Leave Wall Street, Join A Startup

Our good friends at First Round Capital are always thinking. A couple years ago, they hacked the web 2.0 conference. Now they are cleverly taking advantage of the misery on wall street to find talent for their startup companies in NYC. They’ve launched a website called Leave Wall Street, Join A Startup where they list all the jobs that their portfolio companies in NYC are trying to fill.

Though we at Union Square Ventures were not that clever, we too have been trying to hire from Wall Street in the past month. In particular, we are looking for "quant jocks", people who have degrees in economics and/or advanced math who know how to code algorithms. These kinds of people have been very valuable on wall street in areas like program trading and risk management. But they are also incredibly valuable in areas like advertising optimization, search optimization, social media optimization, semantic analysis, auto tagging, etc, etc. We need such people in almost every single one of our companies, no matter where they are located.

We also have plenty of other jobs in our portfolio and here’s a search results page on Indeed that lists them. At the bottom of that page, you can enter your email address and get alerted via email anytime one of our portfolio companies lists a job.

First Round says on their "leave wall sreet" website:

With Bear Stearns laying off over 7,000 employees, Lehman Brothers rumored to layoff over 20,000 employees, and Merrill Lynch expected to layoff thousands after their sale to Bank of America, we’re on track to see over 150,000 people lose their jobs this year.

That’s terrible news for the people involved and the NYC economy. There is no way that the tech startup sector in NYC is going to fill all of those jobs. But we can fill some of them and we will. So if you are leaving wall street (forced or otherwise), please consider joining a startup. The pay probably isn’t as good, but the equity can be valuable, and I promise that the work environment is more enjoyable and that our companies don’t operate at 30x leverage.

If you are interested in a quant jock position in our portfolio and have the skills and experience to do it well, send me an email using the contact link on the upper right of this blog.

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#NYC#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. david927

    And if you want a break from NYC, come to Europe I’m serious. I’m living in Prague and there are a lot of startups gestating here, a lot of technical talent, but much less business know-how. The city is stupendous and the expat scene is thriving.

    1. gregorylent

      or india or thailand or hongkong or sao paolo or singapore or or or .. you might have to leave some bad habits learned on the job at home though .. 🙂 … and, learn that quality of life has many more dimensions to it than you might imagine … lucky days for a lot of wall street guys, they have a huge opportunity

  2. andyswan

    LEH, BS, MER employees:Start your own startup! You know better than anyone what your industry needs. You can raise money. You can get in any room.Scale back the lifestyle a couple of notches and make a run of your own!!

    1. fredwilson

      Good idea andy, but we need some of them for our portfolio companies andfirst round does too

      1. Reality Check

        Fred, I’m not trying to sound like a prick here, and I like the fact the VC world is trying to get some better talent than your typical engineers out of menlo park, but most traders aren’t going to want to go from derivatives and hybrid trading, etc to doing seo analysis for some web 2.0 startup that is doing less in annual turnover than what we make in a month. i’m certainly not. we may as well go to a prop shop or head to EU/MENA/EMEA. I guess if you’re in need of a job, then you gotta do something to pay the bills …

        1. fredwilson

          Joshua Schachter did exactly what you say traders won’t do and he walked away nine months later with a majority of the cash Yahoo! paid for delicious. if you are familiar with the numbers, i think you might want to reconsider your stance.and can you please lose the “reality check” handle?

          1. Reality Check

            I’d say he was the exception, not the rule. I’m not saying none will do this and I’m certainly not saying there’s no potential value to come for those who can make this happen effectively … but you and I both know the statistics in the VC world in terms of failures, etc. Traders will have to weigh the risks/advantages. What will be interesting to see is how many IBankers try to migrate into VC (on the investment side, not portfolio companies). Talk about s/t muddying up the waters …

          2. Lili Balfour

            Absolutely not the exception to the rule. I think you are narrowing the scope of startups. There have been several successful financial technology startups that grew out of an insider’s desire to capitalize on an inefficiency. Yellow Jacket (former traders), Derivix (former engineers who traded heavily in the options market), and Alpha Theory (former wall street & hedge fund analysts) come to mind. All of these companies were founded and funded on the east coast. Yellow Jacket was recently acquired and the other two are doing quite well.First Round has a few portfolio companies that focus on financial services. I think it makes perfect sense for a former Lehman, Merrill or ? employee with a healthy severance package (or not) to see this as an opportunity to explore a different route.

