by Amy Feldman
Sarah Nahm cofounded Lever five years ago to rethink recruiting for the digital age. The San Francisco-based recruiting software company helps its customers not only track resumes, but also identify and cultivate people who might not be actively job-hunting.
As the recruiting space becomes increasingly competitive, Lever has amassed a significant war chest. Today, it said that it had raised an additional $30 million in venture financing from Adams Street Partners, Matrix Partners and Scale Partners, bringing its total funding to $62 million. It could raise as much as $10 million more before officially closing the round. That gives Lever, which FORBES estimates has revenues above $20 million, the cash to do more R&D and to add new analytical functions to its software to meet the needs of highly complex, global corporations. Lever’s more than 1,300 customers include Netflix, KPMG, Lyft and Cirque du Soleil. “We’ve tried to rethink what has been a stale category,” Nahm says.
Like its competitors, including Google, which recently entered the market with a new app called Hire, Lever offers an applicant tracking system that helps companies manage resumes. Toward the end of last year, it also introduced a new software product, called Nurture, that helps companies find and attract people who may not be looking. Such relationship-driven recruiting may seem obvious – networking for both hiring managers and job seekers is nothing new – but software that helps companies manage it at scale has been elusive and difficult to set up. “The old way of screening resumes wasn’t helping businesses compete for talent or diversify their workforces,” she says.
Thanks to Nahm’s leadership, Lever is known as much for its own efforts in diversity as for its software: It has more than 100 employees, 50% of whom are women and 40% of whom are non-white, both unusual statistics for a Silicon Valley, venture-backed business, and ones that Nahm hopes Lever’s customers can learn from. Its engineering staff is 43% female, a level it attained in part by using its own software to create a pipeline of talent. “Culture is not your ping-pong table or even your perks,” says Nahm, 31, the company’s chief executive officer. “It is who you hire, who you fire, and who you promote.”
Nahm, the daughter of Korean immigrants, grew up in Birmingham, Alabama where she made a documentary about segregation in public schools and spent time campaigning door-to-door to reform the state constitution. After graduating from Stanford with a degree in engineering and product design, she went to work at Google, first as a speechwriter to Marissa Mayer and then on the product development team of Chrome.
In 2012, when Nahm launched Lever with cofounders Nate Smith, the firm’s chief technology officer, and Randal Truong, its chief product officer, technology companies were throwing around cash to get the best employees. “It was the height of Silicon Valley’s war for talent,” Nahm says. “We started getting interested in recruitment because we had an awareness that employment had changed.”
To understand what was going on, she says, they spent nine months embedded inside hypergrowth companies, including Twitter, which expanded from 700 employees to 1,500 during that time. What they saw confirmed their belief that employment, especially for Millennials, had changed. The best people weren’t job-hunting, so companies that wanted to hire them needed to do the searching themselves, and recruiters weren’t the best people to do this. “It’s this opportunistic workforce,” she says. “The best companies are elevating recruiting out of HR and making it part of their culture.”