Reno software firm: It’s a struggle to attract — and retain — quality developers

Darryl Rubarth, CEO at Synap, stands outside the company headquarters at 201 W. Liberty St. in Downtown Reno.

Darryl Rubarth, CEO at Synap, stands outside the company headquarters at 201 W. Liberty St. in Downtown Reno. Photo by Kaleb Roedel.

Darryl Rubarth is trying to solve a problem hampering many midsize businesses these days: a skilled developer shortage.

With top software developers often getting scooped up by big tech firms and corporations, midsize businesses are left hiring workers who may lack the education and skills required for their role.

And the results are costly.

“I know one company hired somebody they thought was a skilled developer,” Rubarth said. “They ended up paying them $80,000, and that person ended up flaking. We took a look at the code, and it was just horrible, it had to be thrown out. So, they basically just threw out $80,000. I was talking to someone else; they spent $300,000 (on a developer). Exact same thing happened — they tossed out all the code.

“I see this kind of stuff all the time with these midsize companies.”

This is why Rubarth has carved out a long career helping businesses held back by their tech shortcomings.

Starting his career in the 1980s as a software developer at Hewlett-Packard in San Jose, Rubarth eventually landed in Reno in the late ’90s and set out on an entrepreneurial path.

In 1999, he started the website and software development firm Exyst Inc. After 12 years, he regrouped and in 2011 launched a new Reno venture, Lab Analytics, which focused on servicing science-based businesses.

In 2015, he broadened his focus and rebranded as Synap. The firm provides custom software development for companies, including commercial software applications, in-house software applications, legacy software modernization, mobile app development and application plugins.

Now in its 10th year, Snyap ( also integrates physical equipment or small devices with the cloud and mobile apps, said Rubarth, CEO of Synap, which has seen a surge in demand for services.

All told, Rubarth said the company’s revenue has grown “tenfold” over the past five years. In 2020, amid the pandemic, the company saw a 20% jump in business. This year, the firm is up 20% in revenue compared to last year.
Synap is seeing so much demand that Rubarth is looking to hire two more developers to add to his team of 10.

“Getting enough staff has been a bigger problem than getting enough work for us,” Rubarth said. “Recently, staffing has become a lot more difficult in the technology field.”

At the end of 2020, there were 1.4 million unfilled software developer jobs in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the number of graduates in the field is only 400,000 a year.

The shortage has resulted in the growth of software developer salaries. The annual mean wage in the U.S. was more than $110,000 a year as of May 2020, according to the BLS. In Nevada, the mean annual wage was more than $97,000.

Considering that, Rubarth said Synap sets out to help midsize companies eliminate the risk of investing nearly $100,000 a year in a single employee who may not yield a strong return.

“We not only bring more expertise, we bring the knowledge of an entire team,” he explained. “If you hire somebody, you get that one person’s very specific skillset, and those are the skills and knowledge applied to your project. Now, if that person leaves, then you have this huge knowledge loss. Often, when it’s one person, they rarely document anything.”

To that end, Rubarth said Synap documents all the work it does for its clients, and the firm’s developers share knowledge with each other about the projects they are working on, including documented history of code changes.

Having a 12-person team of developers also enables Synap to work as many weekly hours on a client’s project as needed.

“When you hire one person, you always get that 40 hours,” Rubarth said. “But, maybe, for two months you want 80 hours. That's not a problem for us. We'll give you 80 hours. And if you want to then drop back down to 20 hours, that's fine.”

Looking forward, Rubarth said he expects to see more and more midsize companies, and even startups, look to outsource software development needs to avoid making bad hires or dealing with turnover.

In 2018, tech had the highest turnover rate of any industry at 13.2%, according to a report by LinkedIn that analyzed member data. Zooming in on software developers, the turnover rate grew to 21.7%. With the pandemic pushing people to seek other opportunities, it’s likely those rates have increased.

It’s not unusual, Rubarth said, for startups to see developers leave a job after just a few months for better pay.

“If there's a startup business, and they need to put together a team of people, that's a great time to actually engage us because we can start to develop what they need,” Rubarth said. “So, they can get through those initial rounds of funding and have something that's solid and not have a developer that starts a project and then gets a better offer and disappears.”


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