How to Recruit Blockchain Developers

Demand for Blockchain Developers is white hot! Startup CTOs and corporate recruiters need to adapt to attract the best talent.

In 2017 Blockchain ventures raised 3.7 billion in ICOs and another $0.5 billion in venture capital. But with precious few experienced blockchain developers in existence and even fewer amongst them willing to work on your terms, Blockchain entrepreneurs are left with a curious dilemma… “How do You Recruit Blockchain Developers?”

They’ve come…Now find Blockchain Developers to Build It.

Any lingering doubts that early Blockchain pioneers may have had about the technology’s ability to surpass its abstruse origins were definitively laid to rest in 2017 as professional investors and early adopters acknowledged the importance of the Blockchain—with their fiat wallets. On top of approximately $4 billion in ICOs in 2017, Blockchain startups attracted at least another $0.5 billion from VCs. Established companies pivoted to include or even focus on Blockchain tech, mainstream media and the general public hopped on board as Bitcoin shot to fame, and the runaway Blockchain train now truly seems unstoppable.

The truth is, even some of the most thought-out and best-funded Blockchain projects are still in white paper stage. The process to plan, code, test, integrate and test some more is still months and years in the making for many ventures. And that takes experienced Blockchain engineers. It reminds one of the refrain from Kevin Costner’s’ movie Field of Dreams…”If you build it, they will come.” The debut of Blockchain has left many entrepreneurs with the obverse dilemma…“They’ve come…Now, can you really find Blockchain developers to build it?”

Demand for Blockchain Developers is White Hot!

“The number of job postings including the term Blockchain increased by 115% from 2016 to 2017.”

How many new Blockchain ventures have come onto the scene in the last year or two? How many existing technologycompanies have pivoted into Blockchain or added a Blockchain component to their existing models? While reliable statistics on the number of new ventures to enter the Blockchain fray are hard to come by, an IBM study of 3,000 leading company C-suite executives conducted in mid-2017 revealed that a full third of them were planning to integrate Blockchain in their business operations.

According to employment analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies, the number of job postings including the term “Blockchain” increased by 115% from 2016 to 2017, already making the skillset the second highest in demand, trailing only robotics.

Research like this just serves to support what the empirical evidence on the ground already tells us — the demand for Blockchain developers is white hot!

Finding Blockchain Developers is Hard…

Here’s the dilemma. In 2016, there were believed to be no more than 5,000 developers worldwide dedicated to the Blockchain and cryptocurrency programming. That estimate is downright paltry compared to an estimated 18.5 million general software engineers worldwide. Think about that for a moment … the industry is under rapid development and change, mainstream corporations are jumping on board, and perhaps but a few hundredths of a percentage point of developers worldwide truly understand this technology.

This tremendous shortage of experienced Blockchain engineers in the industry makes it very difficult to recruit the right talent for your venture. The problem is exacerbated by three particularly menacing conditions:

  1. Blockchain-related ventures are growing at an exponential rate, meaning that more and more firms want to hire the same Blockchain engineers that you do.
  2. Blockchain development operates under a different paradigm of software development, demanding that traditional developers pick up challenging new skills before they can really perform. (That takes a commodity none of us really has….time!)
  3. Blockchain based systems are designed to perform autonomously, to inherently reduce risk. But as Ripple CTO Stefan Thomas pointed out, “Blockchain technology lacks a history of secure code,” meaning that inexperienced Blockchain developers, working to meet fast-paced business demands, may inadvertently leave vulnerabilities in the system. (Remind you of The Dao, anyone?) Unlike many other software systems, bad Blockchain code can be very hard to patch.

(For more on this, see our article “Why are Blockchain Developers so Hard to Find?”)

…and Blockchain developers can be very expensive!

With blockchain developers in short supply, it is not surprising that experienced Blockchain developers command high salaries—if they’re willing to work for you at all. In December 2017, Computerworld reported that “The median income for blockchain developers in the U.S. is $130,000 a year, compared to general software developers, whose annual median pay is $105,000.” That median was $120,000-$180,000/year, according to Business Insider, and £200-300,000 ($250,000-$400,000) as reported on Bitcoin.com. (See our feature article “ How Much do Blockchain Developers Cost?” for more details.)

