Navigating the Tech Talent Bubble: Start-up Edition (Part 1)


The story of Cliq is one too often told in start-up land: three young guys, an idea and three full-time jobs. We had a backend coder, a front-end coder and a business guy (me); some might say the perfect recipe for success. We hacked together an MVP over the course of a year and test launched in Chicago during November 2014. The app was well-received, and we knew we had something, but we also knew we had no chance if we didn’t leave our day jobs. I was the first to take the plunge, but when our front-end/iOS developer went to leave his software company in January 2015, they offered to double his salary and promote him. We couldn’t blame him for accepting it. So instead of overpaying for an iOS developer and suffocating in the gigantic talent bubble, here’s how Cliq tried to navigate it. We’ll tell the story from both Cliq’s perspective and Eight Bit Studio’s perspective — Eight Bit is the Chicago development shop involved.

Cliq’s Perspective:

In our hunt for iOS talent we searched every nook and cranny of the developer landscape. We interviewed 20 freelance iOS coders fielded from headhunters, connections, oDesk and LinkedIn. We met with countless development shops, both local and international. We spoke with potential full-time hires or partners, most demanding salaries in the $200k range and equity in the 40% range. Finally, we began exploring the world of development bootcamps, and we met some really smart graduates. Thoroughly impressed by the caliber of student coming out of these academies, we went back to our network to discuss the implications of hiring such a junior coder to run our front-end. A friend and seasoned tech vet, Randy Burgess presented the idea of hiring one of these junior coders to work in conjunction with a development shop — essentially continue his or her education but in a very applied fashion. It would have to be the right development shop and the right hire, but we thought the idea was brilliant. The pros far outweighed the cons. The app would be finished as quickly as if we used a development shop but upon completion, we would have a full-stack team. Post launch, we would be incredibly agile, and we wouldn’t get stuck going back to the development shop for minor (and pricey) changes.

After speaking with several dev shops and bootcamp grads, we narrowed our sights. One of the bootcamps on our radar was Mobile Makers. Several Chicago techies had mentioned Mobile Makers as a reputable academy, and several Chicago companies hired Mobile Makers alums that were thriving as employees. Through personal connections, we heard that Eight Bit Studios was a top-notch mobile-specific dev shop, so we sat down with them. Shortly thereafter, we learned that Don Bora cofounded both Eight Bit Studios and Mobile Makers, and while most development shops scorned the idea of a Junior iOS Developer sitting in with them, Eight Bit embraced it. “Hell, we’ll even help you pick the best one.” If personal connections got us in the door, Eight Bit’s commitment to educating and learning sealed the deal for us. In Part 2, we’ll tell you how it all went…

Originally published at