With $150 million USD in fresh funding, Montréal’s Talent.com is ready to take on Indeed worldwide

Talent.com founders
Co-CEO says startup wants to be Pepsi to Indeed's Coke.

It has been a tumultuous few years for Montréal’s Talent.com. Founded in 2011, the job search platform had hit an inflection point in 2019: profitable, more or less bootstrapped, and with global scale – but still well behind the market leader, Indeed.

Then there was the matter of the company’s name at the time: Neuvoo. Meaning “to advise” in Finnish, the word was hard to pronounce (blending easily with the French nouveau due to the company’s Montréal roots) and didn’t really resonate with the company’s initial customer base. As Talent.com co-founder and co-CEO Lucas Martinez told BetaKit, for restaurants in Oshawa looking for a new line cook, the name didn’t exactly engender brand trust.

“Our goal is to become Pepsi to Coke,” he said. “Indeed is number one and we want to be number two worldwide.”

So in September 2019, Neuvoo raised $53 million from Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) to buy out early angels and “professionalize the business a bit.” Three months later, Neuvoo had rebranded, reportedly purchasing the Talent.com domain for less than $2 million. The future was looking bright.

What happened next? “The end of the world,” Martinez said.

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic put global commerce on pause, and Talent.com’s traffic tanked as hiring did, too.

But freshly closed capital and cooler heads prevailed. The company cut marketing, and the founders – Martinez, Benjamin Philion, and Maxime Droux – reduced their salaries to maintain staff and wait things out.

Eventually, the companies that weathered COVID, and those that excelled because of it, began hiring again. By June 2020, Talent.com was back afloat; by August, it was exploding, growing 27 percent year over year, and grossing more than $120 million USD in revenue in 2021.

Today, the startup claims to be the world’s fastest-growing job search platform, displaying more than 30 million jobs from almost 1.5 million companies in 79 different countries. Martinez and company have also set a new goal: to become Pepsi.

“Our goal is to become Pepsi to Coke,” he said. “Indeed is number one and we want to be number two worldwide.”

It’s not often that founders will tell you of their bold vision to achieve second place, but as Martinez noted, “this is not a ‘one-player-take-all’ market.” Amid the Great Resignation, candidates are highly incentivized to look at multiple job sites (as many as 14 on average, according to the company), and recruiters are incentivized to work with more than one supplier to avoid pricing monopolies.

That’s also not to diminish Talent.com’s accomplishments. The company is one of the top five domains in the jobs space, with close to 60 million visits and 500,000 successful hires through the platform each month.

“That’s the kind of impact we’re having around the world,” Martinez said.

Martinez lamented that many companies in the Canadian tech ecosystem eager to hire don’t know Talent.com, or that the startup is Canadian.

Much of that growth has come predominantly from gig and blue-collar jobs, including hospitality and trade workers, for small to medium-sized businesses. The co-CEO noted a significant opportunity for Talent.com if it can attack the higher-paying digital and knowledge worker market. But doing so will require significant brand marketing to compete with Indeed, and right now the company “doesn’t really spend anything on brand.” Martinez lamented that many companies in the Canadian tech ecosystem eager to hire don’t know Talent.com, or that the startup is Canadian.

Enter a massive $120 million USD Series B round led by Inovia, with participation from CDPQ and new investors Investissement Québec, Climb Ventures, BDC Capital, Fondaction, and HarbourVest Partners. Tack on an additional $30 million USD in debt financing from BMO in January, and that’s a significant war chest for Talent.com to scale both marketing and its own talent needs. The company hopes to double in size to 800 employees by the end of the year, predominantly in Montréal, the United States, and Columbia – although Martinez said the company is “starting to get serious about APAC.” Talent.com also has a major presence in Switzerland, and is exploring a new European hub in Spain.

But expansion into new geographical markets and capturing digital enterprise workers is going to require more than a branding push. While it might seem incongruous for an industry that appears to have not changed much in the last decade, Talent.com is investing heavily in product and experience to compete as the whole sector shifts from a cost-per-click (CPC) to cost-per-acquisition (CPA) model. The move means that what was once a commoditized industry is moving upstream as companies place more value on a strong hire.

“We’re in a candidate-driven world right now, and people are willing to pay the price,” Martinez said.

Of course, increased value means increased competition on experience. On the SMB front, that means a great product-led funnel from freemium to paid upgrades (think ZipRecruiter). Enterprise requires a consulting-based approach, with Talent.com building teams to support larger clients, as well as their agencies managing programmatic recruitment spend.

“Our industry is super hard because creating network effects is nearly impossible, Martinez said. “If you don’t come up with something really strong from day one, this space is unforgiving.”

The sentiment was matched by Talent.com’s new lead investor, which has a history of making big bets on Canadian companies poised for global success.

“The race for talent has only been accentuated by the significant challenges that businesses are facing right now,” Chris Arsenault, partner at Inovia Capital, told BetaKit. “Talent.com has rapidly grown to become one of the largest and most international platforms for employers to source and recruit. This partnership is prompting a new phase of growth as they launch a suite of value-added products to become a true job-seeker-centric platform.”

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys is the Editor-in-Chief of BetaKit and founder of BetaKit Incorporated. He has worked for a few failed companies and written about many more. He spends too much time on the Internet.

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