SeekOut, which aims to help enterprises hire from a more diverse talent pool, announced it has raised $115 million in a Series C round of funding led by Tiger Global Management.
The financing values the Seattle-based startup at over $1.2 billion and brings its total raised to $189 million since its 2017 inception. It follows a year of 300% growth in revenue, bringing its annual recurring revenue (ARR) to the $25 million to $50 million range. For some context, SeekOut was valued at $500 million when it raised a $65 million Series B in March of 2021 — also led by Tiger Global.
A group of former Microsoft executives and engineers — Anoop Gupta, Aravind Bala, John Tippett and Vikas Manocha — came up with the foundation of what would eventually become SeekOut in 2016 when they began building a messaging platform that provided a deep level of information about people that others might be emailing. When the quartet realized that what customers really were after was the information they were uncovering, and not so much the messaging capability, the company pivoted in 2017.
Today, SeekOut’s goal is to help talent acquisition teams recruit “hard-to-find and diverse talent.” It’s a problem faced by many companies, and increased demand for its offering is evidenced by the fact that over the last 11 months, SeekOut has grown its customer base from 500 to more than 1,000.
“We’ve seen very high retention and huge growth with existing customers,” said Gupta, the company’s co-founder and CEO. He declined to name names, but said that SeekOut is working with six of the 10 “most highly valued companies” by market cap in the U.S. Its customers hail from a range of industries, from technology to pharmaceutical to aerospace and defense to banking.
“In the last two years, we’ve seen a seismic shift in the world of work and how companies are engaging with employees,” Gupta told TechCrunch. “There is a lot at stake and how companies hire, retain, grow and develop their people will make a difference between companies surviving or thriving, or dying.”
Over the years, SeekOut has built out a database with hundreds of millions of profiles using its AI-powered talent search engine and “deep interactive analytics.” It finds talent by scouring public data and using natural-language and machine-learning technologies to understand the expertise of each candidate to build a complete 360-degree view of each potential employee. Specifically, it blends info from public profiles, GitHub, papers and patents, employee referrals, company alumni and candidates in ATS systems.
While SeekOut initially focused strictly on technical talent, it has since broadened its base to helping recruiters and sources find more diverse candidates in general, as well as people with simply “hard-to-find” skill sets. And it claims to do it with “unprecedented speed and precision” via a blind hiring method designed to reduce bias by doing things like giving companies or individuals the ability to filter out things like an applicant’s name, photo or school attended. SeekOut then gives recruiters a way to engage with candidates instantly by getting access to the right contact information in a “single click.”
Gupta said SeekOut’s platform (dubbed Talent-360) helps companies not only find diverse talent, but helps them improve retention by finding the “right” candidate to begin with.
“Today, enterprises are essentially flying blind when it comes to building and maintaining their workforces. The balance of power is shifting to the employees and the employees care about purpose, flexibility, compensation and their growth,” Gupta said. “And when not done right, it leads to employees walking with their feet and so the great resignation, the great reshuffle is becoming a big challenge.”
But it’s also a huge opportunity, the executive believes. And so perhaps it’s not a surprise that SeekOut is emphasizing efforts to help companies not just hire quality talent, but also retain it as part of a new talent optimization offering.
It was a logical move for the company, which has demonstrated strength in talent acquisition.
“How companies can develop their internal talent and what they can do, or how they broaden the aperture of hiring, becomes more important with remote and hybrid work and diversity becoming critical to hiring great talent,” Gupta said. “These are all becoming basically very fundamental things that enterprises need to do. To get ahead, given these seismic shifts in technology and innovation, companies can go from being leaders to laggards in a short time.”
Over the past year, SeekOut has seen its headcount tripled to about 120 and will likely triple again in 2022, according to Gupta. It is close to break-even in terms of cash flow, but Gupta says that the company’s “revenue growth has been so rapid” that it is supporting its investment growth.
Its latest financing also included participation from Founders Circle Capital, and other existing backers including Madrona Venture Group and Mayfield.
Founders Circle’s participation in particular was notable in that it led to SeekOut being able to support a secondary for its employees. Since Founders Circle was willing to buy common shares from employees, some were able to sell a small portion of their vested shares.
“I’m really delighted that our employees are able to realize some of the benefits of their hard work and the success they have created for SeekOut,” Gupta said. “This is something we intentionally sought out to give to our employees.”
For his part, Tiger Global Partner John Curtius acknowledges that there is a clear shift in the way companies are thinking about hiring and retaining talent.
“SeekOut is at the forefront of this change, delivering a best-in-class solution for talent optimization that enables businesses to hire, grow and retain their workforce like never before,” he said in a written statement. “We are excited to partner with them as they continue to reshape the industry and provide companies with data, insights, and actions that drive results.”
Meanwhile, Gupta believes that talent recruitment and retention is no longer the problem of an HR department.
“The right talent is key to success and that’s why this is becoming a CEO and board of directors Top of Mind issue rather than just something for HR leaders to worry about,” he said. “Data is everywhere in the enterprise, except where you need it most, which is informing the decisions about people you need and the people you have.”
In fact, SeekOut’s data-focused strategy was a big factor in attracting S. Somasegar, Managing Director at Madrona.
“Their deep technology approach of building the most comprehensive profile of people and a semantic search engine to enable hiring managers and recruiters to be able to clearly define what they are looking for in talent, and being able to generate the right pool of candidates to look from is both unique and highly effective in talent sourcing,” he wrote via email.