Providing a Fair Shot at a Great Career — Announcing Strive Talent

Will Houghteling
4 min readJan 25, 2018

After many years working on educational innovation at Google, YouTube and Minerva, last February I launched Strive Talent to help people from less privileged educational and socioeconomic backgrounds find family-supporting, middle-class careers based on their skills and potential rather than credentials and pedigree. Today I am excited to share that we raised $3.8MM from top investors to accelerate our ability to achieve this goal.

Millions of Great Jobs Go Unfilled

There’s an unfortunate paradox in our country’s labor market. While income inequality is historically high and economic mobility historically low, there are millions of open “middle skill” jobs that companies struggle to fill.

Why? This is partly because of a lack of pre-professional training throughout high school and college, but inadequate hiring practices also keep great candidates from the careers they desire and deserve.

While businesses are broadly embracing data-driven decision making, hiring practices are oft antiquated — employers use blunt force proxies, like whether a candidate has a college degree, to wade through résumés, and utilize unstructured interviews, hiring candidates who are likable or connected.

There are millions of high-potential candidates who strive for great careers but lack the credentials, pedigree or connections to access them today.

Strive Talent – A Fair Shot at a Great Career

At Strive we are using technology to help candidates access better careers and help companies discover untapped talent so they can hire better people faster.

To start, we’re building the first hiring platform focused on candidate’s potential, not their past; candidate’s competencies, not their credentials. Candidates applying to roles through Strive complete an evaluation process that follows decades of hiring research, measuring cognitive ability, job-specific skills and personality traits most predictive of success. This evaluation allows great candidates to stand out, even if they don’t look perfect on paper, and allows companies to hire better people faster. The assessment efficacy and role matching will improve over time as we learn from employers which hires performed best.

Next, as we develop a better understanding of what employers are looking for, we will offer free, targeted “last mile” training for in-demand skills to high-potential, low-experience candidates. These online training modules won’t replace a traditional education, but will unlock new opportunities for candidates.

Early Traction, Promising Results

To start, we’re focused on filling entry-level sales roles — there are over a million open middle skill sales roles and companies struggle to fill them. Current hiring practices are particularly ineffective for sales — college degrees are not predictive of success, but intrinsic, historically hard-to-measure, traits like empathy and assertiveness are.

We’re fortunate to have worked with a few great pilot partners already, ranging from a Top 10 bank to a national home repair chain to Uber and others. We’ve had thousands of candidates apply and those who passed our data-driven evaluation approach and got jobs with our partners are performing well — for one of our large customers, Strive-introduced candidates were twice as likely to get hired, had 12% higher sales performance, and 70% lower attrition than candidates from their other major recruiting source. And we’re discovering untapped talent — 70% of placed candidates do not have a college degree and they’re more likely to come from diverse backgrounds.

Providing Great People Professional Pathways

One of the first people I met in starting Strive was Nija, a mid 30s mother of two managing a gym for a failing franchise. Her work history was checkered and résumé unrefined — at no fault of her own, her last two jobs lasted less than a year, and she lacked a college degree, attending cosmetology school instead.

Nija shined in Strive’s competency-based evaluation. She had high cognitive scores and clear sales and management skills. While she would have likely been rejected immediately pre-Strive, with Strive, she was hired as a sales manager, increasing her income substantially. The highlight of my year was receiving an unsolicited email from her after her first week at the new job: “Thank you so much for the energy you spent on getting me ready for this amazing career. I have never felt so satisfied after a day’s work. Thank you for identifying the ability I have to do this job. It has truly changed my life in so many ways already.”

Raising Money to Expand Our Team and Impact

Competency-based hiring is better for companies, candidates and society as a whole, and today I’m excited to announce our $3.8MM seed round led by Upfront Ventures with partner Kara Nortman joining our board. The round also includes support from great investors at Webb Investment Network, Kapor Capital, University Ventures, NextView Ventures, and Graph Ventures as well as support from angel investors Charlie Cheever, Allison Bhusri, Nimay Mehta, Jonathan Pines, Ken Landis, and Robert Chestnut.

If you are a job seeker interested in a fair shot at a great career, please apply at

If you are a company interested in hiring better people faster for entry-level sales roles, learn more at

And if you are excited by our mission and eager to contribute, consider applying to work at Strive or sharing it with great people you know.



Will Houghteling

Bridging school and work @ Strive, x-Minerva, Google/YouTube, Harvard