Place strategy

AboveBoard’s $6M seed will help place underrepresented people in leadership roles – TechCrunch

Lucinda Duncalfe, CEO and founder of AboveBoard, knows she’s not the first to try to disrupt hiring pipelines to better position diverse candidates. But, the seasoned entrepreneur is optimistic that the angle his business is taking will make a difference anyway.

The traditional world of executive recruiting relies on two main strategies: word of mouth or expensive headhunters. AboveBoard aims to change that by creating a two-sided marketplace where employers can post jobs to a platform they know has a diverse set of applicants.

“There’s a reason executive hiring has traditionally had a professional services approach and been very specific, it’s because only 40 people in the world can do this job,” she said. “The trick is to find the extra 10 that can.” So instead of working as a top of the funnel platform that finds smart people to put in roles, AboveBoard wants to play more at the end of the funnel; find people who are already qualified and place them in the jobs they deserve. “It’s pretty easy to get to the top of the funnel to ensure diversity at junior levels,” she added. “It gets harder with every step you go up.”

To help historically overlooked people gain leadership positions, AboveBoard tells TechCrunch it has raised $6 million.

The new funding comes from True, a global talent market placement platform. The platform has incubated AboveBoard with Synthesis, a leadership assessment technology and, in the past, Thrive TRM, a recruiting software company. Today’s check is in the form of a SAFE note, a capital instrument that allows investors to purchase a number of shares at an agreed price for future funding. Aka is a capital injection without defined valuation, which will be transformed into shares in future increases.

In short, it is a simplified capital-raising instrument that is normally issued at a discount, and which can increase returns for investors while accelerating the raising of capital for the company. To date, AboveBoard’s funding is $9 million, with the first tranche of capital closing in July 2021.

The real challenge for the startup is whether it can get strong, top companies to change their ways and consider a platform — not a friend — as a sourcing engine for their next recruit. Duncalfe says she’s noticed a dynamic within companies is that their first diverse executive hire may be a diversity and inclusion manager; AboveBoard wants to broaden the way companies view the role of diverse individuals, beyond representing their own interests.

The competition is tough and well capitalized. Canvas, launched in 2017, raised $20 million last year to help tech companies find diverse talent. The startup’s pitfall is its avoidance of AI and its ability to build a recruiting platform based solely on reported data. Businesses can turn to Canvas and filter priority groups to hire. Seekout, another diverse recruiting startup, landed a $115 million round in January. Unlike Canvas, Seekout finds diverse talent by “scouring public data and using natural language and machine learning technologies to understand each candidate’s expertise to create a comprehensive 360-degree view of each potential employee.” reports Mary Ann Azevedo of TechCrunch.

AboveBoard differentiates itself, in his view, by focusing explicitly on leadership roles. Only a handful of big companies do executive search, and Aboveboard has one of those companies – True – on its team (literally). True helped start AboveBoard by posting customer research and sharing partnerships, a necessary influx of information for a startup aiming to create a marketplace.

Duncalfe believes the Black Lives Matter movement has played a huge role in getting businesses to take diversity more seriously. One of the side effects of a louder conversation about representation in decision-making roles is that limited partners require diversity metrics to be communicated to their portfolio companies. Quantitative analysis has the gift of waking up companies.

So far, AboveBoard says the most in-demand roles are those of human resources, marketing and sales managers. After launching in October 2020, AboveBoard has attracted over 6,000 executives and 400 companies in July 2021. Today, in 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,” Duncalfe said.