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!

Becoming Blockchain: An Interview with Bitbay Founder David Zimbeck

What do Chess, Acting, burritos and C++ have in common? Bitbay’s founder tells his story.

We sat down with David Zimbeck, early Smart Contract pioneer, and founder of BitBay, BitHalo and BlackHalo with one question on our mind… “What does it take to become a Blockchain Developer?” Zimbeck transitioned to Blockchain development from acting, real estate, film development and chess, among other adventures. He shared with us his thoughts about the paucity of outstanding Blockchain developers and the qualities that make for good ones. Here is what we learned:

Blockchain developers must be well-rounded and analytical

Zimbeck himself appears to be a man of many lives. At one time, he loved Chess—he won the Ohio scholastic state championship three years in a row, becoming Chess Master at age 18 and defeating 10 Grandmasters in a tournament in Europe. Later careers included drilling oil, handling real-estate, producing films and acting. (Watch Zimbeck swashbuckling a minor role in Pirates of the Caribbean 2.) Each experience, he said, contributed to his Blockchain innovations.

“Chess,” for instance, “helped me visualize code. It helped me plan, memorize and problem solve, as well as anticipate problems well in advance. Working in Real Estate was crucial when I was developing BitBay’s double escrow smart contract program, and oil drilling taught me how to press forward through fatigue and discouragement. Being well rounded is critical for perspective and insight.”

Perseverance, self-discipline and willpower are essential

“I was literally a nobody in Cryptography, and I came completely out of nowhere. I’ve been persistent with my goals. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”.

Zimbeck said it took him 93 sixteen-hour days in a trailer to teach himself to program from scratch. This was mid-Winter in North Dakota under minus-13 degree conditions. “I lived on Taco Bell spicy potato burritos, almonds, chocolate, sunflower seeds and Mountain Dew,” shared Zimbeck, “I would wake up, roll out of bed, and code until falling asleep. I developed a cough so bad that I had to fly to Florida after my prototype was done and be nursed back to health by my parents.”

What motivated him? “[This work] was what was needed,” said Zimbeck, “to make the world’s first smart contracting platform. I was literally a nobody in Cryptography, and I came completely out of nowhere. I’ve been persistent with my goals. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Blockchain programmers must be meticulous in their work. Blockchains must be secure enough to protect large amounts of value. Platforms, once built can only be revamped through great expense and risk of disruption to the communities they serve. For these reasons, developers need to be painstakingly careful and thorough in their coding. One mistake may easily cause the platform’s clients to lose hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. David Schwartz, Chief Cryptographer of Ripple, who developed secure messaging and cloud storage software for government and military applications, compared Blockchain to a fortress. Enemies try to breach crypto infrastructure all the time. It takes a top developer to prevent and withstand these attacks.

Outstanding learning skills are more important than specific language familiarity

Job postings that seek outstanding Blockchain engineers usually specify a shopping list of requirements that include programming languages like LLL, Java, C++, Serpent and Solidity. To Zimbeck, the most important qualities are the abilities to keep on learning and to think “out of the box”.

“Smart contracts aren’t limited to one language. You should be able to deploy in any language you want on a sidechain or in a sandboxed fashion like JavaScript or Python. We engineers have many languages at our disposal,” he told us.

Zimbeck, a high-school dropout who only knew basic QBack and C++ when he first came to Blockchain programming, revealed that he taught himself Blockchain engineering by searching for information on Google. Indeed, Blockchain investor Zach Piester noted that Blockchain engineers need to think creatively, since Blockchain is an evolving technology, and since each usage case has its own unique requirements. The industry is moving at break-neck speed, so Blockchain engineers need to constantly update their skills, and need to have the courage to innovate audaciously.

It takes a great deal of passion to be a Blockchain Developer

“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.”

Top Blockchain developers are not programming because they need the money, but because they genuinely love the industry, and/or because they see Blockchain technology as a tool for good. Zimbeck told us:

What got me into Blockchain was my prior search for solutions to world problems. Bitcoin didn’t impress me too much, since the decentralization of money won’t stop the media from dictating to people. However, I saw a lot of interesting potential with Blockchain, and this is what eventually lead me to the Halo idea”.

For Zimbeck, it was the drive that he’d had childhood on to make the world a better place. People like he see smart contracts as tools to not only protect cryptocurrency traders, but to make the world more democratic and trusting.

Blockchain engineers are often called “crypto-anarchists.” They believe in the power of Blockchain to remedy injustice, to restore trust, to help individuals escape government interference, to shatter borders, and to end corruption (among other benefits). These kind of individuals are neither grooming their LinkedIn profiles, nor searching for a way up the corporate ladder. “Money means nought to me,” said Zimbeck, “I want to lead a self-sufficient life. After programming, I want to be a builder or have a farm.”

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!