So how DO you recruit a Blockchain developer, anyway?!

“Blockchain developers are NOT searching job boards for your opportunity. To engage with them, you need to fish where the fish are.”

With all of the above context, finding good Blockchain talent is no trifling matter. The good news is — good Blockchain developers of all stripes DO exist, and on the whole, ARE interested in taking this industry forward.To hire a Blockchain developer, first you need to think like a Blockchain developer. After talking to experienced, committed developers every day for quite some time now, we here at Blockchain Developers, Inc. have the following recommendations for attracting and hiring the best Blockchain talent:

Top Five Ways to Recruit Blockchain Developers:

  1. Be Interesting.
    Leading Blockchain developers with chops are extremely bright and incredibly passionate. If they’ve been around for a while in the Blockchain world, they got into this field to change the world, not to “punch a clock.” To attract good Blockchain staff, you need them to feel that what you are doing is of genuine importance and a bona-fide intellectual challenge. Blockchain Developers, Inc. can help you craft and share your message in a way that Blockchain developers will appreciate, but the actual “interesting” part is up to you… If your mission is humdrum, we probably can’t help you. (We turn away more new clients than we accept, for more on that, please read our FAQ on “How does it Work? / How much does it cost?.”)
  2. Go Remote.
    Probably around 80% of the Blockchain ecosystem talent is located outside of the United States. There are naturally pros and cons to hiring globally, and most US firms prefer to hire locally. Suffice it to say, however, that firms with “local-only” hiring policies had best start warming up to remote working arrangements, even if that’s only a time zone away. According to Stack Overflow’s 2017 developer survey, respondents consider “office environment” as a key factor in considering a job, and cite “days off” (57%) and “remote options” (53.3%) as the most important factors in compensation benefits packages. However you slice it, Blockchain developers don’t want to live in your cube farm.
  3. Farm It Out.
    If you don’t need hardcore Blockchain development talent long-term, can’t find Blockchain engineers, or don’t think your project is compelling (or well-funded) enough to attract the caliber of talent that you desire, you might consider throwing out the DIY model altogether. Firms like Consensys, Distributed Labs, and Mako Lab focus on turnkey software engineering projects, while Ideas by Nature and Searched.io do Blockchain consulting and branding for ICOs. Go one step further by pairing your own developers with these groups to learn on the job. It will probably cost you more in the end to work this way, but playing the smart long game has a storied history of beating the quick and dirty hack job.

    “Hiring Blockchain developers is not for the faint of heart. But it CAN be done, and done well. The winners and losers of the next few years may well come down to the staffing decisions that are being made on this very day.”

  4. Grow your Own.
    Even Consensys is not immune to the developer shortage. That’s why they have been running all-expenses-paid coding bootcamps for qualifying candidates in Dubai, just to discover a few pearls to hire. While that kind of undertaking seems a bridge too far for most, there are many smaller scale alternatives. Consider sending your most talented developers to a Dev++ Bitcoin Programmer Boot Camp at Stanford University, or through a Blockchain Programming Seminar near you, encourage (and pay for) Blockchain courses on platforms like Udemy or BlockGeeks, or, if you’re lucky enough to have an experienced Blockchain developer on staff already, align your team to bring them up to speed under the master’s tutelage.
  5. Seek, and You Shall Find.
    Maybe this one ought to be filed under: “Things not to do: Post a job opening and wait.”In the same Stack Overflow survey, only 10% of developers said they were “completely satisfied” with their job, 25% spent no time at all searching for new opportunities, and 28% spent only up to an hour per week. Blockchain developers are NOT searching job boards for your opportunity. To engage with them, you need to fish where the fish are. That means trawling Github repositories, joining slack, mattermost and reddit channels dedicated to Ethereum, solidity, bitcoin and smart contracts, attending and chatting it up at Ethereum development conferences, etc… You probably WON’T find what you are looking for with standard HR office practices like LinkedIn searches, so prepare to roll up your sleeves and do the work. (By the way…it’s really a LOT of work. That’s why so many smart Blockchain companies hire us to do it for them.)

Hiring Blockchain developers is not for the faint of heart. But it CAN be done, and done well. The winners and losers of the next few years may well come down to the staffing decisions that are being made on this very day.

