New York’s unemployed tech talent and soon-to-graduate comp sci students assembled on the 10th floor of 7 World Trade Center today with the hopes of snagging a job at the NYC Startup Job Fair. Betabeat attended the early session that was reserved for developers and engineers, which meant we missed the arrival of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who apparently greeted the crowd by saying, “It’s never been a better time to be a tech startup in New York City.” Judging from this fair, no one could disagree–it looked pre-recession, to say the least.
The jobless in attendance followed a snaking hallway lined with companies that were actually physically grabbing at programmers in order to draw them into their company’s pitch. At the end of the slender maze, a room opened up that looked way more like a recognizable job fair with four rows of tables.
Two cops stood in front of the sprawling windows overlooking the 1 World Trade Center construction site and 9/11 memorial. They were sporting a silly look on their faces that seemed to say, “These were the kids I beat up in high school?”
Patrick Duggan, the Director of NYC Startup Job Fair and an employee at Credit Suisse, was standing at the front door, greeting guests with friendly smiles and nervous handshakes.
The first big name along the shady hallway was Shutterstock. They were looking to fill about 30 positions, which were mostly programming and product gigs. Tanya Carroll, their HR person, told us all about the free massages they were giving out to interested candidates. Apparently, it’s a popular in-office weekly perk and they wanted to share it with anyone that was interested in the company. They also had a table of large glass beer steins emblazoned with the company’s logo. This was basically the highest prize of the job fair–the item everyone eyed, but no one dared to ask for.
Next we talked to Jeanine from Spotify, another HR rep. Spotify often attends these sort of things and when asked if they ever hire anyone from fairs like these, Jeanine was happy to tell me that they brought on a business development intern from a job fair in the spring. “At least it gets the brand out,” Jeanine said, as our eyes scanned the pile of Spotify green and white shades.
Jorge Davila, a Hunter College student who graduates in December, was hovering around the Spotify table. He’s an intern right now at Yapp, a mobile event company currently in beta mode. He came to the job fair in case they didn’t extend his offer when he graduates. This was the third tech job fair he has attended so far. “The first one was a fail,” Mr. Davila said, “the second one was successful, and this one–feels like it has a bad vibe.”
Mr. Davilla blamed the building for the bad vibe and he was kind of right. An employee from Intent Media crawled up to the window and said “So awesome!” It seemed a little forced.
Malika Hupta, a computer science masters student at NYU, thought the room was great. She graduates in May 2013 and was using this opportunity to develop contact with HR reps so that she can contact them directly in the future.
The floor also had a portioned area that was called the “early stage startup room.” Lua, a fresh Techstars graduate who just raised $2.5 million, was in this room sporting red cups filled with guava juice on their table. “Hiring is a slow process,” said Austin Lane, Lua’s Director of Product, “Once you fill it, you move on to the next one.” The company started with its four founders and has hired seven employees in the last 18 months. When asked if its Techstars status brought more applicants than expected, Mr. Lane was hesitant to give a straight answer. “It’s just another brand name,” he said, adding that it definitely helped in the early part of the company’s history, but now they’re totally funded.
Etsy’s product manager Chris Cosentino was planted at his company’s table wearing a screen printed shirt that was fashioned by an Etsy vendor. Also homemade were the tapestries hanging in back of him and on the table, the basket of Etsy buttons (“We have a button making machine in the office!”), and the Etsy-themed pocket squares available for the taking. He said they were looking for mostly engineers. “We’re open to hiring recent grads,” Mr. Cosentino said. “We’re looking for strong technical skills, a strong mindset, and then we take it from there.”
Torin Bond, a senior from the Rochester Institute of Technology, came all the way down from upstate for this morning’s event. A jocular kind of guy, he seemed to bounce from table to table, despite his early morning journey. “NYC is the place to be for startups,” Mr. Bond exclaimed. He said that his school puts on fairs, but “not like this one.” They bring in big names like Amazon, but he’s looking to work at an office with a team under 50 people. “I think I have a high chance,” said Mr. Bond. “At least a few will like your personality.” He’d love to live here, but is worried about “the barrier from the cost of living.”
Here’s hoping the New York tech scene doesn’t eat these newbies alive.