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One of my favorite topics to write and discuss is based on Moneyball, the book written by Michael Lewis and later made into a movie starring Brad Pitt.

The book and movie centered around Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A’s. To the casual observer, he revolutionized baseball by driving the valuation of on base percentage. OB % basically means how frequently you get on base or how infrequently you make an out.  Beane attacked this statistic as he assembled his team over the traditional big metrics like batting average, home runs, and runs batted in, which had long been popular in evaluating players and how teams were built. Beane had to try this because he had finite resources as a small market club and couldn’t compete against the large markets like Boston and New York, paying for expensive free agents with the best the traditional statistics.

Sound familiar? This translates directly into Silicon Valley engineer recruiting! Replace Billy Beane with an early stage startup CEO and Boston & NY with Facebook and Google. Lastly, interchanging University, GPA, and prior companies with batting average, HR, and RBI’s. Now the best part is thinking like Billy Beane. If recruiting engineers with CS degrees from Stanford or prior work experience at great companies is over-valued than what is under-valued?

Depending on who you ask, right now, coding skills are under-valued, and ultimately the best predictor of success for your company. Sometimes you’ll find engineers who went to a 2nd tier school or worked at some companies that aren’t exactly crushing it, but they are highly skilled developers. These prospects are often less expensive, but can make a big difference. In other respects some minority groups are also under-valued. If you’re a startup CEO in SV, don’t be afraid to go against the grain and think like Beane, you may just build yourself a playoff caliber team at a lower cost.

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