Technical Recruiting · HR

Do you think I could fundamentally change the technical recruiting industry with this idea?

Andrew Arrow VP of Software Engineering at Activity Club

April 14th, 2016

this is a complete mind shift for the process. Step 1, people currently employeed and happy with their job get permission to work from anywhere. i.e. a Self Contained Tech Worker. I work from any coffee shop I want to, my employeer is happy with my work. Step 2. I start crashing offices and working else where, still working for my current employeer. They don't care where I work, coffee shop, or some other office. Step 3. Over time as I work at new places I'll get to know new people. Leads to my next job when I'm looking for a switch.

Companies pay for a slow trickle of new "office crashers" that use their office as a coffee shop, but also are nice and answer quick tech questions, etc. Over time it's like a long interview without the BS of a whiteboard and grilling someone for 1 hour. You decide over the corse of months.

I registered the domain and I think this can be huge. Agree? Disagree?

Tanguy Courson CEO at Activity Club

April 14th, 2016

In (or around) 1976 Carl Sagen gave an interview where he detailed how commuting to work is the worst thing that humans can do to ruin this earth. His catch phrase there was "we should communicate, not commute"

To this we have so many online communication tools that it should not be necessary to be physically in an office. I have found with 20 years of experience that being physically in the same space is far worse for productivity of programmers than being alone, as long as they communicate with each other.

So I guess there are situations where an office that is m-f 9-5 is necessary and human interaction is necessary, but for computer programmers it definitely is not and really just a societal expectation of being a cog in the machine to have another meeting to prove your worth.

So to the point of the OP I don't think that idea is what will change things fundamentally, I think as a society we need to fundamentally change our expectations of humans doing work first. That a human can be worth 100k/year to a company without occupying a chair, at a desk, at a cubicle during business hours.

Nadir Ait-Laoussine

April 15th, 2016

As laid out, I don't think this is a viable business model.
Step 1: Working remotely is not a new thing, and something that is getting traction. So no real issue there, other than it's not really new.
Step 2: Crashing another company is a bit of a strange concept. The only people that it would work for are career changers, and even then. I recently walked the halls of a pharma company looking to sublease space, and there was a lot of paranoia on who we would have there.  So you'd have to scalably get companies to buy into that premise.  There's been attempts to do that in the shared workspace industry, but has not been successful. 
Step 3: Getting to know people is only one aspect of the role.

At the end, what I struggle the most with is how this concept will scale.  You would need a lot of companies to buy into this.

Rather, you should check out coworking spaces in your area. There are nearly 8000 spaces globally, and there is a lot of variability in what spaces and communities look like, but I know of many stories that follow the path that you laid out that have happened in coworking spaces.  Coworking spaces already provide what you are trying to do bundled into their space (as part of the overall experience).

Shingai Samudzi

April 15th, 2016


Keep in mind the market power dynamics.  Unions are more or less dead in the technical world, so employers have all of the power in the current globalized anemic economy.  Your model will essentially flip the power dynamic completely, and any smart employer will see that and reject your concept on that principle alone.  Companies want to protect their assets, and VC or shareholder owned companies want to maximize their ROI over having empowered employees who can easily leave at any time.

Even beyond the IP protection issues that have been noted multiple times, you are ignoring the ROI aspect.  Sure, it may be cheaper to acquire an engineer (dubious, but I'll grant you that) with your model.  However, from an HR or operations perspective, the cost of an employee is more than just the acquisition process.  It's also the training and on-ramp process.  I'm too lazy to hunt down the exact information, but I've read that it takes anywhere from 18 months to 3 years to achieve a positive ROI on a new hire when you include training and the time it take to get them to full efficiency while paying them salary + benefits.  For companies with very specific processes or product release cycles, it may be even longer.  Perhaps you can overcome this by changing the pay scale such that an employee would need to go through a probationary period where they either pay for their own training or get paid at a lower rate, but that still won't address the technical debt you are likely to create when there is a constant churn of employees who are constantly moving from company to company due to FOMO.  And that early-on instability would likely disincentivize younger or economically vulnerable employees from moving around in your model.

That said, you would need to be able to guarantee a "hands-off" period of at least 3 or so years for your model to make financial sense to a company.  Otherwise, what's to stop me as a highly sought after engineer from jumping from company to company every 3 months?  Uncertainty around whether someone will poach your talent (and the cost of replacing) is already a big problem in tech saturated markets like SF Bay Area.  

Andrew Arrow VP of Software Engineering at Activity Club

April 14th, 2016

Thanks Jennifer, great feedback. My rebutal:

1. work from anywhere premission
I agree, it's not for everyone or every job. But it's my normal life working for my current employeer. I goto their office M-W, H-F I work from coffee shops or where ever. A lot of good engineers do this. We are good at coming in for meetings, getting in sync with team, and then plugging away on code.

2. interview at other companies while employed with them.
I don't consider talking to someone at a coffee shop as "interviewing with other companies." And yet, I might meet someone at a coffee shop that will hire me a year later right? How is it different to work from company X's office and just talk to people like I was in a coffee shop?

3. intermingling with employees and sharing ideas on a regular basis
I doubt I'm going to be given root access at Company X when I'm just sitting in their office quietly working on my code. But point taken. Some people will be neverous with me looking at their whiteboards and overhearing conversations.

4. companies are expected to pay for and maintain space for someone who isn't their employee?
Lots of companies have an extra desk or two. And this would lower the fees and time they are wasting with recuiters and interviews.


