Demand is off the charts for blockchain talent, and the capital is waiting to back it up. More than $3.7 billion has been raised through ICOs in the United States alone. Blockchain-related jobs are the second-fastest growing in today’s labor market; there are now 14 job openings for every one blockchain developer. And as Nick Szabo, the developer who coined “smart contracts,” pointed out, there is an extreme “$/knowledge” ratio in the blockchain space, where capital by far outpaces talent.
Today, Toptal, a marketplace for on-demand tech talent, is publicly launching their blockchain engineering talent vertical out of private beta. In today’s software development landscape, Toptal represents about 50 percent of on-demand engineering labor by revenue.
Requests for on-demand blockchain talent are skyrocketing. Last year, freelance talent marketplace Upwork saw blockchain rise to the fastest-growing skill out of more than 5,000 skills in terms of freelancer billings — a year-over-year increase of more than 35,000 percent. These requests span ICO advisory services, engineering projects and overall blockchain consultancy.
Since January 2017, the demand for blockchain engineering talent on Toptal has grown 700 percent, and 40 percent of the fully managed software development projects requested in the last month require blockchain skills. By diving into the requests Toptal sees, we can start to paint a better picture of the blockchain development languages and knowledge areas increasing in demand.
The first is Hyperledger Fabric implementation, an open-source enterprise blockchain framework. The second is Ripple development, a payment protocol used for distributed processes for remittances, payments and exchanges. The third is smart contract development with a concentration around Solidity, a smart-contract programming language for Ethereum Virtual Machine.
Taso Du Val, Toptal’s founder and CEO, thinks this sheds some predictions on blockchain development at-large.
“Different types of contracts are going to be disrupted first,” he said. “Disruption will be in places like asset management, or deals being made that require complex contracting. Payments are so complex, and to work at scale, require the sign-off of not just central banks, but also governments. Payments won’t come first. Contracts don’t need such a sign-off, since they are a lower barrier to entry. There are less regulatory hurdles, so we will see the contract space get disrupted first.”
Toptal’s launch of blockchain engineering talent in its freelance talent marketplace could be a double win. On the one hand, it could help with blockchain ecosystem development overall by cross-pollinating blockchain development projects as on-demand engineers take knowledge from one project to another. Moreover, it could grow the blockchain talent pool overall through Toptal’s engineering skill development program, which helps their existing engineering pool get up to snuff on blockchain.
Toptal’s blockchain engineers are working on projects like the Hashgraph, which addresses scalability issues, and with large public companies like SinglePoint on blockchain integrations. The variety of clients using Toptal for their projects, and their completely remote workforce spanning 100 countries, signals the further development of blockchain engineers with actual applied experience — Toptal even lets their clients hire them for a contract-to-hire fee.
Toptal’s talent structure aims to also grow the network of skilled blockchain engineers over time. They co-designed a test and training curriculum with top engineers in blockchain that they use to train their existing network of engineers. In fact, Toptal sees growing the talent force in blockchain as integral to their business today and the only way to meet growing demand. They screen and accept to their talent network the top three percent of engineers, and are interested in training their existing network to be skilled with blockchain.
The founder of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin, thinks “core developers and researchers should be employed by multiple companies or organizations…[and]…the knowledge of the technical considerations behind protocol upgrades must be democratized, so that more people can feel comfortable participating in research discussions and criticizing protocol changes.”
Vitalik’s vision of the market is a reality reinforced by more projects, implementations and companies demanding blockchain than there are engineers available to work on them.