If you’ve ever taken a cab from SFO to downtown San Francisco, you’ve undoubtedly seen the slew of startup and tech related billboards dotting the highway. They tend to range from the boring, to the funny to the woefully tonedeaf (and this isn’t a commentary on ANY of that). That you can’t go 300 feet without seeing one in SF isn’t a new phenomenon.
However, the fact that in NYC, you can’t get into a cab, hop on the subway without seeing an ad for HandyBook, Casper, Postmates, AirBnB or the like is indeed a new one. All of a sudden, subway stalwarts like Dr. Zizmore and 1-800-MARGARITA have real competition (though this probably says something about the shifting demographics and concerns of the city itself). It’s to the point where we’re pretty sure we can plug “SUBWAY” into the promo field for just about any startup website and get 20% off for anything from a rented bike, to a house cleaner, to a website for our small business, to nachos from Yankee stadium.
The startup billboard bombardment on the drive from SFO to downtown SF = ad bombardment on NYC subways. New status marker of startups.
— Matt Harrigan (@mbharrigan) September 21, 2015
If two of the key drivers of growth are awareness and customer acquisition, then there may be no more captive audience than a packed subway — the last bastion of nonexistent cell service where discourse, let alone eye contact, amongst fellow citizens is tacitly forbidden. So, it’s to the rafters we look, and it’s increasingly startup ads we find (or mediocre poetry – though we commend the effort by the MTA).
But the fact is that many of these ads go deeper than just being a simple tool for customer acquisition — they’re also a declaration aimed at attracting the great talent that travels along these routes every day. This is reflective, of course, of the influx of dollars into the space. However, this battle to attract top talent at hefty costs is also reflective of the very real status of the engineer as rock-star (saying “rock star” in that context also makes us want to throw up…but bear with us).
When we say “rock star” we don’t mean it in the same way as “ninja!” or “Maven” or whatever other stupid name a corporate “that’s not like the other corporates” (or the dreaded “startup within a big company”) throws into their job listings. We do mean that in this economic environment, the only area of secular growth is coming from the tech sector and ecosystem. Engineers (and founders) are quite literally the only group of people that can take nothing…and turn it into something of (sometimes) immense value. Whereas at one point true-blue rock stars like Van Halen used to be able to demand a bowl of M&Ms with ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES, now, it means that we provide our teams with ergonomic keyboards and chairs, game and nap rooms, and all types of awesome perks.
But the truth of the matter is that despite what the comment section of the NY Times says, these aren’t just the trappings of a “new bubble” or spoiled millennials — it’s the incrementally modest comfort, tools and protections afforded to a group of individuals from whom wildly outsized returns are expected and generated.
Making sure that we provide our entrepreneurs with everything they need to succeed and feel like this is their home is one of the key ways we’ve found to help build community and drive productivity at GCT.
REMINDER: APPLICATIONS FOR OUR 2X IN TECH: FEMALE FOUNDERS CONFERENCE CLOSE ON SEPTEMBER 30TH. WE’VE RECENTLY ANNOUNCED SOME GREAT NEW SPEAKERS, AND 20 OF THE WORLD’S TOP VC’S.