We here at Blockchain Developers, Inc. are world-class at helping you find and hire the talented Blockchain developers you need to grow. Just fill out our contact form, and we’ll be happy to see if we can help!

Why are Blockchain Developers so Hard to Find?

Where are all the Blockchain developers? 6 reasons companies struggle to recruit Blockchain engineers.

It almost sounds like a corny one-liner: “What’s the difference between the Higgs-Boson particle and a top Blockchain Engineer?” (They actually found the Higgs-Boson.)

If you’re here, you likely already understand the exciting (and yet enormously frustrating) dilemma that the Blockchain startups and Fortune 500 organizations alike are facing…The Blockchain developer shortage. Blockchain is arguably the most important technological development since the World Wide Web. So if it is such a big deal—Why aren’t there any bloody Blockchain developers?

A deeper look reveals a more complex issue. Though Blockchain developers represent but a fraction of a percentage

“Blockchain job posts on LinkedIn have tripled in the last 12 months, and demand is so strong that top developers earn more than half a million dollars per year.”

point of the total software developer population worldwide, highly experienced Blockchain developers are easy to spot contributing to open source repositories, launching a new ICO or speaking at Blockchain conferences held throughout the globe. The vexing aspect of this dilemma is not that Blockchain engineers have all up and done a Satoshi Nakamoto on us…it’s that that most of the aforementioned Blockchain architects and engineers are simply unavailable. Here’s why:

  1. Demand for Blockchain talent is soaring:
    As early as June 2017, Bitcoin magazine reported that  “Blockchain job posts on LinkedIn have tripled in the last 12 months, and demand is so strong that top developers earn more than half a million dollars per year”. Job analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies put more tangible numbers to that in a study, which found a 115% increase in job postings between 2016 and 2017 for smart contract developers.And demand is growing rapidly. CoinDesk reported that posts for Blockchain developers on Indeed.com increased by an astounding 631% between Nov. 2015 to Dec. 2017!  In Dec. 2017, ComputerWorld reported that “Blockchain development is the second-hottest skill in the job market today, growing more than 200% since this time last year.” (Care to have a stab at what was number three? “Cryptocurrency engineers.”)
  2. Blockchain programmers aren’t looking at job postings
    Blockchain Developers Inc’s own review of LinkedIn job postings on December 31, 2017 turned up nearly 4,000 open positions containing the word “Blockchain,” with at least half of those describing “Blockchain Developer” or “Blockchain Engineer.” And yet, top Blockchain programmers aren’t looking for jobs. (They’re far too busy saving the World.) These crypto-anarchist types do not march to the beat of the typical career development drum, and in most cases won’t join (or leave) a project as a way up the career ladder. So using old-school methods to recruit Blockchain talent to your organization is a bit of a fool’s errand.
  3. Blockchain programmers also neglect LinkedIn
    Due to its robust search features and comprehensive career profiles, LinkedIn is the “go-to” resource for HR departments and professional recruiters alike. And it works wonders in other industries. But Blockchain programmers are notoriously unconventional. Something about the “look at me” manner of LinkedIn makes iconoclastic Blockchain engineers draft minimalist profiles that your ten-year-old might have banged out—if they have LinkedIn profiles at all. Typical Blockchain developers are singularly focused on disrupting the world, not on grooming their LinkedIn profiles.  Noted Blockchain investor and speaker Zach Piester put it succinctly: “You won’t find the great candidates through LinkedIn and Google.”
  4. Most Blockchain developers live elsewhere
    A casual search for contractors with Blockchain skills on poplar platforms like Upwork and Guru reveal most available Blockchain developers listed in Ukraine, Russia, Pakistan and India. A search of LinkedIn produces similar results, with developers turning up in India, China, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Poland. Fintech recruiting industry executives typically agree that a disproportionate share of Blockchain developers come from Eastern Europe and Russia. And why shouldn’t it be that way? The total US population of 325 million is but 4% of the global total, with China and India exceeding a billion each. Such is the nature of Blockchain that no country can claim any significant first mover advantage

    “I don’t know any good Ethereum developer that isn’t a millionaire. There’s a gold rush amongst developers to learn the coding language of money.”

