Silicon Valley Tech Workers Living the Startup Dream Again

Thanks to blockbuster acquisitions such as Facebook's $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp, successful IPOs and a healthy environment for startups, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive again in the Silicon Valley.

For decades, the American Dream was the Silicon Valley dream: Catch on with a startup, ride its entrepreneurial energy, and strike it rich when the company goes public or gets bought for billions of dollars.

"The market right now is kind of feeling like the dot-com days. "There's a war for talent. -- David Knapp, Robert Half Technology

But this dream was shattered at the turn of the millennium when the dot-com bust left hard-working dreamers jobless and holding stacks of worthless stock options.

Happy Days Are Here Again?

But the good times just might be coming 'round.

"Looking at the successful IPOs and launches of companies in the Bay Area, it has kind of rekindled that entrepreneurial spirit," says David Knapp, metro market manager at staffing firm Robert Half Technology in San Francisco. "It's got people excited again."

Knapp won't name companies specifically, but we will. The biggest tech news in recent years to light up Silicon Valley has been Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp for $19 billion. WhatsApp is a five-year-old company based in Mountain View, Calif., posting $20 million in annual revenues. Thanks to the sale, its co-founders have been made super rich overnight.

Last year, the public markets for tech companies took off. Twitter was the highest profile IPO raising $1.82 billion, but there was an assortment of lesser-known companies that went public, too, such as Relypsa, Marketo and Fireye.

All tallied, 2013 saw more companies going public and more money raised than in any year since the dot-com bust, writes Cromwell Schubarth at Silicon Valley Business Journal.

[Related: Top 10 Silicon Valley Tech Job Trends]

The jobs are back, too.

"The market right now is kind of feeling like the dot-com days," Knapp says. "There's a war for talent."

Companies are wooing tech talent with sign-on bonuses and crazy work perks again, which pretty much disappeared after the dot-com bust. Salaries are rising across the board, as shown in the 2014 Tech Salary Guide. Despite some tech companies putting the breaks on flexible work schedules and telecommuting, most notably Yahoo and Cisco, the majority of Silicon Valley companies use them in hopes of retaining talent.

Tech Skills in Demand by Startups

Demand is up for network engineers, software engineers and Web developers. Tech workers with "sweet spot" skills such as .Net, Java J2EE, PHP, Sharepoint and mobile are getting multiple offers, Knapp says. Everyone from tech giants to startups, healthcare to finance are in hiring mode.

Startups, in particular, have had a hard time convincing top talent to come on board, because they simply couldn't compete on salary with the likes of Google and Facebook. Recently, a Silicon Valley startup tried to woo a Google programmer away by offering a $500,000 salary, but the programmer said he was making $3 million annually in cash and restricted stock units.

What do startups have to do?

They have to get creative, Knapp says. They can offer an easier commute, flexible schedules, work-life balance, an entrepreneurial culture, higher roles, an inspiring mission and, yes, the potential for a big payoff. With the recent rash of startup successes, a windfall sounds more realistic, and recruiting is a little easier.

"It's like anything else, you're selling the dream," Knapp says.

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple, BYOD and Consumerization of IT for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. Email Tom at tkaneshige@cio.com

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This story, "Silicon Valley Tech Workers Living the Startup Dream Again" was originally published by CIO .

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