Why You Should Consider Remote Development

So you need to build an engineering team in the Bay Area, New York or Boston. Perhaps you have Series B or Series C funding and need to double the size of the engineering team as you scale your product and company.  The competition for engineers is tight – other well-funded startups, unicorns, the tech elite (FB, Google, etc) are also hiring engineers. How and where are you going to get the people you need?

If you decide to build your team locally, you’ll face many challenges.  I’ve outlined some below as well as a solution that you should NOT consider. Building a remote development team may be the best solution for you and one you may not have considered before.

Cost of Engineer Salaries

What a relief, you found a great engineer who is willing to sign your offer letter and join your team. Now you have to pay them! And every time they meet with their friends, the salary and benefits package you offer is being discussed, judged and compared to other potential options.

Pick your favorite reason for high wages for engineers – Shortfall of available comp-sci grads, super funded startups and unicorns, Google paying premium wages, etc. Whatever the reason, you will pay more for engineers than ever before, and the wage inflation will continue next year.

Variety of Choices + Shortage of Engineers = Increased Turnover

Call it the Tinder Effect: With so many choices, you never really have to commit.

Every good engineer is bombarded by tech recruiters and friends in tech who are offering them choices: Fascinating new startups solving complex problems, a skunk works team at Google/Tesla/Apple that is hiring only the best, a newly funded startup with $50M from Andreessen-Horowitz or Sequoia that could change the world, etc.

If your company is going thru tough times on the road to product-market fit, or if you pivot in a direction that is not pleasing to your engineers, they can simply leave. There is no reason for them to suck it up and go the distance when they are unhappy with a situation and other attractive offers exist. There are just too many options.

Unaffordability for Families in Silicon Valley

We all know the best and brightest congregate in the tech meccas like Silicon Valley, New York and Boston. It’s one thing to live in the Bay Area as a young engineer and share an apartment or house with 5 roommates.   But if you have a family and want to live in a good school district, you are quickly in to the seven figure range for a house.

The best engineer for your company may have done the math and moved to a less expensive part of North America. Or not even made the journey after hearing horror stories from friends.

Should You Outsource?

Many companies might think the solution lies in outsourcing their engineering team to India or Ukraine. Sounds like a good idea except that outsourcing doesn’t work well for startups. And here’s why.

We all know there is good talent outside the US. But there are challenges associated with different languages, different communication styles, and different time zones.   And depending on where you look, there are also challenges with quality and turnover/churn.

But what about the flaw of the outsourcing model itself – hiring engineers who don’t work for your company, but perform the most critical tasks (building your product!) for your startup. You are setting up a relationship with a 3rd party, who gives you access to their pool of engineers. They get your business by promising high quality engineering talent at a low price. But churn is built in, because engineers will leave over time to improve their wages.

Outsourcing breaks the tie and cohesion between startup and employee. Outsourced engineers don’t have your stock options, benefits package, or company culture. And all the knowledge they gain about your industry and your product can quickly walk out the door because of lack of alignment between startup and engineer.

Sooooo. What to do?

A solution that might make the most sense is to build remote engineering teams here in North America, but outside of the tech meccas. Close enough that you can fly the team in and co-mingle them with your current team, but far away enough that they aren’t asking for ridiculous budget-busting salaries. Close enough that they share the same language, culture, and time zone, but far away enough that they view the salary you pay them as providing a very high quality of life for them and their family.  Close enough that you can integrate them into your company culture and legally give them US stock options, but far away enough from the dozens of recruiter calls every day with enticements of greener pastures.

Y Combinator’s Sam Altman names University of Waterloo as standout school for engineers and startup ideas

Y Combinator’s Sam Altman gets to see some of the best technology that is created by the some of world’s smartest and most creative people.   That he singles out the University of Waterloo as the one school that stands out among applicants and graduates of Y Combinator probably comes as a surprise to many Americans. In a time where it’s extremely challenging to hire top tier engineers in the US, the best option for your startup may be hiring engineers in Canada who graduated from top engineering schools like the University of Waterloo.


