Our investment in Handshake: democratising and digitalising early career recruitment

What do you look for as an investor in startups? An obsessive, mission-driven founder who inspires the people around them? Check. A huge global problem waiting to be solved? Check. An amazing business model with an unfair competitive advantage and true network effect? Check. A high-quality passionate team, executing at the highest level, surrounded by great advisors and investors, who have built a product that sells itself? Check. Double Check.

All of the above are exactly what I found when I first met Garrett Lord, founder and CEO of Handshake, and his team in San Francisco last year. Their mission? To level the playing field for students seeking jobs during and after university - from part-time and on-campus jobs through to their first internships and post-grad jobs - and enable employers to find up-and-coming talent regardless of location, background, major or connections. In short, to become as ubiquitous in early career recruitment as LinkedIn has become in our later careers.

Chances are you haven’t heard of Michigan Tech and that’s exactly the problem Garrett Lord, Ben Christensen, and Scott Ringwelski (co-founders of Handshake) were faced with when they began their job search. Michigan Tech is eight hours away from Detroit and Chicago, frequently under 200+ inches of snow and college recruiters rarely make it onto campus. Proximity to major cities is just one of the barriers faced by students when it comes to launching their careers. Consider also the prestige factor. If your school isn’t top of the league tables - or even listed - it’s unlikely to be on the radar for many global companies and frequently overlooked when it comes to traditional recruitment channels such as grad schemes and career fairs. Struck by how hard it was for employers to find the up-and-coming college talent and vice versa, Handshake’s co-founders decided to try and change it. Really taking “go big or go home” to heart, the team bought a used car and drove across the US - often driving through the night and showering in university gymnasiums - whilst they introduced the first version of Handshake to schools and universities.

Flash forward three months to June 2014 and Handshake launched with five university partners. Now, Handshake’s community includes an incredible 700 colleges and universities, 14 million students and young alumni, and 300,000 employers, including 100% of the Fortune 500. These are impressive statistics to say the least and demonstrate that not only is Handshake by far the leading platform for early career recruiting in the US, but it’s on a clear path to securing this position at a global level.

Leading the company’s $40m Series C, EQT Ventures is delighted to join forces with Handshake and a team of great investors, which includes the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Omidyar Network, Reach Capital, Spark Capital, True Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Kleiner Perkins, to support the company on the next phase of its journey. With teams in London, Stockholm, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam and San Francisco, EQT Ventures is looking forward to helping Garrett and the team expand Handshake internationally (starting with Europe) and build the platform out into other parts of higher education and university alumnae.

We’re proud to have Handshake join our other HR tech portfolio companies Beamery and Peakon - all highlighting the fact that the war for talent is underway. The battle for up-and-coming college talent is core to building a diverse and representative team for the future and, with Handshake, students and employers can discover each other sooner and begin to build the relationships needed for a fruitful career.

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