How Tech City start-ups are winning the battle for developer talent

The pulling power of tech start-ups is there – so don’t flunk on providing the environment, says Huddle’s Alastair Mitchell

A lot of tech companies have made the move to Tech City in recent years. There are now offices from tech big guns Google, Microsoft and IBM, as well as newer kids on the block Mind Candy, Hailo and Songkick.

The most recent to announce a move to take advantage of Tech City’s developer talent pool is content management firm Alfesco – and it certainly won’t be the last. We have already taken advantage of the local developer talent ourselves to build up a fantastic team of our own.

There’s a lot of competition for talent now. Quality graduates can be snapped up straight out of universities and US end European companies have realised this, attending many of London’s tech graduate events and offering a number of incentives to poach our home grown talent.

There are now more UK students than ever applying to study computer science. And The University of Cambridge and Oxford University are ranked highly in a recent list of the world’s best engineering schools.

The pulling power of tech start-ups

The innovation of tech start-ups on Silicon Roundabout has really put the spotlight on UK talent at the moment. Companies in this tech hub not only showcase what UK developers have achieved but their talented teams also provide a shining example for graduates and what they can achieve when they leave the world of academia.

Before the rise of Silicon Roundabout, we saw many of our brightest sparks lured into the city for either financial services or consultancy firms. Developing technology for financial organisations was where the money was and this priced many tech start-ups out of the market for some of the UK’s brightest sparks.

Now, the tables have turned and developers are moving from the banks, insurance companies and other financial services firms to small start-ups where they can have a much bigger impact on shaping a new company and product.

Tech City companies are keen to cultivate this growth. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of apprenticeships or internships where young developers get the experience they need, as well as supporting academies where they can hone their skills.

There are events to support and drive recruitment like the Silicon Milkroundabout recruitment fair which helps match developers with UK start-ups.

Attracting the cream

But enticing tech talent into your start-up is one thing, growing your team and keeping them motivated is a different thing. So what can you do to keep your developers happy?

Well, for today’s graduates, it’s not just about offering more money. The culture is just as important as the financial gain, as is the opportunity for these individuals to develop their own skills and careers.

The best way to attract talent is with talent, so hire inspirational and industry experts that other developers admire and are keen to learn from. It’s just as important to keep the work interesting; developers don’t just want to be fixing bugs all day.

Provide opportunities for developers to train and gain new skills. For example, a day a week where developers have the freedom to work on whatever part of the product they like, or a project that will benefit the developer community as a whole.

We have Tuesday Time here at Huddle and it’s led to some great product enhancements, new applications and open source projects that will help the community at large. The developers, like any other team, need to be involved in the company.

Everyone has just as much to say and some great ideas. So make sure you get all teams working and collaborating other to share ideas. And don’t underestimate the little things that will keep your teams happy; company benefits, company clubs and free food!

Alastair Mitchell co-founded enterprise content collaboration company Huddle with Andy McLoughlin in 2006. Since then the company has raised $40m of venture capital in a series of rounds, has offices in London, San Francisco and New York, and names 80% of the Fortune 500 and UK central government as its clients.


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