Handshake makes its first-ever acquisition with Europe in mind

Sometimes you go in for a Handshake, but they refuse to let go and end up buying your entire company.

Well, at least that seems to be the case with European virtual and hybrid recruiting platform Talentspace, which just got acquired by a talent network Handshake. It is Handshake‘s first acquisition to date and follows a $200 million Series F in January that valued its business at $3.5 billion. The company recently hit $100 million in annual recurring revenue.  [Update: Handshake originally provided the $100M ARR figure, but contacted me after the publication of this article to say they’re still “approaching” that figure but have not yet attained it. Worth noting that’s very similar to the figure they provided TechCrunch last May for their $80M funding raise. Update #2: Handshake spokesperson said that they “remain on track to hit (and likely exceed) ” $100 million in ARR].

Handshake helps students and alumni build rapport and secure jobs with recruiters, a community that led to over 1.7 million connections in 2021. To date, the company has successfully attracted over 21 million students and alumni to its platform hailing from over 1,400 educational institutions, which range from private universities to tech bootcamps. The company has differentiated itself by focusing on placing diverse students with hard to secure jobs — its user base includes folks from over 290 minority-serving institutions.

We don’t have an exact figure to understand the cost of the transaction, but Handshake hinted that it is between $10 million to $50 million. Per Crunchbase, Talentspace raised $4 million in known venture capital to date, meaning that a deal in that range would be a solid exit for the smaller company and its investors.

With such a solid user base, a seemingly healthy business, and over 650,000 employers turning to the platform for talent, one may ask what does Handshake need from other companies that it can’t build itself?

The two companies clearly have synergies: Talentspace builds recruiting experiences for college students on behalf of clients like Amazon and Porsche, and Handshake powers professional network and graduate recruitment for diverse college students. CEO and founder Garrett Lord tells TechCrunch that the most notable difference between the two companies is that Talentspace offers a live virtual day-of event experience for career fairs or recruiting events. Students can drop in and out of sessions, see employers to click into, and check out feed of activity, he explained.

“It includes hybrid virtual [and] in-person formats today which afford us significant learning value, in terms of user behavior and enterprise adoption,” Lord said. “Talentspace is multilingual and used across many different countries. Finally, all candidates can access Talentspace regardless of university affiliation, which is critical for rapid global growth.”

That last sentence is particularly interesting: Handshake thinks that Talentspace can help it with global ambitions, especially by broadening out the product to those who may not be students at traditional universities. Handshake first launched in the U.K. in 2020 and its presence is, as result, much smaller there compared to the United States.

“Career services infrastructure is far less robust in this market than it is in the U.S. and U.K.,” Lord told TechCrunch. “Event management is, in contrast, a universal need among institutions in continental Europe and offers a light touch opportunity to engage with universities and onboard students.” He thinks the acquisition will help Handshake build off of a “strong entry point” ahead of a formal Europe launch. Both companies need to prove that students will turn to virtual recruiting and networking as the best way to kickstart their career, a tastebud that Handshake is (obviously) confident is going nowhere.

As for who Handshake is acquiring next, the founder didn’t get too specific on which verticals they’re looking at, instead saying “we will continue to keep an eye on technology that makes virtual recruitment more personalized and accessible for all students.”

Join the tens of thousands of people who subscribe to Startups Weekly. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.