TLDR: Build your next development team in Poland. I did it and it was awesome.
Three years ago Droplr was in a tough spot: We’d raised a round of money and we needed to scale our development team. I was the CTO and I lived in Northern California about two hours outside of Silicon Valley. The plan was to build a team in my town. We rented out a nice office space, made the obligatory trip to Ikea, and started posting on job boards. That’s when stuff went south: We couldn’t find any good engineers. We didn’t get many applicants and those who did apply were woefully under-qualified. It’s not like we had a terrible compensation package: Close to six figure salary, good equity, full benefits. But we were off on the salary. Way off. The problem really sunk in when one of our lone strong candidates turned us down for another offer that paid $40k more then our offer. We had clearly radically underestimated how much it was going to cost to employ engineers on the west coast.
The problem really sunk in when one of our lone strong candidates turned us down for another offer from a bay area company that paid $40k more then our top offer.
So we were stuck in a tough spot: raise a lot more money or scale back our development plans. Neither one seemed like the right move. A few months later I was on a plane across the Atlantic to start the hiring process again, this time in Poland. It was one of the best decisions we made.
Here’s seven reasons you should consider it for your company:
1. The cost of living and doing business is incredibly low
The US dollar has about 3.5 times the purchasing power of the Polish złoty. So this means that you can stay in a four star hotel for about $50/night, you can get a great meal for around $3, rent a good office for less than $1k/mo, and you can hire an excellent senior engineer for about $40–50k/year. On top of that, Poland has nationalized health care so the benefits burden is much lower than the US. You can give your developers benefits in the form of continuing education, performance bonuses, or whatever. Anything instead of insanely expensive health insurance.
2. Polish engineers are really freakin’ good
Ok, so there’s a big savings when compared to the west coast but there’s a trade off with quality right? Not really. Actually Polish engineers are better than US engineers. They’re some of the best in the world. All of the people we hired in Poland had graduate or masters degrees in computer science or engineering. They were dedicated to their craft, inventive, and excited to be working on interesting problems.
I’m not just making this up. This is from HackerRank:
After such thorough examination of talent from all over the world the findings were quite surprising. Placing was based on average scores across the challenge categories. Despite the United States and India being the largest providers of developers they failed to rank in the top half. They placed quite poorly, 28th and 31st respectively.
As for the winners, the top 3 spots were taken by China, Russia and Poland. Polish programmers dominated mostly the challenges connected with Java (1st place), Algorithms (2nd place) and Python (2nd place).
So yeah, you actually get to work with better engineers for a fraction of the price.
3. You’ll have a higher profile for attracting talent
If you’re on the west coast, you’re competing with an obscene amount of startups for engineering talent, not to mention the behemoths of Apple, Google, Facebook other public tech companies. In this environment, it can be impossible to stand out from the crowd. But Poland, on the other hand, doesn’t have anywhere close to a similar startup scene as the US. In most Polish cities, you can count the number of successful software startups on one hand. This means that most engineers have to work in Dilbertesque IT departments, using unpleasant technologies like Java and .NET
Our biggest competitor when building our team in Poland was Credit Suisse. Freaking, Credit Suisse. Would you rather compete with Credit Suisse or the latest sexy Y-Combinator startup who just got millions in funding from Accel Partners? Frankly, you probably have a lot more to offer as an employer in the Polish market than you do anywhere on the west coast.
4. Poland is a beautiful, safe country
If you love old world architecture, cobblestone streets, medieval market squares, beautiful landscapes, and good food, you’ll love visiting Poland. And with good public transportation and excellent airports, getting around is easy even for us clueless Americans. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, I highly recommend a trip to the mountains.
But what about the safety risks with building outside of Fortress USA? We all saw Taken. We know what happens when innocent Americans visit Europe.
Again, when it comes to safety Poland has us beat. The metro areas are actually quite a bit safer than your average US city when it comes to crime. Even when you compare it to the rest of Europe it’s a very safe place.
5. There isn’t a language barrier
Poland ranks high on the English proficiency index. Among younger adults it’s even higher. Some American expressions will leave your Polish friends looking blank but there aren’t many.
6. Travel from the west coast is cheap
My family flew round trip to Poland from San Francisco for $720/ticket. That’s a good deal but you can get tickets today for even cheaper.
7. Work happens while you sleep
Poland is 8 hours ahead of the west coast. In California, I start my day around 7:30 AM, which means it’s 3:30 PM in Poland. Sometimes this can be difficult but, honestly, I think this is an advantage. Imagine waking up every morning and seeing a bunch of new commits in GitHub and tickets closed in Jira, almost like magic. Then you hop on Slack or Zoom to talk to your team before they leave for the day. Then after lunch you have a whole big landscape of time to plan and strategize. It also meant for us that we had 24 hour coverage for support. There was never a time at Droplr when someone wasn’t able to respond to an urgent issue.
I’ve always been suspicious about win-win situations but our decision to build our team in Poland felt like one for everyone involved. If you’re thinking about building a team in Poland and you have questions that this article didn’t cover, hit me up and we can talk.