Panel: How startups are fighting to find the right talent

Summary:Contrary to the national unemployment rate, there are plenty of jobs available in Silicon Valley. The problem is finding the right people with the right skills to fill them.

SAN FRANCISCO -- While there is typically a lot of hype around whatever the latest hot startup is, most startups in general have trouble growing their employment numbers in the face of Silicon Valley giants that can throw more money at talented developers and engineers.

oDesk, described by CEO Gary Swart as "the world's largest online workplace," gathered together a group of panelists with different experiences in the tech start-up space for a discussion on Wednesday evening about the realities of these "talent wars."

Swart said that it takes approximately 90 days to hire an employee, and if you don't it right, it will take a long time to get rid of that employee as well.

In a recent survey published by oDesk, 90 percent of businesses that responded agreed that hiring the right skills when needed is important to the company's success.

At the same time, at least 30 percent of businesses acknowledged that it's tough to find the right talent, while 70 percent went so far as to say that traditional hiring methods are "painful."

As a first-time, venture-backed entrepreneur, Rob LaFave, co-founder and CEO of online local food marketplace Foodzie, admitted that his company struggled about how to approach these challenges, noting that they had to remember to be flexible when it came to hiring.

Kevin Harvey, a general partner at Benchmark Capital, asserted that there is a disconnect between the national unemployment rate and that in tech. The problem is finding people with the right skills. Harvey continued that "right now, recruiting technical talent is probably the gating item for most startups."

Thus, he argued that the situation masks the reality of how hard it is to find people right now.

Nevertheless, Harvey remained optimistic by positing that it's cyclical trend in Silicon Valley, commenting that he's "been around long enough" to remember from the late 1990s when companies couldn't hire enough engineers.

"I don't expect a '90s style bust, but I think it's going to be hard to find talent for awhile," Harvey projected.

Who companies look for and hire also depend on the culture of the business and the product. Harvey said that with some companies, you need a rigorous engineering culture while others are focused more on content. He suggested that most companies are probably somewhere in between.

Harvey remarked, "I'd say, especially in the Internet space, there's not that much innovation required for many companies. Or there's a blend."

In reflection of the idea behind oDesk, Swart discussed the benefits and the plain realities of encouraging companies to hire online employees. Swart also pointed out that it's not cheap to live in the Bay Area where many growing startups are located, so it's easier for both parties to broaden the geographical net.

"Bring the work to the worker instead of bringing the worker to the work," Swart concluded. "We really think that the Internet is the answer."

Topics: Tech Industry, IT Employment, Start-Ups

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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