With roughly 1,100 tech startups in the greater L.A. area, competition for talented engineers is stiff. And that’s not even counting established tech enterprises and giants – such as Google Inc., which has a large presence in Santa Monica – that are looking to hire the area’s best talent.

So when a friend of RadPad Inc. co-founder and Chief Executive Jonathan Eppers offered to refer him to a great engineer in exchange for $5,000, he didn’t bat an eye.

In fact, he decided to up the ante.

Last week, RadPad began offering $10,000 to anyone who introduces the company to an engineer that’s hired on and stays for at least 90 days. So far, the company has already made one job offer based on a referral, though the candidate has yet to make a decision, Eppers said.

When you consider that recruiters typically take a fee equivalent to 20 percent of a placed employee’s annual salary, which can run from $125,000 to $150,000 for a mobile or software developer, RadPad could actually wind up saving tens of thousands of dollars depending on how many they hire.

“Spending $50,000 in referral fees to hire five amazingly talented people is a good investment,” said Eppers, who noted his company is growing rapidly and trying to implement a host of new features.

The company, whose app facilitates apartment rental transactions, in April raised a $9 million Series A round led by West Hollywood’s Altpoint Ventures. Next month, RadPad will move its 29-person team, which includes 14 engineers, out of its miniscule 1,100-square-foot Santa Monica headquarters and into a Culver City office about six times as big.

“We’ve been aggressively trying to hire more engineering on our team, both back end and front end, for the last six months,” said Eppers.

While this is the first time RadPad has offered referral fees, the practice is becoming increasingly common among local tech firms.

“In general, $1,000 or $1,500 is what I’ve seen,” said Joe Devon, co-founder and chief operating officer of Venice digital consultancy Diamond, who has also organized a number of local tech industry mixers among developers.

“Ten thousand dollars is the highest I’ve ever heard,” he added. “It’s worth it.”

Devon is also a co-founder of LA Media Lab, a nonprofit launched earlier this year with the goal of helping local engineers stay in Los Angeles. The group plans to foster communication and innovation among the area’s universities, tech companies, venture capital firms and government officials. The group held its first event at Cross Campus in Santa Monica last week.

Data Dive

A more focused effort aimed at growing the area’s engineering talent pool can be found in Pasadena, in the shape of a new partnership between cybersecurity firm Guidance Software Inc. and Caltech.

The company has funded a program at Caltech’s Center for Data-Driven Discovery, which will be operated in collaboration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The findings will be used to enhance the data-breach detection and incident-response capabilities of Guidance’s forensic and security software.

“Product enhancements are definitely in the works here,” said Michael Harris, Guidance’s chief marketing officer. “Anything we can productize to help solve this problem in the industry would be on the table.”

Guidance’s customers include Fortune 100 companies as well as government and law-enforcement agencies. This year, global data security spending will hit $70 billion, according to research firm Gartner, and the market is only expected to grow as high-profile businesses do everything they can to avoid costly and embarrassing breaches.

The center’s researchers have previously developed algorithms and processes to detect anomalous patterns in sophisticated malware programs, which are types of computer viruses, with the goal of aiding detection. The center has also used its methods to help scientists better predict earthquakes. As part of the partnership, certain Guidance customers will allow the center’s students and staff to analyze their internal data.

Guidance will have a nonexclusive option to license IP from the program. The firm’s executives are also hoping the program will funnel Caltech’s top minds into the company’s ranks after they graduate.

“There’s not enough manpower in the industry right now,” said Harris. “We’re always hiring.”


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Staff reporter Omar Shamout can be reached at oshamout@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 263.

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