Hacker Fellows Works to Keep Talent in Michigan

August 28th, 2019

Sam Ging, Program Director of ID Ventures’ Hacker Fellows Program, talks about how the program keeps startup talent in Michigan by supporting junior developers and the companies they work for.


I’m Sam Ging, Program Director of Hacker Fellows, a program that aims to keep talent in Michigan by matching aspiring software engineers and future entrepreneurs with startups across the state. The program is part of Invest Detroit’s venture arm ID Ventures and helps to achieve our mission of supporting the larger Michigan startup ecosystem. We believe that by supporting startup businesses, we can help create job opportunities for Michigan residents so that junior level tech talent doesn’t need to leave the state for career growth.  

The reason for Hacker Fellows is simple. Startups, especially startups in Michigan, struggle to attract and retain top talent because they are strapped for resources in their early days. We’ve learned that very early-stage startups with less than ten employees are most likely to hire junior level tech talent. Additionally, junior developers in Michigan have trouble finding startup opportunities close to home. So we put the two together and support them both–providing startups with salary support and helping junior developers find the opportunities. 

We recruit junior level software talent, students and recent graduates from across the state and country, with an eye on adding diversity to the field. Then we get them ‘startup ready’ through extensive software/entrepreneurial training and match them with Michigan-based startups. Some of these employers have standout brands, some of them are unknown but doing amazing work. We’ve found that this is our community’s most valuable asset when attracting and retaining talent in Michigan. Students not only choose to join Hacker Fellows for full-time entry-level opportunities, but to enter the growing Hacker Fellows community of 100+ highly creative, like-minded technologists and future entrepreneurs. Community is what keeps talent in Michigan, developing their careers. And it’s working:

One of those applicants was Vladimir Jojo Otchere (Vlad) who joined the program in 2019 after receiving his degree in Computer Science from Michigan State University. After our training bootcamp, Vlad went to work for Pocketnest in Downtown Detroit as their first technical employee and is currently building their mobile/web financial planning solution. He decided to join Hacker Fellows for two reasons, to stay in Michigan after graduation and work for a startup. For him, working for a startup means that he has direct access to his manager and CEO without having to deal with the corporate ‘red tape.’ Read his recent blog on the Hacker Fellows’ site.

For the employers, we’ve created a recruitment platform and a refined pipeline of developers to make it easy for them to find valuable and trained candidates. In addition, we provide salary support to employers who hire from the Hacker Fellows program. Close to 100% of our hiring partners say the main reasons why they link up with Hacker Fellows is to access our high-quality talent network and their increased ability to build relationships and collaborate within the tech and investment community. 

By supporting both the employers and the career-seekers, we are able to build a strong community of passionate technologists and employers to uplift our ecosystem. But ultimately, we are driven by the strong belief that Michigan has the potential to be a major destination for high-tech startups that can benefit from our wealth of talent. Startups can have a tremendous impact on our state’s economy, and we want to help to ensure that both employers and employees in Michigan have a chance to thrive.