WorkTorch, the only career discovery platform for the service economy workforce, raised $2.2 million in a seed round led by Tenzing Capital, Tech Crunch reports. Previously known as QuickHire, sisters and founders Deborah Gladney and Angela Muhwezi-Hall’s new focus since raising more funds is not only more recruiting but also retention, as proved by the name change
“Finding the right talent is just half the battle,” Gladney said. “Where companies are really being hit the hardest is losing people faster than they’re coming in the door.” Wanting to make more of an impact, they considered their recruiting efforts fruitless since businesses weren’t doing anything to keep their new employees. “We started leaning into what was happening to people post-hire and have started to focus on career development and talent retention tools,” Gladney continued. “So our new name is WorkTorch. We want to be a guiding light to a better career, a better workforce.”
Less than two years old, WorkTorch has a roster of more than 40,000 people actively looking for a job with 1000 scheduled interviews monthly. To continue to shift the company towards retention, users can now track their career development and connect with other users; employers now have access to new retention tools based on regional trends.
Despite things like “quiet quitting” or “The Great Resignation,” HR platforms are still on VCs radars, pouring $1.4 billion into the industry at the top of 2022 with HR startups raising a total of 12.3 billion last year. Based in Kansas, Gladney and Muhwezi-Hall are the first Black women to raise more than $1M in the Midwest. But according to Muhwezi-Hall, this time was harder than the last time they raised funding. “People would give soft commitments, perform extensive due diligence, and then back out, saying they actually never wanted to get into HR.” According to Forbes, Black founders were receiving less than 1% of VC funding; in 2021, they received 1.2%.
“It was very odd,” Muhwezi-Hall said. “A lot of these individuals have social media presences that are focused on diversity and inclusion. We were excited to meet with them. But when push came to shove, it was like any other — probably even worse than the VCs that just wouldn’t respond to our emails because they strung us along and wasted so much of our time.”
However, despite the obstacles, they were able to secure top investors such as Bloomberg Beta, MATH Venture Partners, Ruthless for Good Fund and Graham & Walker, which will allow them to expand to Chicago, Denver, Atlanta, and Dallas.
“Employers need better tools and capabilities to meet the needs of their workforce, and service-industry professionals thrive when offered opportunities to develop and grow their careers,” Josh Oeding, the founder of Tenzing Capital, told TechCrunch. “WorkTorch has figured out how to deliver value to employers, and professionals and the market is responding.”
Leslie Feinzaig, the founder of Graham & Walker, added, “I was deeply impressed by Deborah and Angela and had one of those magical first meetings where I immediately know I want to invest,” she told TechCrunch. “It was striking to me that this team deeply understands and respects the service workers, in a way that is rare in startup pitches. And this translates to metrics that are undeniable and unheard of for a startup at this stage.”