In the last 3 years we had witnessed the 2nd coming of the tech boom, where successful tech start ups had either gone IPO or sold to a parent company for hundreds of millions or billion dollar valuations. Some recent “hot” names that comes to mind are companies like Instagram, a 2 year old company sold for USD1 billion with 13 staff. Funny thing is, Instagram was bought by a 7 year old company that is just about to go IPO at an estimated valuation of USD100 billion, I am of course, referring to Facebook.

Very intoxicating stuff when you read about these big, almost unbelievable numbers. I am sure there is a long line of people that would love to get a ticket to be a millionaire/billionaire.  However, high rewards goes hand in hand with high risks. For every Instagram and facebook, there are millions of other start ups that fail into oblivion. So, are the same people in that queue willing to put their life on hold and sacrifice for 2 or 3 years with no guarantee of any pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

Recently we were working with a very clever, super sexy tech start up – US funded with the operations in Beijing. They needed to expand in a hurry! The reason for being based in Beijing is because they wanted to tap into the relatively inexpensive talent pool of Chinese developers and to take advantage of the low cost of setting up a business in China.

To fuel their next stage of growth, they needed specialized talent in the areas of Digital Production, Web Analytics, Market Analytics, Online Marketing, Graphic Designing, Marketing, UI / UX Designing from Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia….they weren’t too fussed where they came from. However, the positions are based in Beijing, salaries offered are around USD3,000 to USD4,000 nett a month, no relocation/expat benefits. The exit strategy for this company is to look at being acquired by a big company in 2 to 3 years time. That means the stock options are not worth anything until then.

As we got down to the business of identifying and calling up potential suitable talents for this client, we found that most of the talent pool in Asia just weren’t able or willing to take up the challenge – people with a spouse and/or kids aren’t as portable, people don’t want to leave the comfort of their home country for a “hardship” posting like Beijing, some would only do it for a high base salary and expat package. Maybe the start up game is for the young and adventurous.

When I met our client, the VP for Marketing of this tech start up, it gave me the glimpse of the demographics of the tech start up crowd. He is 28 years old, this is his 2nd start up, tee shirt, jeans, messy hair, speaks at machine gun pace, single, has the “work insanely hard and party like a pirate” mentality. Sure, one of his goals is to one day (in 2 to 3 years time) take the company through an acquisition and cash out a multi-millionaire BUT digging deeper, I found out his motivation is not just for the untold millions. His main motivation is to learn as much as possible so that one day, he can do his own tech start up. That’s a light bulb moment for me!

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