10x Ascend is a new firm that helps software development, cybersecurity and data science professionals negotiate for better deals.
Founders Michael Solomon and Rishon Blumberg started out in talent management for the music industry (their clients still include musicians like Vanessa Carlton), then moved into representing tech freelancers with their firm 10x Management. More recently, they decided that there was an opportunity to provide similar services to full-time employees.
Given the rising demand for tech talent (the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that software development roles will grow by 31% through 2026), you might think that developers and engineers can get anything they want when they’re looking for a job.
However, Blumberg suggested that many of these prospective hires simply don’t feel comfortable asking for what they want or what they’re worth — whether that’s more money, more equity, more flexibility in working from home, more vacation or anything else that’s important to them. He also pointed out that there’s no one else representing the employee’s interest in these discussions, since the recruiter ultimately works for the employer.
“Even though technologists are data-driven people who work in data-driven environments, they don’t negotiate that much,” Blumberg said.
So 10x Ascend can help, either by getting directly involved in the negotiations, or by advising prospective hires on things like counter-offers. (It’s not doing this in secret — Solomon said that either way, “We want the employer to know that we’re involved.”)
The firm is spinning out of 10x Management, and it’s been testing the model through a beta program. It says it’s already helped nearly 50 senior tech executives negotiate their job offers, increasing their compensation by an average of 35% — and as much as 100% in some cases.
In exchange, 10x Ascend collects between 6% and 8% of first-year salaries (the percent is lower for high-level jobs), starting with a $3,500 retainer.
Even though the firm is compensated based on salary, Solomon said that was simply the “cleanest” approach, and he emphasized that 10x Ascend isn’t just pushing clients to take the highest-paying offer. In fact, it’s created a free lifestyle calculator that helps people identify their priorities, whether that’s salary, job logistics, work-life balance and so on, which then informs the negotiations.
Blumberg also acknowledged that there’s been an “education” process with employers. He suggested that while engineers are sometimes nervous that they’ll blow a job offer by asking for too much, it’s actually helpful to have a third party who can take some of the heat.
“They can say, ‘That was my stupid advisor,’ ” Blumberg said. “We’re happy to be the bad cop.”
He also said that in some cases, employers are ultimately grateful to have 10x Ascend involved, as it helps them figure out packages that are more likely to attract and retain talent — which may mean offering more money, but could also mean creating more “bespoke” deals that provide flexibility or compensation in other areas. (You can read more about some of the negotiations on the 10x Ascend website.)
Given the name of the firm and the timing of the launch, I had to bring up the recent discussion around “10x engineers,” which led to some delightful social media backlash. Blumberg said he hadn’t been aware of the latest controversy, but he pointed out that this is a longstanding discussion. And inasmuch as 10x engineers exist, he suggested that they have team skills and emotional intelligence as much as technical skills.
“That doesn’t mean writing 10x lines of code or being 10x as fast,” Solomon added. “But we have definitely seen people who produce 10x results.”