Competition Heats Up at Bitcoin Job Fair

BitPay, bitcoin job fair

Plug and Play Tech Center played host to the second annual Bitcoin Job Fair this Saturday, an event that brought industry startups big and small together with a new wave of job seekers for a busy all-day affair.

More than 20 companies including 21 Inc, BitPay, BitGo and ChangeTip filled a conference hall crowded with roughly 350 job seekers of all ages and interest levels.

Plug and Play FinTech director Scott Robinson said the biggest contrast to 2014’s inaugural event was that participating startups were better capitalized and farther along in product development.

Robinson indicated that this may have, in turn, put more pressure on job seekers who were competing for companies with specific needs.

He told CoinDesk:

“This event had higher quality. They were very specific about who they were hiring and how they were hiring. They were the better companies that were able to survive, much more mature and tactical in terms of how they were hiring.”

The assertion was supported by the majority of companies, which demonstrated a willingness to prioritize the quality of the applicant over the nature of the position.

“We’re looking for talented people, period. It’s not necessarily looking for a job description. We’re a startup, we’d rather bring on highly talented individuals who can wear many hats,” Catheryne Nicholson, CEO of bitcoin API developer BlockCypher, said.

Nicholson’s comments were echoed by other attendees like BitPay software developer Greg Zigler, whose company was on-hand seeking to court tech experts.

“We’re looking for someone who loves bitcoin. It’s not just a day job,” Zigler added.

Elsewhere, the event saw talks given by startups including Ciphrex, CoinBeyond and 21 Inc, as well as a panel session featuring Paul Vigna and Michael J Casey of The Wall Street Journal.

Mixed impression

Though bitcoin startups were eager to identify jacks of all trades, job seekers were perhaps more likely to view themselves as specialists looking for the right fit for their background.

Interviews suggest this open approach on the part of industry startups may have translated poorly to some job seekers, who reported feeling uncertain as to what certain startups were hiring for.

Data analyst Leland Gregory, for example, suggested he would be comfortable taking a job at just half of the assembled startups.

“The bad ones, you go to your booth and it’s buzzword, buzzword, buzzword,” Gregory said. “We’re doing smart contracts and distributed something or other. These companies seem vague. The stuff that seems more trustworthy is more concrete.”

Even those with more mixed backgrounds, like Sasha Boehme, a former MIT fellow and product manager, suggested finding an exact fit was proving difficult in more non-technical fields.

“I’ve done a lot of coding but that’s 10 years back. I understand customer because I used to be in sales, and I understand how to build financial products,” he said. “But my sense is that in these startups, the founders are the product managers, all they need is people to make the product and they need revenues so they need business development and sales.”

Both suggested, however, that they were eager to apply for positions due to the larger opportunity they saw in joining the industry.

“It’s like the early internet, you don’t know what’s going to win,” Gregory said.

Industry over company

21, bitcoin job fair

Tim Byun, chief compliance officer at BitPay and a veteran of last year’s Bitcoin Job Fair, suggested that the bitcoin industry is still at the point where it’s selling a “bigger picture”, one where the risk of joining a specific startup is outweighed by the reward.

“I came from the broader finance industry when I joined BitPay, a specific provider in the larger space,” he said. “Obviously there’s risks in life, risks in jobs, consolidation is a risk, but I think bitcoin as an ecosystem, bitcoin will continue to grow and the way I look at it is that I am fortunate to be able to learn and grow with experts in the bitcoin field.”

Still, most attendees stressed that they were aware of a need to properly represent the risks that can come from joining a startup in a developing industry, one that many acknowleged seemed on the verge of a larger consolidation.

“If someone is looking for security for their job, they should go for startups that have been funded by prominent investors with the most amount of money,” Trustatom co-founder Yurii Rashkovskii said, though he stressed these positions may have less room for upward mobility.

BitGo executive assistant Brenna Leggett suggested her advice was for job seekers to connect with the founders of the company, a point that emphasized the need for attendees to strike personal connections.

“If you think the company is going to succeed, that it makes it a lot easier to take that leap,” Leggett added.

Bitcoin interest optional

Startups were also split on how much experience with the technology was desired in candidates with only some suggesting they were looking for afficiandos.

Byun indicated that BitPay was actively looking for those with “a passion for bitcoin” in addition to technical skills. “It’s a combination of the two,” he said.

By comparison, others like Nicholson showcased a desire for those with backgrounds outside the ecosystem, noting its current small size.

“You need people who can look agnostically at the ecosystem, you don’t have people who can look agnostically at where does this need to go,” she said. “That’s why we don’t care if someone jumping up and down saying bitcoin is great, it’s almost better to get people you have to convince.”

This opinion was echoed by BitGo’s Leggett, whose company was there looking for front-end, back-end and mobile developers.

“Tapping into the people that don’t understand bitcoin and don’t use it, perhaps somebody who is going to try to adopt it themselves is going to have a fresh outlook on it,” she said.

Industry growth

Plug and Play’s Robinson indicated that in his view, the event was proof that the kinds of positions open in the space is diversifying, an opinion was seconded by full stack developer at bitcoin startup Mirror and a veteran of last year’s Bitcoin Job Fair, Manan Patel.

Patel suggested that this year’s class of applicants were perhaps different than 2014’s in terms of overall knowledge regarding bitcoin.

“They’re more familiar with the bitcoin technology than I remember myself being,” he commented, adding that attendees with banking experience were more noticeable.

Robinson suggested that he expects this event to lead to more “significant hires”, contending that the quality of the resumes he saw was much improved.

Robinson concluded:

“With the influx of capital into the ecosystem continuing to grow, it’s clear positions are opening up apart from just developers and engineers.”

Images via Plug and Play Tech Center

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