Diverse teams outperform non diverse ones by 35%. African Americans are 16% less likely to get invited to job interviews. The largest search engine in the world only employs 1% African Americans in its tech staff and only 2% of that tech staff is Hispanic. Yet, 57% of employees think their companies should be more diverse according to GlassDoor. But 41% of hiring managers are “too busy” to implement diversity initiatives at their companies according to SHRM. What to do? Jopwell is solving this issue by connecting employers interested in diversity with vetted, diverse candidates using its platform. Helping Black, Latino/Hispanic and Native American students and professionals advance professionally, Jopwell has created a pool of underrepresented talent available to the current 70+ leading employers on the platform such as Pfizer, Pinterest, and Lyft.
AlleyWatch spoke with CEO and founder Porter Braswell about the Startup and how it has raised its most recent round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We’re excited to announce that we just raised our most recent round, a series A totaling $7.5 million and bringing Jopwell’s total funding to date to $11.75 million. This latest round was led by pre-existing investor Cue Ball Capital. Returning investors in this round include Kapor Capital, Y Combinator, Omidyar Network, and Valar Ventures. New investors include SJF Ventures, Blue Ivy Ventures and Teneo Ventures.
Tell us about your product or service.
Jopwell is a career platform that helps Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American students and professionals unlock opportunities for career advancement. We have partnerships with over 70 leading employers, including Lyft, the NBA, Pfizer, Blackrock, Pinterest among many others, and we work closely with these partners to connect our community to exciting career opportunities across levels and divisions within each organization. We’ve developed an algorithm that analyzes a candidate’s résumé, skills, past experiences, and unique preferences, so that we can best present members of our community with personalized roles they may not have otherwise been exposed to or considered.
What inspired you to start the company?
My cofounder, Ryan Williams, and I met while working as analysts on Wall Street. During a long layover at the airport, we started talking about our shared experience as Black professionals. We realized we were both taking on the role of a diversity recruiter, helping to bring other diverse professionals into our company. We also discovered that we had both gained early exposure to finance through diversity programs catered to underrepresented students. We felt very lucky that these programs provided us with unique opportunities to lay the foundation for successful careers, but the reality is that the majority of other ambitious underrepresented students don’t have access to similar opportunities. We started talking about diversity in the workplace and the challenges that companies face when working to access and engage a diverse pool of talent. We knew there had to be a better way to attract top talent to companies at scale, while building a diverse professional community, so we left our jobs in 2014 to launch Jopwell.
How is it different?
There are many great job platforms that post listings but do not simultaneously facilitate workplace diversity. There are also nonprofits and organizations that recruit underrepresented minority students and professionals into diversity job programs, similar to the program Ryan and I went through in high school that led us to careers in finance. But these programs are not necessarily designed to provide people with the opportunity to explore careers across industries. I personally didn’t realize being an entrepreneur was an option, because it was not a path I had exposure to before launching Jopwell. By using technology to help Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American students and professionals unlock opportunities for career advancement across industries and at scale, we’re taking a distinct approach.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
Jopwell works on two fronts. First, we develop partnerships with employers that value diversity but need help accessing and engaging a diverse talent pool. We have 70 partners across finance, media, entertainment, sports, tech and more.
Our other target market is our community of tens of thousands of Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American students and professionals. Representing Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American professionals was a very intentional decision to focus on the minority groups that have been historically and statistically least represented in the workplace. Many employers broadly define “diverse” and fail to really focus on where the most progress is needed. We felt that in order to create a truly diverse workforce and make measurable impact toward increasing representation, focusing in was key.
What’s your business model?
We believe that the pipeline of qualified, underrepresented talent exists but that companies and candidates are not effectively connecting. By creating a platform where Black, Latino/Hispanic and Native American professionals can connect to leading companies for career opportunities, Jopwell is investing in a solution to make the workplace more diverse. The way this works is simple. First and foremost, Jopwell is free for our community of Black, Latino/Hispanic and Native American students and professionals. Our employer partners then work with us to access our community of talent and recruit for roles in a variety of ways, depending on the scope of the partnership. Some of our employer partners simply pay to have recruiter access to the searchable pool of candidates we’ve developed. Other companies work with us to receive tailored feeds of qualified candidates or to collaborate around branded, offline events that engage the Jopwell community.
How has your business changed since we last spoke with you after the last funding in 2016?
We’ve grown our community, internal team, and network of partner companies significantly since we raised our seed round. Our candidates, both students and professionals, come from more than 900 undergraduate colleges and universities. We’ve added 41 new partner companies to our network, including BlackRock, Lyft and the NBA. We saw a 510% increase in the number of clickthroughs to jobs and internships applications at Jopwell partner companies. It’s all been very exciting growth.
With this new round, we’re continuing to expand the career support we provide to extend beyond job opportunities and include resources, offline events, and access to new advice and inspiration through our digital magazine, The Well.
What was the funding process like?
We were very lucky to find investors that believe in diversity as a business imperative. We had some great meetings but ultimately took investment from partners that understand our mission and see the potential to scale.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
The biggest challenge was framing our pitch. We needed to balance sharing our progress since launch with explaining our growth opportunities and future vision. It was very different from our seed round, where we focused closely on vision and possibility. When you’re past the seed round, investors need to see measurable impact, as well as projected growth. It was a rewarding experience to show our investors just how much has happened since we launch.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Our investors all understand that diversity is a priority for any company that wants to compete in today’s global economy. It’s an imperative for businesses and the data proves it. According to the McKinsey report published in 2015, companies in the top-quartile for workforce diversity are 35% more likely to financially out-perform their less diverse counterparts. Our investors understand this and believe in our mission-driven approach.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Over the next six months, we’ll be focused on personalizing the Jopwell experience for students and professionals through the career resources, content and events we offer. We are also working to expand our network of partners to include startups by introducing new product offerings that meet early stage companies where they are, helping them leverage Jopwell for the first time to implement a diversity solution earlier on in their growth.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Your main concern should be building a strong team and business plan execution. If you have the idea and you’re willing to get up every day, hustle and make the business the best it can be, people will be more compelled to invest in you. Lay the foundation before worrying about funding or finding the right partners to help you execute and scale.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
In the near term, we’re focused on expanding our product offerings and building out our team. We just hired a new Chief People Officer to oversee culture and development, which we’re really excited about.
Where is your favorite fall destination in the city?
You can’t beat Central Park in the fall.