For more details read Is The University of Waterloo Better Than Stanford? in Techvibes.com

Top 3 Schools That Silicon Valley Tech Firms Hire From

Informative article on what it takes to hire a software engineer in Silicon Valley.   It’s not just about paying a high salary – you also need to provide a challenging role that offers the engineer the opportunity for personal growth and product impact.   One noteworthy piece of info was WHERE the software engineers come from.   For undergrads, it was the usual suspects: #1 was Berkeley and #2 was UCLA. The surprise #3 was University of Waterloo. We shouldn’t be to surprised, as University of Waterloo is Canada’s top engineering school and serves as a feeder for Twitter, Google, Facebook, Apple, etc.


For more details read What it Takes to Hire a Silicon Valley Software Engineer from Inc. Magazine




Why I started Syndesus

Since I moved to San Francisco in 1997, I’ve worked at seven startups and tech companies. Along the way I figured out a few things:

  • I love technology and innovation
  • I always cheer on the upstart that takes on the more established player or the established way of doing things
  • I also figured out that I’m a good listener and
  • I love a challenge.


One of the biggest challenges that I continually hear about is how difficult it is to acquire engineering talent. This challenge exists in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, New York, and Boston. The reasons are varied: Broken immigration policy in the US, aggressive hiring behavior and over the top salaries paid by Facebook, Google, and Twitter, poaching from well funded startups, etc.


The dearth of engineering talent has forced startups to look outside their hometowns and outsource core engineering work to developers in India, China, Pakistan, Ukraine, Russia, and across Eastern Europe.


I don’t think outsourcing core engineering roles works for startups. I’ve joined startups over the years because I believed in their mission, because they had an awesome culture and team, and because I believed my skills could make a difference.   I was paid fairly, and I had stock options. The outsourced model takes one of the most critical roles at a startup (the engineers building the product) and opens it up to the lowest bidder in a far away country.   The result:   Employee turnover/churn, low quality work, and misunderstandings due to cultural and language differences.


Why else does the outsourced model fail? Because outsourced engineers are not part of your team, are not bought into your culture, don’t visit the home office, and don’t have stock options.


I created a new model with Syndesus to combat the inefficiencies of outsourcing. Syndesus partners with US startups to build remote engineering teams in Canada. We recruit, onboard, handle cross border HR/payroll, and provide office space.


These engineers are not outsourced, they are part of the startup’s engineering team – they interview, select the candidate, determine compensation, stock options, benefits, and manage the work while Syndesus handles the back office tasks. We can help you grow a talented remote team quickly without the headaches of outsourcing.


Having lived in Canada for 5 years and spent time in venture capital and the startup community, I have a good understanding of the benefits Canada has to offer. And I’ve come to understand how Canada is different from the US and different from the countries listed above. I realized that the ideal solution to the engineer shortage in the US lies north of the border.


Syndesus solves 2 problems for 2 different groups of people:


1) Shortage of engineers at US startups.


Syndesus finds top tier engineers in Canada for US startups.   No more 8 hour or 13.5 hour time differences. No more suffering thru language barriers or cultural barriers.   Canada offers the benefits of world class universities (i.e. University of Waterloo and University of Toronto), same language, same culture, same startup mentality, and similar time zones as the US.


2)   Opportunities for Canadian engineers


Syndesus facilitates the ability for Canadian engineers to work remotely for tech startups in the US.   The US companies that hire these engineers are comfortable with remote software development and have the processes in place to make it work efficiently.   Now you can work for some of the most exciting startups in the world without having to leave you hometown.


Alternately, for those engineers who are looking for the opportunity to move to San Francisco or Silicon Valley and work with the best engineers in the world at an exciting startup, Syndesus can find you the US startup that is open to relocating you to the US and arranging for a TN Visa.


If you are at a US startup that is seeking engineers, or if you are an engineer seeking the opportunity to work for a US startup, please feel free to contact me at marc@syndesus or connect@syndesus.com.