LinkedIn, with 645 million users in 200 countries, is the undisputed leader when it comes to being the world’s biggest network of professionals, a position that it uses to leverage products in areas like recruitment and e-learning. But in achieving that size, it hasn’t really developed products for a more targeted approach for specific verticals or audiences. And that has opened the field of a wide variety of startups to fill in the gaps and compete with it. Today, one these hopefuls — a startup called RippleMatch that has built a recruitment platform to help organizations specifically to connect with recent graduates from more diverse backgrounds that match their needs — is announcing a Series A of $ 6 million to do just that.
The funding — which will be used to expand the platform as well as for business development — is being led by G20 Ventures, with Work-Bench, and previous investors Accomplice, Bullpen Capital, and AlleyCorp. also participating.
The company is not disclosing its valuation but from what I understand is that it’s a “material step up”, as it has been on a steady growth curve and counts companies like Pfizer, TripAdvisor, and Qualtrics among its customer base. This is also the first significant outside money that it has raised. RippleMatch’s very first funding, in fact, was the signing bonus that co-founder Eric Ho had received when he once got a job at Facebook. “It was the need to pay that back that led us to raising this Series A,” joked Andrew Myers, the other co-founder who is also the CEO.
Myers and Ho met and started the company when they were still students at Yale University. Ho was about to graduate, but Myers was still in the thick of his undergrad degree, which he still has yet to complete (and, as is the way of tech founders, may never finish).
The idea for the company came when Myers — who studied history and political science — was thinking about the predicament that a lot of his friends from back home in Colorado were facing in the working world.
Like Myers, they were also undergraduates. But unlike him, they were not at Yale nor any other top-shelf school that has the benefit not only of prestigious name recognition, but typically strong recruiting pipelines to some of the most competitive companies hiring graduates for lucrative entry-level positions.
“I was very cognisant of the divide coming from different socio-economic backgrounds,” Myers said in an interview. “I could see that a lot of my friends from home would be better hires for places than some of the people I knew at Yale. They just didn’t have the same opportunities. We didn’t think of this as a business venture in the early days: it was a problem that our friends had that I wanted to solve.”
Using AI to cut out the recruiter
RippleMatch’s approach is relatively straightforward: the company has built a platform that takes a potential candidate through a relatively quick set of questions about his/her career and geographical ambitions, interests and so on, along with a copy of the candidate’s resume.
It then combines these with basic information about a candidate’s GPA and test scores. Taking all that and combining it with more information sources outside of the candidate’s own input, it comes up with some 300 data points that it crunches that together to match candidates with job and internship opportunities. On the employer side, it not only sources job vacancies of the moment, but also works on matching up an employer’s wider hiring strategy with this trove of people — the idea being that it’s bringing up possibilities that the employer might have otherwise passed over, or even seen to begin with.
Myers says that the matching algorithms, which include the ability to ascertain what people might directly and indirectly be best suited to do, that RippleMatch has built essentially cut out the “middle man” in the process — that is, the recruiter, but also potentially of the relationships and pipelines that may already exist, and as a result level the playing field for everyone, making it just as likely that an employer will discover their next star hire from a small college in the midwest as from Stanford.
As Mike Troiano, the partner at G20 who led the firm’s investment in RippleMatch, describes it, a school’s name recognition and networking prowess aren’t the only things standing in the way of qualified candidates getting a look in the door. His daughter was having a hard time getting a response from a company she contacted for an internship and when they put together her LinkedIn profile, they realised that she simply lacked the professional network to figure out if there was someone to contact and help.
“College hiring is kind of a black box through traditional channels. The surveys RippleMatch uses to collect info from students and employers about who they are and what they want create this proprietary data set,” said Troiano. “LinkedIn is about relationships more than attributes. The college market is a niche they’re ill suited to, and one I think they’ll leave alone for now.”
Indeed, while LinkedIn has proven to be a strong starting point for many professionals in their career progression, its shortcomings are most obvious in more specific examples like these. (It was one reason that LinkedIn made a big push some years ago to start trying to bring younger users on to the platform, to work on ways of getting them to start building up their profiles and networks.)
RippleMatch is part of a growing number of startups that have been identifying and (for their purposes) exploiting these kinds of holes in LinkedIn’s wider platform. Another startup that has been building a platform also aimed at graduates and specifically at trying to help source more diverse pools of candidates is Handshake (which itself raised $ 40 million less than a year ago).
Handshake takes a different approach in that it offers job boards and proactively works with universities and recruitment organizations and offers users a social network / community of sorts from which to source advice and exchange information. All this has helped boost that company’s database to 14 million people as of last year, likely more now that it’s opened up access to all university students in the US.
Others that have been pecking away at the LinkedIn hegemony include the likes of Triplebyte, another well-capitalised recruitment startup that targets specifically software engineers. The startup has built its own assessment platform (used by RippleMatch to recruit, incidentally) which its CEO and co-founder Harj Taggar also believes can help level the playing field between those who are coming from big-name companies and schools and those who are not, focusing solely on a person’s ability to code. LinkedIn might have millions of profiles of engineers to Triplebyte’s thousands, but the key with the smaller company is that it has profiles of people “who are actively job searching,” which he notes stands in contrast to the unsolicited contacts that many people get on LinkedIn, just by virtue of being there. “We’re getting two times the rate of responses that recruiting teams see on LinkedIn,” Taggar claimed. It’s now ramping up with a premium tier aimed at those recruiting at scale.
RippleMatch is still at a relatively small and early stage of its life in comparison to these two. While it has partnerships with some 1,200 diversity focused organizations on campuses to bring in more candidates, and today some 60% of its candidate pool are from underrepresented backgrounds, the company today only has about 100,000 candidates in total on the platform and agreements with 60 companies who tap RippleMatch to find them. But, at a time when the economic, societal and geographic rifts seem insurmountable in countries like the US, it’s more important than ever to work on ways to help close those gaps, paving the way for a big opportunity for tech-based solutions like RippleMatch’s.