It’s usually third-world countries that frequently say they’re experiencing a “brain drain” — the bleeding of talent to other countries or parts of the world. But it seems now the United States is the one seeing talent fleeing to other parts of the world, at least as far as blockchain developers are concerned.
The number of blockchain developers in the U.S. has declined every year since 2017, according to a recent report by Electric Capital. While it’s arguably a bad signal for American innovation, it also points to a globally growing remote crypto ecosystem and workforce in a post-COVID world.
According to the report, the U.S.’ share of blockchain developers has fallen 2% per year in the last five years, dropping to 29% last year from 40% in 2017.
“The question is does it matter and why,” Paul Stavropoulos, CEO of credit-focused platform bridging the Web 2.0 and web3 worlds Archie Finance, told TechCrunch+. “The first and most important thing is overall growth of the ecosystem. That has been constant, which is fantastic, but it’s not good that the U.S. is losing market share.”
Compared to other regions in the world, America’s drop is “a marginal difference,” Maria Shen, partner at Electric Capital, said. Europe (excluding the United Kingdom) maintained a consistent share of around 29% during the five years from 2017 to 2022.
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“There’s a counterpoint where it’s not a bad thing that the U.S. is losing market share of developers, but maybe what’s important is the overall number of developers,” Stavropoulos said. “COVID has been a huge help in building remote teams; it’s no longer taboo to build a team with folks all around the world.”
Archie Finance’s engineering team is Slovenian, but it’s still a U.S.-based team, Stavropoulos noted. “It perhaps is not as important that the engineering talent stays in the U.S. as it is that the actual company’s innovation starts in the U.S. I think the scary thing is when innovation doesn’t touch the U.S. at all because of accredited investor rules or people don’t want to be jailed.”
Overall, a significant increase in the number of developers is the most important thing, Stavropoulos said.
The pie is growing
In the last seven years, the crypto industry gained over 22,000 monthly active developers, bringing the total number to 23,343 as of December, up 5% from a year earlier, the report said. About 52% of all monthly active developers began contributing in 2022, marking a big chunk of the people building today.
While the U.S. and Europe are each home to 29% of all crypto developers, regions like Asia, India, Latin America and Africa saw more crypto devs taking up the torch in 2022.
“There’s amazing untapped potential around the globe,” Stavropoulos said. “It’s also cheaper to hire extremely qualified engineers abroad.”