Silicon Beach's Hidden Advantage: More Talent?

There's been a perpetual complaint and worry in Southern California for years: how difficult it is to find good talent, particularly in engineering and software, for early stage startups. However, the word out of this week's Silicon Beach Fest--which kicked off Wednesday and runs through Saturday--is it's actually much down here than it is Silicon Valley. At least, that's the word from investors, executives, and service providers in the hallways at the event, on the panels, and at many of the event's late evening parties.

How is it that what has been a constant complaint by local startups ends up being an advantage? According to recruiters, it's because Silicon Beach doesn't have the giant employee vacuum cleaners in the form of Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and many others, who apparently in recent years have made it very difficult to attract employees to startups. One service provider mentioned that--despite the appeal of a big exit--nowadays, offers from the big Internet companies are so attractive that good employees aren't willing to take the traditional lower salaries in exchange for a small piece of equity and a somewhat slim chance of hitting it big on an IPO at a startup in Silicon Valley.

That means--at least, according to the talk in the hallways--that Silicon Beach actually has a talent advantage over Silicon Valley, further bolstered by the fact that non-engineering skills--particularly in the area of graphics and web design skills and business development--have become so just as important as pure technical skills in making a company successful. Those non-engineering skills appear to be far easier to find down here than in Silicon Valley. It remains to be seen if that advantage lasts--Los Angeles startup founders and investors still complain it's near impossible to find good technology talent in the area, even without competition from Facebook or Google--but it's an interesting change in attitude in the industry.





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