  5. Blockchain developers don’t need to work
    As the anonymous developer of Blockchain Freedom Streaming, a full live streaming platform, said: “Most crypto experts made it rich years ago. If they’re writing or programming for money, there’s something wrong with them.” Aragon co-founder Luis Cuende agreed: “I don’t know any good Ethereum developer that isn’t a millionaire.” That makes for a bit of a challenge for organizations who would leverage deep pockets to recruit Blockchain developers. Money (whether fiat or crypto-currency) is not enough for this Libertarian-leaning gang. “What got me into Blockchain was my prior search for solutions to world problems,” Bitbay founder David Zimbeck told us in January 2018. “Money means nought to me.”
  6. Blockchain developers have their own companies
    In a similar way, top Blockchain programmers dedicate their energies and skills to follow their own dreams. Says Piester, “Quite a few are likely running their own startups. Therefore, they won’t want to drop all their ongoing projects to come work for your company.” “Everyone,” says Blockchain programmer and instructor Jimmy Song “wants ninja engineers who can pull a rabbit out of a hat, but they are unicorns. The ones I know are either founders, co-founders, CTO’s or in some senior engineering role being paid a ransom.”So, yes— finding a good Blockchain developer is a challenge. They’re busy, they’re rich and they’re idealistic. They neglect their LinkedIn page, stand oblivious to job postings and are head-down obsessed with their own vision and mission. But they DO exist, and they CAN be lured over to your project, if it is a worthy one. You just need to walk an unconventional path. (For more on that, see our article “How to Recruit Blockchain Developers”)

Meanwhile,  take heart—it may have taken 40 years, but even the Higgs-Boson particle was found eventually!

We here at Blockchain Developers, Inc. are world-class at helping you find and hire the talented Blockchain developers you need to grow. Just fill out our contact form, and we’ll be happy to see if we can help!

How Much do Blockchain Developers Cost?

With Blockchain engineers in high demand, what’s the cost to hire a Blockchain dev?

According to Boston-based job data analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies, the median income for Blockchain developers in the United States was up to 30% higher than that of general software developers in 2017—and specifically, $158,000 in high-tech epicenters like New York and Silicon Valley. In Europe, cryptocurrency wallet company Eidoo’s CEO Thomas Bertani said that Blockchain developers are earning $10,000 to $15,000 monthly, while Crypto-Valley Association founder and former UBS CIO Oliver Bussman put Blockchain developer salaries in mid 2017 at “£200,000 to £300,000” a year. “That’s not a lot,” he added, ”Demand for these skills is high. To get the talent, you have to pay.”

Lies, damned lies, and statistics:

“Former UBS CIO Oliver Bussman put Blockchain developer salaries in mid 2017 at “£200,000 to £300,000” a year. “That’s not a lot,” he added, ”Demand for these skills is high. To get the talent, you have to pay.”

Mark Twain famously popularized the saying (that he himself attributed to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli) “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” What every honest statistician understands is that median figures can be misleading— especially when you consider the chasm between those highly experienced (and highly rare) Blockchain developer veterans and the Satoshi-come-latelies who have slapped Blockchain on their resume in the last 6-12 months. The latter greatly outnumber the former, making the statistical median Blockchain developer salary deceptively low.

Making matters even more opaque, earnings figures for top level Blockchain talent typically do not take into account compensation in the organization’s own tokens nor perhaps in Bitcoin, Ether or other rapidly appreciating crypto-currencies. Hiring a software engineer with a Blockchain project or two under their belt is indeed possible for $80-$150/hour as of the time of this writing, but as demand gets hotter and hotter, and as more developers venture into Blockchain, it is really hard to predict which way the market will go.

As for Senior Architect and CTO level Blockchain engineers, currently the sky is the limit. Job postings for Lead Blockchain Developers were listed at $250,000 on dice.com in January 2018, and we should not be surprised to see base compensation offers of $300-$500k/year for the most important Blockchain roles in 2018. A Financial News story concurs with this target, stating that top Blockchain salaries are already as high as $650,000/year.

Blockchain developers are in short supply.

There are three phenomenon driving the surge in cost for Blockchain developers. The first, of course, is the limited supply of experienced Blockchain Developers. Most estimates put the number of Blockchain developers worldwide in the low tens of thousands, with the truly experienced and talented amongst them numbering no more than 5,000. That amounts to approximately just a couple hundredths of a percentage of all 18.5 million software developers worldwide.

