If you're trying to hire technology talent in a metropolis, you have to be a billionaire company to grab the attention of contestants. Startups just can not keep up. Even if the product and culture of your business suit you, the candidates simply can not find you through all the noise.
At the height of the dot-com era in New York, I resorted to all sorts of attitudes back unorthodox methods to win candidates for my startup. I saw someone driving in the subway, who happened to be reading a program book as a potential candidate. I ran ads in the Village Voice where "hackers" were recruited. Our relative invisibility to top engineers made this a dark time for recruiting.
Small towns require a different attitude. Big cities resemble fish-rich ponds, with the exception that most of them have to be thrown back. A small town is like a slow, meandering river. To be successful, you have to have a hook in the water and always turn it on. It is a worthwhile compromise. You get fewer candidates, but overall a higher quality ̵
Reputation is important – and that ensures a strong workforce city, village. They are probably just a degree of separation from others, therefore, the perception is carefully maintained. Employees tend to take their work very seriously, not only because they are less mobile, but also because the reputation prevails. The boss of yesterday is the reference of tomorrow – and references in small towns are real. There is a positive social pressure to get along well, a pressure that applies to both employers and employees.
However, less mobility can be a good thing. If you have 1,000 candidates for each position, employees may be reluctant to take risks. In a less crowded environment, my employees have discovered that hundreds of people have not lined up behind them. They are more willing to take risks and fail. Employees just make it better – and companies make it better.
Small towns improve company outlook
With fewer companies competing for the "best" workplace, companies in small towns are at the top of the list. If a recruit has the opportunity to work for the coolest company in the city, why should he give it up?
Employees enjoy being part of a community of innovative companies. Instead of competing with other local startups, we benefit from working with them. In NYC, the general feeling is "me against everyone else". In a small town it is "we against the world".
Ultimately, we are a technology company that must continue to innovate in order to stay relevant. The benefits of starting this business in a small city continue to show. It may even get better as more and more technology companies settle in Charlottesville. The tech hub boom in Charlottesville is under way. It is a small pond, but a great place.
Terry Thorsen is co-founder and CTO of ChartIQ. In 1994, he wrote the first online trading system that later became Ameritrade. He then founded Automated Financial Systems, a provider of financial software for banks and brokers. He held senior positions at SunGard and Brokat AG. He was co-founder of ChartIQ in a barn in rural Virginia in 2012. The company has been awarded the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council Award for Business of the Year.