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‘Every Check Felt Like a Fight to Get’: How Two Tech Entrepreneurs Closed a $2.2M Seed Round for Their HR Platform

A startup company focused on transforming employee recruiting and retention has secured a multi-million dollar investment and is transforming its focus with a pivotal rebrand. 

“We started leaning into what was happening to people post-hire and have started to focus on career development and talent retention tools,” WorkTorch co-founder Deborah Gladney told TechCrunch. “So our new name is WorkTorch. We want to be a guiding light to a better career, a better workforce.”

Worktorch co-founders Deborah Gladney lLeft) and Angela Muhwezi Hall (right). (Photo: Worktorch)

Worktorch, previously known as QuickHire, closed a $2.2 million seed round. Led by Tenzing  Capital, the funding also came with a name change to truly focus on the business’ mission of transforming the processes associated with recruitment and retention. Gladney and Angela Muhwezi Hall launched WorkTorch in April 2021 to support businesses in identifying the right talent and creating strategies to build a strong workplace culture, enticing people to stay. 

Worktorch targets jobseekers and employers in the service and retail industries. Jobseekers are able to identify positions that meet their needs and apply online. For businesses, Worktorch screens and tracks applicants using the company’s established criteria. Then, Worktorch matches candidates with potential positions based on company needs. The platform also manages recruitment activity and schedules interviews with qualified candidates.

“Finding the right talent is just half the battle,” Gladney told TechCrunch. “Where companies are really being hit the hardest is losing people faster than they’re coming in the door.”

Employee retention refers to a business’s ability to keep its employees on staff. Strong employee retention means a business is sustainable and has a strong workplace culture. Companies implement strategies such as work/life balance, bonuses, pay increases, and professional development. When a company loses an employee, it can cost almost $15,000 in expenses and at least 95 days to replace an employee. As companies are able to retain their employees, they can invest in developing other parts of their business.

A New Round of Investments 

Despite the Great Resignation, investors have been interested in the human resources sector. According to TechCrunch, investors funded more than $1.4 billion into the human resources sector. And in 2021, more than $12.3 billion was raised for HR tech startups. 

WorkTorch was able to obtain investors such as Bloomberg Beta, MATH Venture Partners, Ruthless for Good Fund and Graham & Walker. WorkTorch will use this capital to expand into several markets including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Denver.

“Every check felt like a fight to get,” Gladney told TechCrunch. The high of this fundraise was that most of their existing investors returned. Based in Kansas, the returning capital helped make the duo two of the few, if any, Black women to raise more than $1 million in the Midwest. “As two Black women in Kansas, we’re super proud of that.”

Solving A Workforce Problem 

In the past two years, the labor force has undergone many transformations. From remote work options to the Great Resignation and now ongoing layoffs, changes are disrupting workplace culture, with employers looking for solutions. 

Recent studies, for instance, have shown that employers have been evaluating the purpose of work and its deliverables–physical workspace versus remote work options and flexible schedules versus a traditional 9-to-5. While the current economic downturn is providing many companies with the advantage of retaining their current employees, workers still desire quality of life. 

“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, founder of Tenzing Capital, told TechCrunch. “WorkTorch has figured out how to deliver value to employers, and professionals and the market is responding.” 

WorkTorch’s mission is to find viable solutions for employers and employees. Since its launch, the platform has received more than 40,000 service industry job seekers. In addition, at least 1,000 interviews have been scheduled through the platform by employers every month. In its rebrand, jobseekers will access the career development portal to track their professional growth and network with others. 

“Our country relies on skilled service workers, but existing career platforms continue to overlook them,” Muhwezi-Hall told Essence. “WorkTorch is listening to the people in this sector. And it’s working. Today 60 percent of WorkTorch job seekers are happy with their jobs. The industry ‘happiness’ average is a mere 30 percent of workers.”

And that’s not all. 

Employers using WorkTorch will be able to utilize retention tools while analyzing national and regional data trends. Current employees will be able to gain insight from employees on their workplace experiences. 

“WorkTorch is growing because we empower both sides of the employment spectrum – the career seeker and the hiring company,” Gladney told Essence. “We connect service industry professionals to the careers they want, as well as provide company support to ensure that their new employees feel empowered and nurtured.” 

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