The field is young and the skill set needed to engineer Blockchain systems is complex. It requires knowledge of

Cryptography, Peer-to- peer networking, Distributed storage, Consensus algorithms, Smart Contract development and more relatively recently advanced topics, plus an expert grasp of up to two dozen programming languages, tools, frameworks and platforms. (for more on this, see our article “What is a Blockchain Developer?”) It takes a diverse set of skills to achieve expert status in Blockchain. It is not just hard skills that are important. Would-be Blockchain engineers must also be well rounded and analytical, perseverant and passionate.

As BitBay founder David Zimbeck shared with us in our feature article: “Becoming Blockchain: Interview with BitBay Founder David Zimbeck,” he spent 93 straight sixteen-hour days in a trailer in North Dakota gobbling down Taco Bell burritos and Mountain Dew before he was able to produce his first Blockchain prototype. That kind of single-minded dedication is not for everyone.

Demand for Blockchain developers is sky high…

“With the crypto-coffers of Blockchain competitors filled to the brim, and top Blockchain talent in desperately short supply, there will continue to be upward price pressure on Blockchain developer salaries for some time to come.”

The second condition driving up salaries is of course simply the high demand for Blockchain developers. There are now thousands of Blockchain startups (that we know of), with more coming on the scene every week. A search we conducted for the word “Blockchain” at the end of 2017 turned up nearly 4,000 open job positions worldwide containing the word “Blockchain on LinkedIn, with at least half of those describing “Blockchain Developer” or “Blockchain Engineer.”

Burning Glass Technologies released findings in October 2017 confirming a greater than 115% year-on-year increase in the number of job openings for Blockchain roles, with predictions that this growth would continue to be exponential.

…and the fiat is flowing!

Meanwhile, Blockchain startups are far from cash-strapped. The space is white-hot, with Venture Capitalists shoveling in hundreds of millions to those promising crypto-ventures willing to take it. The real money, though, of course is coming in the recently popularized form of Initial Coin Offerings. Blockchain ventures raised around 4 billion in ICOs in 2017 alone. (That’s to say nothing of the capital gains made from crypto-currency appreciation!) With the crypto-coffers of Blockchain competitors filled to the brim, and top Blockchain talent in desperately short supply, there will continue to be upward price pressure on Blockchain developer salaries for some time to come.

Money really isn’t everything…but ideas might be.

If the adage is true in general that “money isn’t everything,” that appears to be doubly true for largely Libertarian-leaning Blockchain pioneers. If your mission is only to make money, you may find yourself struggling considerably to recruit talented Blockchain engineers, many of whom could already retire several times over on the strength of stupendous growth of crypto-currencies in the past year or so. “I don’t know any good Ethereum developer who isn’t a millionaire” quipped decentralized organization platform Aragon founder Luis Cuende memorably.

Many Blockchain engineers are self-styled crypto-anarchists, who believe the Blockchain will make the world more harmonious, rid traders from government interference, cease corruption, shatter borders, and perhaps even end war. “What got me into Blockchain was my prior search for solutions to world problems,” Bitbay founder David Zimbeck told us in January 2018. “money means nought to me. I want to lead a self-sufficient life. After programming, I want to be a builder or have a farm”.

Whether it’s Bitcoin, Ether, Ripple or fiat currency, money is really only one small piece of the puzzle. Of greater import to many Blockchain developers are the unique challenges of your project, and its potential impact on the World. Prominent venture capitalist and Ethereum founding team member Steven Nyerhoff stated “As an advisor to Ethereum, I can personally tell you that people were fighting to get onboard there. They had no problems getting qualified programmers.” It is a far better thing these days to have an under-funded project with real prospects to positively disrupt the World than a forgettable concept whose best feature is a healthy checkbook.  (For more on what Blockchain ventures can do to attract the best Blockchain talent, see our feature article “How to Recruit Blockchain Developers.”)

The bottom line is this: Blockchain developers aren’t cheap. But if you really need a big budget to recruit a Blockchain developer, then you probably can’t afford one, at any cost.

We here at Blockchain Developers, Inc. are world-class at helping you find and hire the talented Blockchain developers you need to grow. Just fill out our contact form, and we’ll be happy to see if we can help!