There is a stubbornly persistent line of thinking that it’s hard to find talent from underrepresented groups, or worse, you are somehow lowering the bar by trying to build a diverse workforce.
Joonko, an early-stage startup, has come up with a way to help companies find candidates who have made it to the final stage of the interview process with another tech company without getting hired. Today the company announced a $25 million Series B.
“We help companies source high-quality, vetted, underrepresented candidates with a zero-touch solution. So you as a company don’t need to do anything for your pipelines to be flooded with very high-quality, what we call the silver medalists, underrepresented folks,” company founder and CEO Ilit Raz told TechCrunch.
The idea behind pulling silver medalists from recruitment systems is that people who made it through the entire interview process at another company have proven that they have talent.
“The fact that Joonko focuses on silver medalists, which is the people who get to the last steps in the recruitment process at another company, being offered an opportunity in a second company, puts us in a position where we say everyone in Joonko’s talent pool is not just coming from an underrepresented group, but they are also super high quality,” Raz said.
As an example, she says if a person made it through a rigorous process at a company like Atlassian and came in second, it’s reasonable to assume that this person is a quality candidate. The startup has access to recruitment systems, and they get permission from the candidates themselves to be included in Joonko. Most people looking for a job are happy to participate.
The product today helps companies find employees from three groups: women, people of color and veterans, some of whom cross over multiple groups. The company launched in 2017, but a lot changed after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police in 2020 and companies began looking much more closely at their diversity efforts. VP of strategy Albrey Brown was head of diversity at Airtable at the time, and says that he witnessed a big shift in how businesses think about diversity.
“I think a lot of both CEOs and C-suite folks who I spoke to, talked about how it made them viscerally aware of what was going on in their companies,” Brown said. “So this kind of unawareness became an extreme awareness. And then that turned into ‘well, what can I do.’”
And one thing they could do was turn to companies like Joonko for help in recruiting more underrepresented people and getting more diverse people in the interview pipeline is the first step.
“Joonko is interestingly one of the most obvious ways to attack and really invest in diversity in your company, because we focus on only getting you and referring you to underrepresented candidates. So the conversation went from what I like to call, a movement from a moment. And thankfully, we’re continuing to see that movement move forward, rather than kind of this conversation falling to the wayside,” he said.
While the company is concentrating on bringing folks from these groups into the top of the funnel, it has bigger plans for the future.
Raz says the next step will be to focus on retention, which is often a problem if people feel isolated inside organizations. She says that her company currently has around 35 employees. She is definitely trying to practice what she preaches when it comes to diversity, even though she acknowledges that it’s a challenge, as it is for any company.
“I can understand why companies struggle, but I think at the same time, we are very proud to say all of the employees in our New York office are underrepresented. We have 60% women, and about a third or maybe a little bit more people of color. So we’re really, really focused on making it right. But I think that the quicker you do it, and the earlier you do it, the easier it becomes,” she said.
Today’s $25 million investment was led by Insight Partners with participation from Target Global and existing investors Kapor Capital and Vertex Ventures Israel. A group of prominent DEI angel investors also participated.