TechMeAbroad is a tech jobs startup specifically for developers looking to find work abroad — be it in Silicon Valley or elsewhere — helping them find companies happy to sponsor work visas in order to fill their tech vacancies.
Founder Julien Barbier is banking on the increasing global demand for developers, and out-and-out war for tech talent in hubs like Silicon Valley, turning what is a niche jobs board website right now into something much bigger down the line.
Barbier is himself a French developer working in Silicon Valley, who has been making introductions between fellow French engineers wanting to follow him to the U.S. and tech companies hungry for developer talent for years, after he co-founded a global French tech engineer network called while42.
Every time we find engineers Google comes up and doubles their salary.
“With the success of [while42] I had a lot of French engineers who wanted to come to Silicon Valley but they didn’t know how so they would contact me, email me, Facebook message me and [ask for] help to find a job,” he explains. “At the same time I’m working with a lot of startups and they would said ‘hey, you created this huge network, we cannot find engineers here — it’s really a pain. And every time we find engineers Google comes up and doubles their salary and they go out, so can you help us hire French engineers?’ And I would say yes, and do you sponsor visas?”
He’s now turned that casual and manual introduction habit — which had morphed into a Tumblr blog where he would post startup job offers he’d heard about and tell enquiring French engineers to check them out — into a formal startup business of his own, bootstrapping the launch of TechMeAbroad last month as an MVP.
The job board started with around 20 to 30 job offers. Two weeks later that had increased to around 140, just by word of mouth, and he’s now busy building additional features, such as a job search function and the ability to comment on postings and ask companies questions.
He says a future business model for the site is likely to involve charging companies a monthly fee to list jobs, as well as gathering affiliate revenue from related services — whether it’s legal, accountancy or relocation related services; whatever a techie needs to help them settle into a new country. But he’s not currently charging companies to list jobs — focusing on growing usage at this nascent stage.
Given the fierce war for tech talent in places like Silicon Valley, Barbier argues that more tech companies and startups are going to be willing to swallow the time and expense of sponsoring work visas for foreign developers as it may be the only way they can fill their vacancies. And is probably cheaper than trying to poach engineers from the big tech giants.
Meanwhile, he reckons many younger developers are keen to travel — with the workforce generally becoming increasingly mobile and willing to relocate for work. Another reason for more techies to become gainfully employed ex-pats.
“American companies try to hire Americans, because that’s what they know, but the reality is there’s more than half a million jobs unfilled in the U.S. which costs billions of dollars to the U.S. economy because there’s a lack of talent. So the pool locally isn’t big enough. So we see more and more companies looking aboard,” he says.
U.S. startups with tech vacancies have likely been pinging potential candidates randomly on LinkedIn. Or contacting developers via their blogs or through their work on GitHub. TechMeAbroad aims to simplify that process by offering a central hub where startups can attract skilled tech workers willing to relocate.
Barbier says existing online job boards, like Monster, haven’t bothered specializing in this niche tech area because of the limited number of visas available. “I think that’s why no company has really specialized in this… But I see this as a small market that will be bigger and bigger — because if you want to sustain the U.S. economy you will have to hire people from abroad. You don’t have the choice.”
“We talk a lot about the U.S. but really it’s every country around the world. There’s no country today that is producing enough tech engineers for work locally. So there will be a bigger and bigger market for this as both companies and countries will have to compete more and more to attract those people,” he adds.
There isn’t very much info on work visas to be found on TechMeAbroad — although job postings sometimes list the type of visa a company is willing to sponsor — but that’s intentional, says Barbier. Ultimately it’s not for candidates to worry about that side; the companies will be taking care of it.
“Usually it is the company who takes care of this. Usually the company is working with a lawyer and the lawyer is taking care of the case. And the company in the U.S. has to pay for the filing and the visas. It’s forbidden for the company to say ‘hey we’re going to pay you X but since we’re going to pay for the visa we’re going to pay you X minus Y’,” he says, adding: “So really the candidate doesn’t really have to care about this. It’s more the company who takes care of everything.”
Developer wages in Silicon Valley are already at crazy levels. Which makes poaching local developers an expensive business — hence funding a visa might not seem such a big deal for a startup in desperate need of tech skills. “When you see the average salary of somebody who has just got his diploma it’s incredible. Right out of school he can be paid $100,000. And you’re what, 21, 22?” says Barbier, discussing Bay Area tech wages.
“I have a lot of friends who are paid more than $150,000 a year and they have only three years of experience. It’s just crazy. I have friends who are paid half a million dollars and they are less than 30 years old. The tech scene is just incredible, and it also shows the need for people to [look further afield to hire developers]… At the end of the day it costs you much less money to pay for a visa and a lawyer.”
The top destinations for developers looking for a job abroad are the U.S., U.K. and Canada, according to Barbier. Asia is also gaining in popularity — which he reckons is down to tech workers wanting to experience a different culture.
Of course TechMeAbroad is not just for French engineers — it’s for any developers wanting to find work aboard. But it’s French developers who are the most keen to work abroad, according to Barbier. So why are so many French techies looking for work abroad? Partly it’s down to issues with the domestic economy, he says, but it’s also a consequence of how the French culture treats tech workers.
“Engineers are not really recognized for their skills and what they do in France,” he tells TechCrunch. “If you’re somewhat technical you have to work for somebody who’s not technical. And if you’re technical you are really at the bottom of the pyramid of the company.
“In Silicon Valley it’s really not the case. It’s not just a question of salary — and usually it’s not the number one reason why French people want to come to the U.S. It’s more because they’re skills are recognized, their work is recognized, people say thank you. Here if you’re an engineer you’re a small super star. In France you’re just nothing. Recognition is the number one reason.”