April 15th, 2016

Hi Andrew;

Yo've got a number of people on his forum that are identifying what they think are significant problems with the concept, from their point of view.  Your response seems to be defensive of the idea.  There are two possibilities:

1) the free advice from the entrepreneurs on this site is fundamentally wrong because they don't understand something key about your concept

2) they're right

if it's option 2, then that's useful.  If it's option 1, then you haven't explained it well enough to smart people that want other entrepreneurs to succeed.

What I'm saying, I suppose, is if you can't convince people here, you're going to have a lot harder time convincing the market - the ones that pay you.

I myself am not really sure one way or the other if it's a good idea.  I think your pitch that it's a great way to interview has some odd flavours to it, and I think it would be good to find another value proposition for both sides of your market.

Sreenath Kurupath Sudhir

April 19th, 2016

My 2 cents on this:

- A company pays hell of a lot money to acquire office spaces for each employee, and here you are proposing them to crash in on them where they don't even have places for their own employees.

- As everyone rightly pointed out, data privacy, personal privacy and the hosting company culture gets hindered.

- I could be working for X who is a competitor of Y and I can just barge in there to look for something that could help X.

- And there is always a question about harassment. 

I would be happy to discuss with you on this topic :)

Shingai Samudzi

April 19th, 2016


"I know that if you send your developer to my building he won't be your developer for long. Therefore, I will not be sending my developer to your building. "

Agreed, 100%.  I think there are two trends to think about if Andrew's idea were to take off

1) The fall of "at-will" employment contracts, and a return to guaranteed contracts (think pro sports) for the top level talent
2) As top level talent gets locked down, the overall value of the "average" developer will drop and at-will developer roles are leveraged for non-essential or replacement-level work
3) Since turnover for at-will roles is expected to be high, and they will be working remotely anyway, we'd start seeing even high tech jobs shipped to where rates are the lowest

Ultimately, a forward-thinking tech company might like this model, as it will in the long run depress the salary growth rate of "non-essential" developers, while simultaneously allowing them to protect their best talent from being poached through long-term employment contracts.  But it would be terrible for local economies that rely on tech salaries.

Jennifer Jang Cartographer at the Social Computing Group, MIT Media Lab

April 14th, 2016

No way. I suppose you can reshape that idea to something that may work, but right off the bat, the incentives are terribly misaligned for almost every point that you propose.

Point 1: Companies are happy to allow their employees to work from home every single day.

I don't think this is true of most companies, because you're certainly missing out on a lot when you don't interact with your coworkers in person. (Similarly, they're not getting the full benefit of having you as an employee.) I don't know of too many companies that will allow you to work from home 5 days a week. I mean it might work for some unique startups, but not the average tech company. So your "market" is small to begin with. Also this happens to be one of those Silicon Valley feel-good myths: that employees will always be happier and more productive when they work from home. I think the reality is that many people will abuse this privilege if it becomes too popular.

Point 2: Companies will be happy to allow you to interview at other companies while employed with them.

I suppose this could be true if they just wanted to get rid of you without having to pay severance. But not if they value you as an employee at all!

Point 3: Companies will be okay with their employees intermingling with employees of other companies and sharing ideas on a regular basis.

Similarly, this will never be allowed if either company has anything of intellectual or proprietary value.

This is all not to mention any legal issues, cost issues (companies are expected to pay for and maintain space for someone who isn't their employee?), etc.

I think this idea has some merit and may work if you implemented it as some sort of temp/internship-to-hire program. But anything more drawn out than that will probablybe a waste of time for both employee and employer.

Andrew Arrow VP of Software Engineering at Activity Club

April 15th, 2016

Gabor  I completely agree it's an issue, and many people will feel same as you about people peeking at sensitive stuff. Points I will make:

1. Apple has this problem internally with other apple employees! There is very little difference between a random stranger and a fellow Apple employee at Apple HQ. You can't see sensitive stuff if you do not have access.

2. Many entrepreneurs suffer from "oooo my stuff is secret" syndrome. When at the end of the day, if everyone knew what they were doing, that would be a good thing. i.e. it's all about execution not the idea.

3. They really aren't "random strangers" they are vetted, top knotch engineers you want to hire. Think of your dream candiditate. Do you NOT want him/her crashing your office and getting to know people?

Gabor Nagy Founder / Chief architect at Skyline Robotics

April 15th, 2016

You do have some good points, Andrew but I'm not talking just about ideas being secret.

On 1.: you just proved my point! Apple is not letting people near projects they're not directly involved in, even within the same company!
But, you are advocating strangers hanging out there?
Are you suggesting some isolated buildings on campus with their own, distinctly-colored entry cards (so "strangers" can't "tailgate" Apple employees into secret areas)?

On 2: Vague, high-level ideas are a dime a dozen, indeed.
I'm not talking about "ooo, let's put the connector on the left side" type of "secrets".
I'm talking about meticulously designed, complex systems with hundreds of brilliant engineering solutions that were produced, validated with testing etc. over years, costing a lot of sweat and money.
That stuff is part of the execution and not the pie-in-the-sky idea phase.
It's one thing to reveal engineering solutions in a product tear-down video, after it has been released.
It's a whole other issue if your designs get out before you had a chance to release the product and someone beats you to market with your own designs.
Of course, it depends on the type of product and designs you have.
If I'm developing a simple mobile game, or a ride-sharing web site, I might not care about other people seeing the design process, or even messing with the source code.
That stuff is all about execution.
Social media sites, like Facebook, sharing ecosystems, like Uber, Airbnb etc. are all no-brainers. All execution and nearly zero hard-core science / engineering / design (except maybe the AI stuff Facebook etc. are doing).
"Oooo, I made a Web site that lets people chat and share pictures". Who hasn't?
But, if I'm developing spaceships, or cutting-edge humanoid robots... Stuff that is so hard that no one has really done it before, I won't let strangers near it, thank you very much.