Thursday, January 28, 2010

Web Development Los Angeles

Yesterday, I met with someone at the early stage of a startup. He has a great concept with some complexity to it. He was struggling to find high quality developers in Los Angeles. Just the kind of person I like to meet. :)

But I was a bit surprised when he emphasized how hard it had been for them to find a web developer in Los Angeles. My flippant comment was, “If you do a Google search for Los Angeles web developer, you’ll find a LOT of people and firms.”

His response was that he had done exactly that, but that the long list is not all that useful. Here were some of his particular issues:

Most of the firms that come up are actually website design firms not website development firms. And he’s right there’s a big difference. Web design typically refers to the process of interface design and graphic design. The result of web design are static pages as graphics or HTML. Web development refers to the design and creation of the database, code, and dynamic elements of the site. A development firm may be able to do good design, but it’s pretty rare that someone who is a design firm can do good development. Or at least not development to any depth. Also, you often find that good website designers may not be good at interface design for web applications.

In fact, my belief is that most startups should either be looking for a marketer or a web developer as they likely need to be differentiated in terms of marketing or should have complexity in their development. If it’s something simple to build and you are using pretty vanilla marketing, then it’s likely not all that differentiated in the market. But I digress…

So the first challenge was weeding out the designers from the long list of Los Angeles Web Developers. In fact, after a bit he gave up. So my flip suggestion was actually not all that helpful.

Some other things he tried:

  • LinkedIn – searched for people, but gave up pretty quickly as it felt like a needle in a haystack.
  • Freelance Sites - he considered using one of the freelance sites, but was concerned about the quality he would get.
  • Craigslist - He also considered advertising on Craigslist, but again was concerned about quality.
  • Local networking – he had better luck by attending a few local meetings and networking. That’s actually how he met the person who introduced us. But he felt that it was rather random whether he was meeting the right folks. There certainly are a lot of Networking Events in Los Angeles and Southern California that you can use.

In the case of the Los Angeles marketplace, there’s somewhat a secret weapon especially if you are looking for more senior talent or web development firms. The LA CTO Forum, which I help organize, has more than 100 Software/Web CTOs from all sorts of companies. It’s a pretty active, but very private network. However, members of the group often post needs out to the rest of the group.

In this case, I was introduced by a fellow member to this individual who happened to be at a networking event. For anyone who reads this blog, if you are looking for particular kind of web developers in Los Angeles, feel free to contact me.

I’m curious how anyone else would recommend that someone goes about finding a Los Angeles web developer? Especially for an early-stage startup? Of course, this is a bit more complicated given the issues raised in Startup CTO or Developer, but maybe leave that aside for now.


Jeff said...

With the internet, web development is now being global sourced. The beauty of global sourcing is that you no longer have to limit yourself to finding web development services only in your geographic region. If you limit your search geographically, you could potentially be sacrificing quality and cost for the "convenience" of dealing face-to-face, but what's more important to a business' bottom line, costs and quality, or convenience?

Tony Karrer said...

Great comment Jeff. And yes, for development you can often offshore work. However, there are times and for some kinds of rapid iteration cycles where doing things onshore makes sense. And there are lots of cases where combined on/off shore makes sense. Generally a lot of factors go into deciding.

Craig Ogg said...

I remain a fan of Craigslist. In my experience a carefully worded ad there will give you much higher quality than something like Dice or Monster. I have hired developers, QA and even met my co-founder for ThisNext through Craigslist.

Hiring through any source does require being able to evaluate the quality of the applicants, of course.

One mistake I see some startups make is to describing the job as if the person would be coming to work at a large company. The type of developer that is going to thrive at an early stage startup isn't going to be someone who responds well to an overly formal list of requirements that looks like it came from an HR department. Let your excitement leak through.

Tony Karrer said...

Good points Craig.

Rodrigo Silveira said...

There's this site, by this guy, Craig, who apparently has a list... hehe... nice post, Tony.

Unknown said...


I have a start up and have the same problem finding a developer. I've been through 2 developers already with terrible results. I want to work with someone locally in LA.


Alexander McCabe said...

He could try a posting on the Hacker News website -

Lots of talented people there interested in early stage startups. He'll need to make it exciting to attract interest though.

Anonyrock said...

The kind of talent you are looking for do exist and are busy working and are well compensated.

I am an East Coast designer/developer. I took my name off the job sites due to too many unqualified calls.

Craig's list: I have never taken a job through it - I get the impression posters are desperate, cheap or reputationally challenged.

Take a longer view on how relationships and reputation are strategic assets: get a technology partner who has some of these to spare. Or, go back to the web design firms - who develops for them? (assuming theory of separation of areas of concern is valid)

Ryan said...

Tony, I'd love to get your recommendation for a web programmer in Los Angeles!

Relationships are at the heart of any startup. On shore makes sense to me because its easy to find transactional businesses anywhere but you almost always have to establish a partnership in person. What's so hard to overcome on any entrepreneurial adventure is the skepticism on both sides: your own that your talking to the right person and your service provider's that you are credible. Craig's list, and other posting sites, seem to reinforce this skepticism.

In my scenario, a web programmer makes all the difference. At age 25 I'm not going to graduate school, I'm trying to bootstrap a production company. My talented friends create excellent, intelligent and marketable entertainment, and I'm 'the suit' (or I'm trying to be). I know we can play in this market using calculated risk taking and stage gate development. We are ready to invest in the development of a dynamic website to distribute our content and build our brand. The crux is that efficient crowd funding is driven by the intelligent design of a website. How do we find a web developer who wants to team up on the challenge of driving audiences to our digital box office to bootstrap our way to the silver screen?

Alina said...

For anyone who is looking to find developers in L.A.:
I do have a list of great developers who would like to take freelance jobs and/or join a start up for exchange of equity.
I am in the early stage of creating this marketplace but it is active.
try it :

William Lettieri said...

It is really always a gamble when choosing a web designer. Developers can be found many places, but a good designer is not as common place globally. If you are looking in the Los Angeles are, there are literally thousands of some of the best designers right in the area.

So that being said, I would definitely suggest looking local or based on referral for your design, and if you really need to cut costs, you look anywhere else to find a good developer.

No matter what you do, its ALWAYS a gamble working with anyone...and thats not just web-related tasks.