Any Managers Out There? The Hunt for Talent in Tech

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Image: New Yorker

Yesterday the biz/tech world buzzed over Square’s poaching of Yahoo’s Chief Development Officer, Jacqueline Reses. It was a nice ‘get’ for Jack Dorsey’s Square and another management loss for Marissa Mayer at Yahoo. But it was also yet another poaching of top talent in silicon valley.

In August the NY Times reported on the hunt for management talent from Google and other established firms by unicorn start-ups. Who knew unicorns were predatory creatures?

So much money.

The valuations given many tech companies are mammoth—incomprehensible for outside observers. With so much money at stake, it’s understandable that a company will look for the best people with the hottest track records to guide these startups through critical growth phases. It certainly boosts credibility and investor confidence moving into additional funding rounds when the founders can showcase their elite teams.

It made me think about the conversation around whether or not there is a tech bubble, and if so, what would finally burst it. The bear side says that eventually, the excessive valuations of these start-us will wither like tulip futures. The bulls say there is no bubble because there is plenty of money to go around and this is a great time to be a holder of venture capital. Fine.

But what if the bubble bursts because there simply aren’t enough qualified, seasoned managers with a tech background available to evolve, innovate, and grow these companies? Investors might (might) get to a point where they won’t buy into the outsized valuations because they know two things: the founder is a brilliant software designer, but isn’t a manager and there are none available. Now what?

Football fans know the paucity of great quarterbacks in the NFL. There are about 15 really good quarterbacks for thirty-two teams. Once the starter goes down, owners are calling unsigned QBs off construction sites to grab a playbook and a uniform. Despite the fact that every college team at every division or level of quality has a quarterback, there simply aren’t enough top players to compete successfully at that level. Life.

Maybe this is the problem in silicon valley. We read and listen to a lot of chatter about STEM and diversity and building a bigger pipeline to expose more future Marissa’s to tech, but right now? It’s just not happening, and this poaching cycle will continue until, as supply and demand commands, the market winnows the supply of companies. The bubble won’t burst, but it is likely to shrink.

Hey. I’m just Average Joe, watching it all unfold on Bloomberg West from my sofa. I could be wrong.

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