frontierville-on-facebook-5Last week Zynga let go of up to 70 employees in its New York office. They won’t be unemployed for long. In a sign of just how aggressively startups are duking it out for the best talent, recruiters have already been circling the freshly laid-off developers. It’s hardly been a week.

On Wednesday night in Spark Capital hosted a recruiting party for the laid off developers at their Soho office, which happens to be a block from Zynga’s now-shuttered office. Lured in by the promise of free booze, around 50 ex-Zynga employees showed up to meet and be schmoozed by employees of Spark Capital’s portfolio companies. It’s sortof a genius move.

Whether any of the ex-Zynga employees — most of which were mobile developers — join a Spark Capital portfolio company remains to be seen of course. I can’t imagine this was their first recruitment call, though it might have been one of the more subtle attempts. Hang out, meet our companies, drink our beer no pressure. From what I’ve heard, many of them plan to take some time off before jumping into a new project.

It’s not the first time something like has happened. Aside from its pile of cash, one of Zynga’s greatest assets is its trove of 2800 employees (down to 2300 as of last week). In October, Zynga laid off more than 100 employees from its Austin, Boston and Chicago offices. Mobile gaming startup Scopely offered a $3000 referral bonus plus a year of free BBQ for anyone willing to help recruit any of those laid off developers. The company did it again last week, offering a “free trip to see one of the seven wonders of the world.”

Last year Sarah noted the way this kind of blanket recruiting reminded her of the dotcom bubble:

I remember one story from 1999, where the hunt for warm bodies to fill startups was so intense that a guy drove by a soccer field in a BMW, rolled down the window and yelled, “Hey! Anyone here want a job?”

Although this is a bit different — these newly jobless developers have in-demand skills. They won’t be without work for long if they don’t want to be.

Some comapnies have taken the exact opposite tact when it comes to the kinds of employees they want. When Yahoo tried to sue Facebook for copyright infringement (remember that mess?), Yammer CEO David Sacks did some reverse recruiting — anyone who doesn’t leave Yahoo in the next 60 days will be blacklisted from ever working for Yammer.

  1. Zynga Inc. is the world's leading provider of social games with more than 240 million monthly active users playing its games, including CityVille, Zynga Poker, Draw Something, Hidden Chronicles, FarmVille, CastleVille, Words With Friends, Empires & Allies, Scramble With Friends, Café World, The Pioneer Trail, Indiana Jones™ Adventure World and Mafia Wars. Zynga's games are available on a number of global platforms, including Facebook, Zynga.com, Google+, Tencent, Apple iOS and Google Android.