Lucinda Duncalf, CEO and Founder Above the board, knows she’s not the first to try to disrupt the hiring process in order to better position different candidates. But the seasoned entrepreneur is optimistic that her company’s approach will make a difference anyway.
The traditional world of executive hiring is built on two main strategies: word of mouth or expensive bounty hunters. The overboard aims to change that by creating a two-sided marketplace where employers can post job listings on a platform they know has a diverse pool of candidates.
“There is a reason why the approach to executive hiring has traditionally been professional services and very specific, because there are only 40 people in the world who can do the job,” she said. “The trick is to find the extra 10 who can.” So instead of being the top of the funnel that finds smart people to fill in, AboveBoard wants to play more at the end of the funnel; finding people who are already qualified and placing them in the jobs they deserve. “It’s very easy to lead the funnel to provide diversity at junior levels,” she added. “It gets harder with every step.”
To help historically undervalued individuals get leadership positions, AboveBoard tells TechCrunch that it has raised $6 million.
The new funding comes from True, a global talent marketplace platform. The platform has incubated AboveBoard with Synthesis, a leadership assessment technology, and in the past, Thrive TRM, a recruitment software company. Today’s check is in the form of a SAFE note, an equity instrument that allows investors to purchase a certain number of shares at an agreed price as part of future funding. Aka, this is a capital injection with no set valuation that will be converted into shares on future raises.
In short, it is a simplified capital raising tool that is usually issued at a discount and helps increase investor returns while speeding up capital raising for the company. To date, AboveBoard has $9 million in funding, with the first tranche of capital closed in July 2021.
The real problem for a startup is whether it can get strong top-tier companies to change their approaches and consider the platform, not a friend, as the search engine for their next high-profile employee. Duncalf says she’s noticed that one of the dynamics within companies is that their first executive hired might be a diversity and inclusion executive; AboveBoard wants to expand companies’ view of the role of different people beyond representing their own interests.
The competition is high and well capitalized. Canvas, launched in 2017, raised $20 million. last year to help technology companies find diverse talent. The moat of a startup is that it eschews artificial intelligence and is able to build a recruiting platform solely on the basis of reported data. Companies can turn to Canvas and filter out priority groups for hiring. Seekout, another diverse recruiting startup, received a $115 million round in January. Unlike Canvas, Seekout unearths diverse talent by “sweeping through public data and using natural language and machine learning technologies to understand each candidate’s experience and create a complete 360-degree view of each potential hire,” says TechCrunch’s Mary Ann Azevedo.
In her opinion, AboveBoard is different in that it clearly focuses on leadership roles. Only a handful of large companies are recruiting executives, and Aboveboard has one of those companies – True – on the team (literally). True helped launch AboveBoard by publishing customer search results and sharing partnerships, a necessary influx of information for a startup looking to create a market.
Duncalfe says the Black Lives Matter movement has played a huge role in getting companies to take diversity more seriously. One side effect of the more vocal talk about representation in decision-making roles is that limited partners are required to report the diversity performance of their portfolio companies. Quantitative analysis can wake up companies.
At the moment, AboveBoard says the most in-demand positions are HR, marketing and sales executives. After launching in October 2020, AboveBoard has attracted over 6,000 executives and 400 companies by July 2021. Now, as of May 2022, the company has over 30,000 approved members, all of whom are on the platform for free, and 1,300 companies. “We overrepresented the underrepresented,” Duncalf said.
Credit: techcrunch.com /