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AI-powered software engineering recruitment platform Celential.ai today announced that it raised $9.5 million in series A funding. It comes as Celential appoints Amer Akhtar, former Yahoo small business president and ex-CEO of ADP China, as the company’s new CEO.

Ncube estimates that sometime this year, the software industry will experience a shortage of 1.4 million engineers. Meanwhile, the employment of software developers is projected to grow 21% from 2018 to 2028. The cost of hiring will likely remain substantial as a result. On average, it takes 42 days to fill a job position, during which companies can face a productivity loss of $33,251.

Celential, which is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California and was founded by former product leads at Salesforce, VMware, and Zynga, develops a platform designed to match hiring managers with engineering candidates by essentially “simulating” human experts. The startup’s AI-driven virtual recruiter finds, vets, and engages passive candidates behind the scenes, resulting in what Celential claims is a 70% present-to-interview ratio.

Celential clients upload the job description for their engineering, data science, or project manager roles to the platform. Then, Celential lines up candidates by engaging them with an email engine that tracks open rates, automatically follows up, and gauges sentiment. To personalize the emails, Celential’s algorithms draw on talent and company graphs vertically focused on over 3 million engineers and the employers for whom they’ve worked. The company says it pulls in thousands of data sources to train its natural language processing, computer vision, and machine learning recommendation algorithms, aiming for a mutual fit between engineers and hiring companies, teams, and opportunities.

Celential.ai

For job seekers, Celential searches job boards and career sites. Because it’s referral-based, only matches with roles and companies that are actively hiring bubble up to the top.

Celential’s competitors include Plum, which has job candidates fill out problem-solving and personality tests that award points for “talents” like adaptation, communication, inclusion, and innovation. Another rival, Vervoe, offers AI tools that test would-be employees’ on-the-job skills with a mix of general assessments, coding challenges, and personality quizzes. There’s also Headstart, which recently raised $7 million for AI that can mitigate recruitment bias; Xor, a startup developing an AI chatbot platform for recruiters and job seekers; and Phenom People, a human resources platform that taps AI to help companies attract new talent.

But 40-employee Celential’s focus on software engineering talent recruitment has allowed it to stand out in the crowded field. It counts among its over 50 customers Affinity, Paradigm, Twin Health, and more than 100 other companies. And Celential says it’s on track to notch “double digit millions” in annual recurring revenue by 2022, after growing revenue by 7 times in 2021.

“Celential is on a mission to fundamentally transform recruiting and career development,” Akhtar told VentureBeat via email. “With proven customer success, our vertically focused virtual recruiter, powered by AI, enables fast-growing companies to compete for talent cost-effectively, with little friction, and without having to build and scale up a recruiting team and infrastructure. Over time, we’ll leverage the same vertical approach and deep insights into talent, industry, companies and opportunities to accelerate talent’s career development, through a virtual personal career agent solution.”

GSR Ventures led Celential’s investment round announced today. Spider Capital, TSVC, and undisclosed individual investors participated.

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