Going, going, gone....engineers for sale

Kevin, the ringleader of a band of 16 engineers who put themselves up for auction as "ispteam" on eBay, has had a busy day.

The team listed itself on eBay Tuesday morning with a starting bid of $3.14m (£1.9m) in what he says is a serious campaign to find new jobs. So far, it seems to be working.

"I've already talked to the Times, Wired, C/Net, and I've got to call Information Week next," he whispered from his cubicle at an unnamed Internet service provider in Silicon Valley. "Been a busy day." He's also talking to a number of companies interested in their services

Potential bidders perusing Item #96369441 will note the group includes one director (value: $200,000), two managers ($180,000 each), three senior engineers ($190,000) and five administrators ($150,000), plus five other employees. "ispteam" says it's implemented major projects on Windows NT and UNIX for Fortune 500 clients, has "massive scalability experience," and is more "concerned with working for a real and exciting company than money."

"We were talking about leaving and whether we should start our own thing or go and find new jobs, you know," Kevin said quickly in hushed, staccato sentences. He didn't want to be overheard because he and the team members haven't resigned yet. "Then I thought about doing the whole, you know, eBay thing."

The eBay "thing" turned into the sale of "ispteam," a 16-member development team currently employed by an ISP Kevin said was recently bought out. The opening $3.14m bid takes into account salary and $20,000 signing bonuses for each of the team members, and doesn't include the 401k, stock and health benefits they'd expect as part of the job.

While there have been only two bids, Kevin said he's already in talks with five "big companies, you know e-commerce players" in Silicon Valley and Seattle, and says his most of the team of twenty-something engineers -- half of whom are based on the West Coast, half on the East Coast -- would be willing to relocate for the right opportunity.

Kevin's play on eBay may seem humorous, but it was being taken seriously by some in the industry. One early bidder was Ned Hoyt, CEO of iOwn.com, an online mortgage broker in San Francisco. Hoyt, a guest on ZDTV's Silicon Spin show on Tuesday, said his company had placed the second bid on the team, and that he thought it was a unique way to advertise talent.

Patrick Naughton, the chief technical officer at the Go Network, was also on Silicon Spin. His comment: "I might not bid for them, but I'll definitely get in touch with them and see if we can get them to come work for us. That's not an unreasonable amount of money for a good development team."

Unlike most auctions -- in which the money is paid after the winning bid is selected -- Kevin believes that any potential employer would settle up by paying out in salaries. And he says the team is happy to pay the 1.25 percent commission to eBay -- that's about $39,262.62 -- if a deal goes through. "It's marketing. We were thinking it's impossible to come off as being Class A workers when you're sending your resume to someplace like Yahoo.com and you're like one of a hundred people," Kevin said, still whispering and stopping every once in a while to make sure no one is listening in on the call. "I was trying to impress people with our credentials and the whole eBay thing seemed like a good way to get the word out."

Kevin admitted that he's never bought anything from eBay before, but has monitored auctions for parts used in automobiles like the sports car he owns. And he agreed that though highly unusual, the "ispteam" sale isn't the first time the person-to-person service has been called on to auction an individual.A lunch with venture capitalist Steve Jurveston went for $10,000 to raise money for a charity that helps the homeless. "It's marketing, you know," Kevin said. "We're just trying to sell ourselves and we're looking for the best way to do that."

In case you're interested, the bidding closes on "ispteam" on May 8.

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