How to protect yourself in Bubble 2.0

I think the “bubble” is formed by unrealistic business models (or lack thereof) in most of the companies. P/E rations won’t matter much since most of these new companies aren’t going public. Sure you’ve got a hundred thousand users, and you have to scale your server farm up and pay more for bandwidth, but you really think Google Adsense is going to cover all those expenses. Your fancy Bay Area office? Your employees salaries and benefits?

The casualties of the new “bubble” will mostly be the companies. Not the general investing public. At some point the VC’s are going to want some return on their investment. We’ll end up with thousands of “Javascript programmers” and “designers” with no where to go but Starbucks.

Or maybe this bubble never bursts? Maybe every time a company dissolves, 10 new ones pop up made from the remains of the last company?

In any case, there are a few steps you can take to ensure your long-term survival as a software developer.

1) Know your craft
This seems like a simple statement to make. But it’s important. Don’t just learn the latest whiz-bang Javascript framework or web development framework. Understand how the web works. Learn your web servers platform. Understand how Javascript works. What it’s strengths and weaknesses are. Learn more than one programming language and framework. Are you a rails developer? Learn PHP or Django. ASP.NET only? Try creating a smart client WPF Silverlight application.Being a well-rounded developer will make you more marketable when you are looking for a job.

2) Stock options are not a substitute for salary.
If I had to point to one thing that helped me get through the first dot-com bust, it would be the fact that I never accepted stock, either IPO or non-IPO, options or certificates in lieu of actual salary. Make sure you can survive on your salary. If your company wants to give you stock as a bonus, sure. If you’re lucky, it’ll be worth something someday.

3) Be loyal to your co-workers, not to the company.
It’s easier if you think of your company as separate from your co-workers. The project manager that’s taken your team out for pizza every night this week because you’ve been putting in 16-hour days? May have to decide who on the team is expendable if the next round of funding doesn’t go through. You may be the one who goes. The company you work for is only out for itself. Big company meetings where you chant the companies name are fine, just hold off on the BigBuzzOnlineCo.com tattoos. If you get an uneasy feeling about the future of your company, or you just don’t agree with the direction the company is taking, don’t feel like you can’t update your resume or explore options because you’re betraying the company.

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