          3. fredwilson

            That’s exactly right. I’ve been involved in a number of startups here in nyc that came out of teams or indivduals leaving big banks and brokers

          4. Reality Check

            I’d say he was the exception, not the rule. I’m not saying none will do this and I’m certainly not saying there’s no potential value to come for those who can make this happen effectively … but you and I both know the statistics in the VC world in terms of failures, etc. Traders will have to weigh the risks/advantages. What will be interesting to see is how many IBankers try to migrate into VC (on the investment side, not portfolio companies). Talk about s/t muddying up the waters …

          5. Reality Check

            I’d say he was the exception, not the rule. I’m not saying none will do this and I’m certainly not saying there’s no potential value to come for those who can make this happen effectively … but you and I both know the statistics in the VC world in terms of failures, etc. Traders will have to weigh the risks/advantages. What will be interesting to see is how many IBankers try to migrate into VC (on the investment side, not portfolio companies). Talk about s/t muddying up the waters …

          6. slowblogger

            Don’t hire this types, who see the world as just NPV. These guys choose career based on ‘which one is better, considering risk and return?” And they think they are smart.But they are B-class smarts. The real ones follow their passion, and change the world.

        2. jasonkolb

          How do traders expect to make any on Wall Street without being on the inside? The Fed is re-writing the rules every single day, these are not the efficiently operating markets that we had two years ago. I think only the top tier traders will be able to make consistent money outside the investment banking network.

          1. Ezekiel

            The mess we are in is due to the “efficiently operating markets that we had two years ago.” Given all of the tax-payer funded bailouts, I’m really suspicious of people throwing around the word “efficient.”

          2. jasonkolb

            Was referring to the actual buying/selling. There was no regulation, which caused the mess we’re in. But at least traders weren’t getting killed daily by DIRECT government market intervention.

  3. Used to work for WS

    Isn’t it taboo to crash a 100 year old company that basically had a license to steal? Or at least sit back in their employ and just watch it happen?

  4. Geoff

    I’m fascinated with what is in all those boxes that folks are walking out of the door with!but good idea Fred.

  5. Kenosha_Kid

    If this is the beginning of a trend, it may be another point of evidence in the evolution of NY as a ‘new media’ center in its own right (vs. the historical dominance of the west coast). As the sector matures, skill set requirements evolve… as do business models. And so not only Wall Street, but also Madison Avenue, should feature more and more prominently.

  6. Risk Analysis? What's that?

    Kenosha is spot on — we’re watching the balance of power in NYC shift from Wall to Madison…(And like most cultures of privilege *just check out the subtext of Reality Check’s comment* the fall came from the inside.)

    1. jdrive

      Wall street has employed roughly 800k people (plus or minus 10%) over the last decade (Kedrosky http://tinyurl.com/6r2x3b). With the expectation that something like 50-75k jobs will have come off (in NY) by year-end, that would bring the current 870k number roughly in line with the ten-year average. Still the largest of NY’s six or seven major industries. I am curious what percent of those will be technical in nature. As it is, the NY-area is the largest repository of high-tech jobs in the nation (Crains http://tinyurl.com/6l3rwo).

      1. Mac

        You’re exactly right. I’m in one of those companies and we were discussing this earlier today. The vast majority of the job losses will be marketing, HR, and other non-core jobs. Lehman is obviously a major exception, but even in their case, with the whole firm folding up and going away, virtually the entire technical staff is relatively low quality. This isn’t the type of environment that attracts and retains “superstar techies”…

    2. jdrive


  7. LukeG

    Sorry to get self-referential here, but we’ve got almost 1000 startup jobs at Startuply right now, including 39 at USV companies (http://startuply.com/#/inve….Come work for a startup.

    1. BillSeitz

      yes, dohttp://www.startuply.com/Jo…

      1. LukeG

        Ha thanks Bill. Let me know how it goes: luke [at] jobalchemist.com, anytime.

  8. tomnixon

    Hi Fred, did you see Umair’s note today?”Macropocalypse: EndgameI have a really, really feeling that today will be really bad. I’m pretty certain that yesterday was by no means the culmination of the collapse. If AIG goes down, we are in serious trouble of a systemic and catastrophic breakdown and unwinding.”http://www.bubblegeneration…It’s quite sickening to see this actually playing out now isn’t it? And it’s not like nobody saw it coming. At least those of use listening to Umair did.I sincerely hope that those of us in the social media world are a part of the solution to these systemic problems of the current capitalist system and so we’ll be able to ride out the coming bad times for the global economy, and play a part in building a brighter future.Chin up and all that!

