Entrepreneur

Startups are struggling to find and retain talent — it’s time to change that

Coders at Facebook's Hacker Cup

Greg Becker is the  president and CEO of Silicon Valley Bank, which opened its doors to the technology industry 30 years ago.

The majority of the entrepreneurs and startup CEOs we work with share a common dilemma: They struggle to find, attract and retain the engineering, scientific, and technical talent they need to grow their businesses. This is a problem widely attributed to large technology companies, but it’s equally problematic, and perhaps even more acute for the companies that are just starting out.

The results of our annual Startup Outlook survey this year highlight this situation directly. While nine in ten startup executives said they were hiring, an equal number said it’s challenging — or extremely challenging –- to find workers with the skills they need.

Since technology startups have historically created 11 percent of all private sector jobs and 21 percent of U.S. GDP, it’s definitely in the best interests of the government to make sure we have a vibrant workforce, and that we increase the size of our tech-educated talent pool.

Our clients don’t report that immigration is their issue – they don’t think of it that way. Technology, healthcare and clean-tech companies need skilled engineers, mathematicians, and scientists to build on their ideas and their fast-growing companies. One of the ways to support these companies is through changes to immigration policy, but education is another important piece of the puzzle.

SVB-Startup-Outlook-2013-Challenge-to-Hire-chartWe need to create a tech-savvy, highly skilled American workforce. The more people with skills that are in demand, the better for all of us. Congress is well aware of the issues facing the technology industry, so the time to act is now.

Approximately half of all the startups in our 2013 survey had at least one immigrant on their founding team. Our future economic success depends on our ability to attract – and employ – talent from around the world.

Fixing this problem won’t just help high-skilled tech workers, either. Two in three of the startups in the healthcare, cleantech, or hardware sectors said they either currently manufacture or plan to start manufacturing in the next 18 months. More than eight in ten said they’ll do some or all of that manufacturing in the U.S., and at least a quarter of those newly created U.S. manufacturing jobs will go to people with high school educations or on-the-job training. But all of that will only happen if those startups make it.

Considering the ripple effect that successful startups have on our economy, it’s  just good business sense to make it easier for them to succeed. Having spent a couple of days on Capitol Hill last week, I am encouraged that members of Congress know what needs to be done, and are willing to make the necessary compromises to get a fix over the finish line.

You can see more results from Silicon Valley Bank’s Startup Outlook survey here.


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