Startup News & Analysis

Recruitment startup WORK180 raises $1 million to accelerate US expansion plans

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

WORK180

WORK180 co-founder Gemma Lloyd (left) with Skip Capital principal Kim Jackson and co-founder Valeria Ignatiev. Source: Supplied.

Melbourne recruitment startup WORK180 has raised $1 million in funding to launch in the US market, just months after it raised the same amount to fund expansion to the UK.

Both rounds were led by Skip Capital, the private investment fund of Kim Jackson and Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar.

Other investors include Lux Group, technology accelerator Startmate, and Thomas Rice, lead tech analyst at Perpetual and portfolio manager for the firm’s Global Innovation Share Fund.

Founded in 2015 by Gemma Lloyd and Valeria Ignatieva, WORK180 is designed to provide more transparency around employers’ HR policies to improve gender equality in recruitment.

All businesses listing jobs on the platform are screened against a set of 20 criteria, including wage equality, flexible working, women in leadership positions and parental leave policies.

Lloyd tells StartupSmart having the same investors on board for the second time is something of an endorsement for WORK180.

They’re all “very engaged” and “people that are very experienced”, who are available whenever the WORK180 team might need any help, she says.

“I’m extremely happy with the investors that we have,” she adds.

The American dream

This latest investment is pegged for further international expansion, with WORK180 set to launch in the US. And while that was always on the cards, Lloyd says it has come earlier than originally planned.

Following a visit to New York and San Francisco to meet with HR directors, recruiters and large organisations, “it was really apparent how needed we were over there and how big the appetite was”, Lloyd says.

“I didn’t realise quite how behind a lot of companies were in terms of how they supported their employees,” she adds.

However, Lloyd found there is also appetite for change, and for a platform like WORK180, from organisations “that genuinely care about improving”.

The US expansion also comes off the back of a successful launch in the UK, where Lloyd says the WORK180 site grew much faster than it did in Australia, in terms of site traffic and user take up.

Gender equality in the workplace is “a huge topic over there at the moment”, she says. The UK government recently introduced its pay gap initiative service, requiring companies with 250 employees or more to report on their gender pay gaps.

“A lot of the companies we work with are global,” Lloyd points out. WORK180’s client base includes the likes of Atlassian, Microsoft and Adobe.

“We’re being asked by our existing clients when we can help them in other markets, [including] in the US,” she adds.

Lessons learnt

One of the main lessons Lloyd has taken away from her startup’s international expansion is around hiring.

“It’s really understanding different cultural nuances across different regions, and what employees expect,” she says.

She advises others to get local help to make sure they get the right talent on board in their overseas offices.

“Unfortunately I made an error in judgement with a hire, and that sets you back a little bit initially,” she says.

In the US, therefore, Lloyd says she has already done “a lot more research around hiring”, and is getting “a lot of localised help”.

Lloyd also advises other startups looking to go international to be proactive in making contacts and building their networks.

“There are a ton of founder events you can go to … it’s about getting out and networking in that way,” she says.

It’s also important to make the most of government resources in the country you’re entering.

“In the UK, the Department of Industry and Trade was incredibly helpful for us,” she says, especially in terms of researching competitors, potential partners, and salaries for staff.

It’s the same as starting a business anywhere, she says; the key is “using people that have done it before and can lend you advice”.

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is a reporter at StartupSmart.

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