A startup tech job fair with beer, music, 80 employers

Ruby skills may be in most demand by emerging New York City tech firms

When Frank Sinatra sang "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere" about New York, he wasn't singing about startup tech businesses. Those startups are most associated with Silicon Valley, not Manhattan.

But today there are increasing efforts by tech startups in New York to make themselves more visible to job seekers.

A company that is part of this effort is Ideeli, a flash sale e-retailer based in New York's Soho neighborhood that had an IT staff of 12 just a year ago. It now has more than 60 IT employees and continues to hire tech workers.

Ideeli employs more than 240 overall.

Ideeli is a sponsor of the Silicon Alley Talent Fair slated to be held Friday in New York. As many as 80 startup companies will be participating and at least 750 job seekers are expected to attend.

"There is a perception in the top technical universities that if you want to have a serious career in technology you need to go out to California," said Ideeli CTO Mark Uhrmacher.

"What's really interesting is the vast majority of the top engineering programs are in the Eastern half of the United States, yet their top grads almost exclusively go out to California," said Uhrmacher.

Tarek Pertew, who co-founded Silicon Alley Labs, a startup that organized the job fair, has reached out to East Coast university computer science departments and alumni groups, to help attract people to the job fair.

Pertew estimates that companies at the job fair may be trying to fill, in total, anywhere from 200 to 250 jobs.

"This is the one little cocoon of the world that is absolutely the shining light of growth," said Pertew.

Pertew also wants to attract people who are working for New York's corporate icons, in finance, retail and other industries who may be unaware of how active New York's startup tech culture is.

The largest demand will be for people with Ruby on Rails development skills, said Pertew.

This isn't the only tech job fair in New York -- it's Pertew's second. His first was held in June and drew 145 companies and over 1,100 attendees. This job fair is being held in smaller venue because hiring typically slows in the last weeks of the year, he said.

The organizers charge $11 admission into to show "to help filter out all those people who would just storm the door if it was free," said Pertew.

The event at the Altman building will have a networking lounge, music, beer and ping pong, which Pertew acknowledges represents cliche behavior at many startups, but it is also true. "We want people to feel comfortable," he said.

Another specialized recruiting effort for startups in New York to emerge in the last year is a once a week -- every Saturday -- email listing of available startup jobs.

The company behind the list is Inside Startups, itself a startup. Many of the ads are from small companies, though larger firms sometimes advertise on the list as well.

The New York-based company is focusing initially on the New York listings but wants to expand the program to other cities as well. Its list currently has about 5,000 subscribers, said Ali Nicolas, vice president of outreach and development.

Startup firms need alternative ways to reach job seekers because "they can't compete with bigger companies, so a great number of people just don't know about these jobs," said Nicolas.

The job fair will be held at the Altman Building, 135 W 18th St. and runs from 1 p.m. through 7 p.m.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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