An offshore alternative

In May 2003, Jon Carson, chairman and CEO of Cambridge, Mass.-based startup cMarket Inc., had just landed a big contract. The National Parent Teacher Association hired cMarket to build an Internet auction platform for fund-raising.

Carson’s company, which builds such platforms, had to develop something fast — and on a shoestring budget. He needed to hire three reliable programming contractors, but he had some concerns surrounding offshore outsourcing, the cheapest option presented to him.

“In product development, there are very tangible benefits to having your developers literally sitting next to the project manager and marketing people because they can get the nuances of product demand,” Carson says. Plus, in tech-battered Boston, he didn’t feel right outsourcing valuable jobs.

So Carson decided to advertise in The Boston Globe. The catch: He offered the positions at a relatively low salary of US$3,500 per month (or US$42,000 annually), an amount comparable to offshore programmers’ rates but considerably less than the $80,000 to $100,000 typically commanded by Boston-area talent.

Yet despite the lower wages, cMarket found no shortage of interest — in three days, Carson received 120 r

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