    1. gregorylent

      greed rules .. umair can see it, you can see it, i can see it …. but nobody ever figured out how to get it out of human dna … or organizational dna … the guy that comes up with that will have something, and then be crucified. immediately.

  9. BillSeitz

    You might want to make those jocks do a book report on The Black Swan as part of the interview process….

    1. Brian

      Ouch!That was cold.Love the job board. This is a great idea.

  10. danhau

    Hi,I used to work in finance (due diligence, senior lending, M&A, PE stuff – not trading) and left my job in June 2008 to do TicketStumbler.Although I really liked my coworkers & bosses and certainly couldn’t complain about the pay, it’s looking like I’m going to make significantly more money (we’re already profitable) doing TicketStumbler. Work is a lot more fun and interesting as well.I agree with your trader comment though; if the individual was making the firm money on a consistent basis, there’s always place for him somewhere.

  11. the build

    This article just made me think smarter for a second. Thank you!

  12. WellWisher

    Come to India the magical land. While you’re loosing jobs in the US, Indians cant get enough management people to run their companies.Time to post resumes on http://mumbai.craigslist.co

  13. Simon Brocklehurst

    I dunno, Fred. I’ve seen a lot of VC-backed start-ups full of supposed “super-stars” from large corporations. Such companies usually turn out to be disasters in the end. So, not a fan of that strategy in general – these people often have little idea what’s required to make an early-stage company a success.As to the specifics of the financial sector, I understand the need for algorithm development and the potential for exploiting transferable skills and techniques etc., but I suspect there are better places you could look than ex-investment bank staff. I know quite a few of people who do big business with investment banks… and not one of them has any regard for the staff in the banks. The general opinion for years has been that these folks tend to lack integrity, and are greedy to the point of being prepared to mislead their senior management to make short-term gains, not caring about putting the whole business at risk. I think the evidence of recent days and months rather supports their view.Personally, I’d think very carefully about hiring someone from this sector, unless I actually required investment banking domain knowledge. Instead, I’d prefer to get my transferable skills from a different sector. Biotech could be a good place to look. I have companies in both life-sciences and tech… and I can tell you that applying data mining techniques we’ve developed for making sense of complex data in cutting edge drug discovery research is showing great promise in enabling progress in areas such as search.

    1. fredwilson

      I am not looking for investment bankers, I am looking for quant jocks whowrite algorithms for trading and risk management

  14. MikeFitz

    I think the theory behind the idea of Lehman and Merrill guys coming into the start-up world is a good one, but I’m not convinced the long-term success will follow. As a headhunter with a lot of experience in the start-up community, I consistently hear concerns over the cultural divide between a large, multinational corporation and the 6-person start-up. Transitioning into an unstructured environment, whether that pertains to development methodology or personal advancement, can be a dramatic change for many. I’d be skeptical about most Wall St. technologists with at least a few years in that space making a smooth transition. I’d also worry about where their heads are at 6 months into it. Emotions may rule the roost for the next few weeks/months, but from a long term perspective, I think there are more reasons than just money that many of these folks shied away from start-ups.

  15. Dan Cornish

    Fred,I have hired a number of ex-wall street types over the years. I found that the ones with MBAs are the most trouble. Very little value add and way to high expectations. Wall street salaries have “spoiled” many so called super stars. Wall Street is the main reason why it is so hard to have a startup in NYC. The skewed salaries and expectations. Lehman last quarter spent over $200 million on technology. A startup will spend a tiny tiny fraction of that. My point is to more carefully screen Wall Street veterans than others since there is a higher likely hood they will not work out.

    1. dan

      totally agree with Dan, there is no way startups can afford these wall street guys who have been making serious $$ over the last 10 years. They will expect 5x what a startup can pay them.

      1. fredwilson

        All I know is I am getting a lot of amazing resumes from super smart quant jocks

  16. Nick

    A start up could be just the ticket, think about it, if you are money driven and able to handle quite a bit of risk in business life then you have the basics to fit into the start up environment. In many ways the current financial trouble looks more risky than working in a start up business!!

  17. Liz

    Damn! No openings for sociologists. I should have gone into quantitative methods instead of qualitative ones. More jobs but definitely duller.

  18. Yea

    Yeah these quant jocks have been very valuable in risk management. I can see why you’d court these talented geniuses.