Five Years of Revenue-Funded Growth at Underdog.io

This week, Underdog.io is celebrating its fifth year in business. For Josh and me, the curated marketplace for talent that we first envisioned as a side project has gone on to become a significant part of our lives. I’ve worked on Underdog.io longer and more intently than I’ve done anything else in my professional life. Underdog.io has become part of my identity, often the first thing that family and friends ask about when I see them and the lens through which I perceive the rest of the working world.

Underdog.io circa May 2014.

In many ways, much has changed since the early days of the company, when Josh and I designed and released our website in three days using Google Sheets for a database, ran Google Apps Scripts to create batches in JSON, CSV, and XLS format, and shared candidates manually by email every week. Since that time, we’ve signed up tens of thousands of job seekers and thousands of tech companies, hired a small team of immensely talented people from our own user base, transitioned the core functionality of our online marketplace from email into modern web products, and built a profitable, growing business out of our office in SoHo.

Partial team brainstorm in early 2019.

In other ways, much is still the same. We’re still 100% revenue-funded with no outside investors. We still prioritize quality over quantity by turning away candidates and companies that don’t meet the exacting standards that we’ve established for our platform. We’re still perpetual underdogs, competing against larger hiring platforms that have hired hundreds of salespeople and raised tens of millions of dollars in venture capital.

More fundamentally, we’re still committed to supporting job seekers and companies by providing tools and information that help them make informed decisions about where to work and whom to hire. We stay focused on this goal by putting into practice a few core tenets:

  1. Treat recruiting like an investment, and not a transaction. Recruiting doesn’t start with an interview and an end with a hire; it’s a process that touches all facets of a company’s organization and lifecycle.
  2. Utilize technology to enable connections between job seekers and companies, but intervene and provide support wherever possible to make those connections meaningful and human.
  3. Be honest with ourselves about how stressful it is to search for a job — even with the help of technology — and mindful of the emotional experience of those in the thick of it.
  4. Improve the broader recruiting ecosystem by avoiding heavy-handed sales tactics, reducing recruiter spam, and broadly encouraging best practices.
On-brand office visitors over the years.

While we’ve always found it easier to fixate on our failures than to celebrate our successes, even we can admit that 2018 was a banner year for Underdog.io. Some of the highlights:

  • Curated and shared more than 2,000 unique candidates with our network of high-quality hiring companies. Thousands more that weren’t a fit applied to join our marketplace.
  • Grew our customer base and our seven-figure revenue by 50% YoY with no change in headcount and with no salespeople on staff.
  • Held our own against deep-pocketed competitors in a hyper-competitive environment and signed up enterprise customers like Pepsi, WeWork, and Uber.
  • Logged 150,000+ company-to-candidate events on our platform. Events are intent-driven interactions like email sends, resume downloads, and profile exports to applicant tracking systems like Greenhouse and Lever.
  • Released Workplaces, a documentary series showcasing the cultures and values of technology companies in our network through candid photos and long-form content.
  • In between these bigger releases, made hundreds of small improvements to our product and the way we operate as a company.
Josh and me hiding out in various phone booths.

We want to thank all of the companies and candidates that have signed up for Underdog.io over the years. While we don’t have explicit evidence of this, I suspect that many people use us not just because of the products that we’ve built, but also because of the path that we’ve chosen as a company. I won’t sugarcoat it: the last five years have been a slog, but a fun one at that. Given how things are trending, we think that the next five will be even better.