felt like I was in the “in” crowd, throwing around technical terms like NFC (Near Field Communication), GUI (pronounced: Gooey) as well as name dropping luminaries and accelerators such as Eric Ries, Brad Feld, and YC.  Glad to know that after leaving the Valley for three months, that I had not missed a beat.    

    At times, the German from Shanghai had trouble understanding us.  Whenever he asked us to clarify a term or name, it just reminded me of how much of a bubble Silicon Valley can be.   And I have to say it is a great bubble.  

    Closing Thoughts
    The quality of these lunches just keep increasing and I was thankful I got a chance to attend one, while I was on vacation.  Here's to the new year and may there be many more enlightening lunches for this group of Hackers & Founders.