By 2012, Sarah Nahm, a former Googler who had worked as a speechwriter for Marissa Mayer and a designer on the Chrome team, knew she was ready for something different.
There was no “lightning strike” moment of inspiration, Nahm tells Business Insider. She and two colleagues knew they wanted to start a company together. They all had an interest in recruitment and human resources. They just didn’t know exactly what they would do.
Over the course of nine months, the Nahm and her partners worked their networks and embedded within tech companies including Twitter, trying to figure out what problem they could solve.
To Nahm’s surprise, it turned out that she was in the right place at the right time. At all of these companies, they found the same frustrations. The headaches weren’t over anything technical. Instead, the thing these high-growth Silicon Valley companies had a tough time solving was hiring. They wanted the best programmers and the best talent, but the market was just too competitive.
“You’d expect it to be ‘big data’ this or ‘machine learning’ that, but it’s human,” Nahm says.
And so she and her two partners formed Lever. The software startup, under Nahm’s command as CEO, is designed to help with the hiring headaches she saw bubbling up back in 2012.
It seems to be working. Lever counts over 1,000 customers, including Netflix and Cirque Du Soleil, according to Nahm. Lever itself now has over 100 employees.
And investors like what they’re seeing from the company. On Thursday, Lever plans to officially announce that it’s raised $US30 million in a Series C venture round. That brings the total amount its raised from venture investors to $US62 million.
Nahm says the big question for Lever now is: “How can we connect human potential to meaningful work?
Tools for a changing time
Lever’s launch and growth have come as the very idea of employment is changing, for better or for worse.
Millennials, especially, have earned a reputation for “job-hopping,” jumping from position to position and company to company every year or two as they pursue their own non-linear paths to success.
In Silicon Valley and beyond, there’s a veritable talent war for top-tier engineers. And as software continues to eat the world, even blue-collar jobs like farm work are requiring a growing array of computer skills.
“The future of work is changing, and it’s a pretty dramatic shift,” says Nahm. “People are out here looking for a deeper meaning.”
Lever’s goal is to give its customers tools to manage that shift. Its service is designed to help HR departments proactively identify the best people for open positions and figure out the best ways to convince those candidates to join their companies. It also is designed to help companies retain their workers by offering recommendations for how they can keep the employees happy.
Through its tools, Lever is advancing the “art and science” of recruiting top talent, Nahm says.
A big enough lever
What really sets Lever apart, says Nahm, is that it makes hiring collaborative. When people in a company identify a potential job candidate, they can use Lever’s service to flag that person for their colleagues. Lever’s tools will also help figure out who within the company would be best placed to reach out to the candidate.
The system is designed to try to find the person with whom the candidate might best identify and who might stand the best chance of convincing the person to join the company. For example, instead of talking to a recruiter, a hotshot programmer might want to hear from another hotshot programmer about what drew her to the company.
Lever’s analytical tools provide tips to hiring managers about how often they should contact candidates and who on their team might be the most effective at getting through to them. Lever’s service can even give insight on the average time it will take to fill a position.
The service is a far cry from what Nahm calls the “dark ages,” when companies would post a job listing and just hope that the right person responded — a process Nahm dubs “post and pray.” Lever is built around the notion that with data and better candidate tracking tools, companies can fill jobs much more intelligently.
‘That’s what I live for’
One of the benefits of Lever’s service is that it can be used by anyone in the company, not just the recruiting team. Opening up recruiting to all workers can help expand the pool of would-be candidates for jobs. And it can help yield a more diverse pool of candidates.
That’s a huge potential benefit, particularly in an era when the tech industry’s lack of diversity has become such a hot topic. Lever itself says that its employees are 50% women and 40% non-white.
Lever plans to use the cash it just raised to make its service even smarter, boosting its analytics and helping companies identify the talent they need, Nahm says. To Nahm, connecting companies to the right people at the right time is a design problem, similar to ones she’s faced in the past.
“That’s what I live for,” says Nahm.