Silicon Milkroundabout: Forget the banks, join a start-up

Anyone who has ever run a start-up knows that one of the biggest challenges is finding truly exceptional people. Start-ups have the odds stacked against them from day one – over 80% fail – and the experience of trying to create something from nothing has been likened by Reid Hoffman founder of LinkedIn as jumping out of an aeroplane and trying to build a plane on the way down. That means that world class developers, who can be orders of magnitude more productive than the norm, who get excited about truly audacious challenges are not just helpful, but a necessity if you’re going to succeed.

And finding those rare people – however hot your start-up is, is hard. Even Foursquare, one of the hottest start-ups in the world can’t find great people fast enough. A big part of the problem is that awareness of job opportunities at start-ups is tiny compared to established companies like Goldman Sachs, McKinsey and Microsoft. Many of the most talented developers we’ve hired didn’t really know what a start-up was when they met us and that problem is exacerbated when it comes to graduates because banks, consultancies and other large organisations collectively spend hundreds of millions of pounds every year putting on glitzy ‘milkround’ events on university campuses across the UK and Europe. As a result many of the leading computer science and engineering graduates end up joining banks, unaware that far more exciting opportunities than banking are to be had just a couple of miles up the road from The City in Shoreditch, aka Silicon Roundabout.

I’ve been in their shoes – after finishing my masters is Machine Learning at Cambridge all I could see were either engineering roles at large companies that didn’t really excite me, or jobs at banks or consultancies. I ended up leaving software and worked for a consultancy – unaware that back then Skype or Last.fm were both looking for people like me.

If London is going to become a world class city for building technology companies we’re going to need to create a ton more awareness of the jobs at our start-ups so our best graduates see the full set of options in front of them. As a first step towards that we’re organising the inaugural Silicon Milkroundabout.

On Sunday 15th May  2011 at the Bar Music Hall some of London’s hottest tech start-ups in industries as diverse as fashion, gaming, printing, music and scientific research are organising an event for graduates to come down, hear our pitches, meet our teams and get a sense of why you should join us, not a bank.

Demand from the event has been bigger than expected. We launched on Thursday representing 100 jobs across 20 start-ups. In response to crazy levels of demand we’ve already expanded the event to include 40 start-ups representing over 200 jobs. In the first few days since launching the event we had over 900 developers apply. We’ve had some fantastic support from the technology community including coverage by Wired, The FT, The Guardian, and TechCrunch.

So, graduates! Come down, have a drink on us, hear what we’re building, sense our ambitions, meet our teams and hopefully…join a start-up.

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