Bypassing the boys' club: UK startup Tangent levels the playing field for tech job applicants with $1.1M raise

Tangent is an employee referral platform that makes referrals accessible to everyone, not just the privileged few, with the best networks.
Bypassing the boys' club: UK startup Tangent levels the playing field for tech job applicants with $1.1M raise

It's a harsh reality that the world runs on warm introductions, from getting a meeting with a potential investor to finding customers or your next co-founder. But now, a UK startup is making it just that much easier for people to improve their lot in life.

Tangent, a London-based technology startup, has closed a $1.1 million Pre-Seed round to bolster social mobility in tech.

Founded by LinkedIn and EE alumni Gary Izunwa and Joe Adams, Tangent is a platform that connects jobseekers from low socioeconomic backgrounds with employees in tech for mentoring and employee referrals.

I spoke to CEO Gary Izunwa to learn more. 

According to Izunwa: 

“You are nine times more likely to be hired through an employee referral; however, if you come from a less privileged background like me, chances are you don’t have a professional network to get referred.” 

“Social mobility and being mobile mean that you've been able to “progress” from your parents' socioeconomic background and income. 

Frankly, social mobility in Western countries is low because we live in a world that's about who you know and not what you know.”

Izuma noted that he ticked lots of the “less privileged boxes when he was younger” but became more socially mobile after joining LinkedIn:

“LinkedIn is an amazing company, but whilst there, I kept seeing my private schooled colleagues refer their private schooled friends and them landing top jobs. It felt so unfair for those who are just as talented but lack the networks.” 

Izunwa grew up in a low-income, single-parent household in London. He started his Career as one of nine Associates on LinkedIn’s competitive Business Leadership Programme. After completing the programme, Izunwa joined the Talent Solutions sales team, where he sold LinkedIn’s recruiting solutions to companies. He was one of the top performers in the EMEA/LATAM region. 

Seeking a more purposeful career, Gary quit his six-figure LinkedIn job, took an 80 per cent salary reduction, and moved to the British Council to lead social mobility programmes.

But not long after starting, he learned that the government/charity sector had too much bureaucracy and red tape and was not the place for him to have a real global impact.  

Thus, the idea of Tangent was born. 

Tangent’s public launch comes at a time where recent data reports that only 9 per cent of all UK tech employees come from low socioeconomic backgrounds (Yes, you read that right), despite making up 39 per cent of the total UK population (Tech Talent Charter, 2024). This is even worse than in finance and legal industries, where 29 and 23 per cent of employees, respectively, come from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

Izunwa revealed : 

“I spoke to a publicly listened company who admitted that 65 per cent of their global hires come from employee referrals. That’s two-thirds.

Good luck getting hired from that company if you don’t know someone who works there. Imagine how few come from a job ad.” 

I'm just so passionate about breaking this because I see so much potential and talent that gets squandered. It's not because people are not good enough, but because they end up thinking that's why: because they just don't have the right connections.”

Starting with entry-level tech sales roles (B/SDRs), the Tangent platform connects jobseekers directly with employees from London’s leading tech employers, including Stripe, Amazon, and Revolut, who offer mentoring, advice, and referrals to Tangent’s pool of socially diverse talent. 

Job seekers submit a short video pitch on the platform about why they want to work in tech sales. Following this, potential mentors can view their videos or contact mentors directly. 

According to Izunwa:

“It kind of brokers the relationship between both sides. A mentor may recommend someone for an interview in their company or help with resume writing or interview prep. 

They can also recommend a mentee to other hiring people in their network, so anyone can sign up to be a mentor even if they don’t have open roles at their own company. 

They have someone on the inside training them and holding their hand for the process.”

This means once someone successfully gains employment through the referral service, they will already have a champion in their new workplace. “You’ll have someone who you can ask all the silly questions to, who’s quick to help.” 

Potential mentors could include Sales Process Development Representatives, account executives and managers, enterprise account executives, and customer success managers. 

Tangent’s founders met during Zinc VC’s Venture Builder, a 12-month program for mission-led founders.

The investment round included participation from Zinc VC, Google Black Founders Fund, and the Syndicate Room. Key angel investors include Leonard Picardo (#2 employee at Deliveroo), Catherine Lenson (prior to her move to Phoenix Court Group), Andrew Robb (former COO at FarFetch), and more, as well as Scouts from Atomico and Ada Ventures.

“Tangent sits at the heart of Zinc’s thesis of building commercial solutions to solve the world's most pressing problems. We’ve been inspired by the progress that Gary and Joe have achieved in a short space of time and are excited to continue to partner with them on the next phase of their journey,” said Ella Goldner, General Partner at Zinc VC.

During Zinc’s Venture Builder the pair launched their MVP and sold enterprise solutions to companies including Multiverse and GoCardless. Co-founder & CPO Joe Adams points to Tangent’s early traction as a clear indication of tech’s affinity for hiring through referrals.

“Companies love referrals, but in their current form, they damage diversity as the existing referral talent pools are homogenous,” said Adams. 

“We’re building a network of socially diverse, talented individuals who connect directly with tech employees and have access to opportunities they previously couldn’t access.”

One of Tangent's biggest points of traction is that as users of the scheme advance in their careers, they can act as mentees for people who follow them. This is how you scale a scheme for the greater good. 

Lead image: Tangle. Photo: uncredited. 

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