Matt Mullenweg

How Paul Graham Is Wrong

I love Paul Graham’s essays and his latest is no exception: Let the Other 95% of Great Programmers In. I agree that the US deserves dramatically better immigration policies, but in the meantime I’m confused with the head-in-the-sand approach most tech companies are taking simultaneously complaining that there are lots of great people they can’t bring into the US, but being stubborn on keeping a company culture that requires people to be physically co-located.

In a region that prides itself on disruption and working from first principles, San Francisco’s scaling problem is pretty humorous if you look at it from the outside: otherwise smart and inventive founders continue to set up offices and try to hire or move people in the most overheated environment since there were carphones in Cadillac Allantes. This is where I feel like Paul Graham misses the most obvious solution to the problem.

If 95% of great programmers aren’t in the US, and an even higher percentage not in the Bay Area, set up your company to take advantage of that fact as a strength, not a weakness. Use WordPress and P2, use Slack, use G+ Hangouts, use Skype, use any of the amazing technology that allows us to collaborate as effectively online as previous generations of company did offline. Let people live someplace remarkable instead of paying $2,800 a month for a mediocre one bedroom rental in San Francisco. Or don’t, and let companies like Automattic and Github hire the best and brightest and let them live and work wherever they like.

Update: There is a vigorous discussion also happening on Hacker News.