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3 HR tech unicorns to watch in 2021

HR tech is hot right now.

Allie Nawrat

HR tech unicorns
Credit: Pernilla11 via Twenty20.

Here are some HR tech unicorns you need to know about. Unleash Your Potential

  • 2021 has been a busy year for HR tech so far.
  • There have been multiple investment rounds and deals announced every week.
  • But let’s take a look at some promising HR tech companies that have recently achieved unicorn status.

This year has been very busy in terms of HR tech deals and investment.

HR tech startups have successfully attracted investment from venture capital funds and angel investors.

Notable examples include Chinese HR tech firm Beisen, which closed a $260 million Series F earlier in May, and interviewIA, which relies on intelligence amplification tech instead of artificial intelligence to make virtual recruitment more inclusive, raising $2 million in a Seed round.

Some of these investment rounds have created new HR tech unicorns: companies worth more than $1 billion.

Let’s take a look at three interesting unicorns that have popped up on the HR tech scene recently and are worth keeping an eye on in the coming months.


One of the main benefits of the pandemic and the growth in remote working is that it allows employers to recruit and attract talent that doesn’t live within a commutable distance from the office.

However, hiring across the globe comes with several compliance issues, given that each country or region has slightly different employment legislation.

Meet Deel, a startup that focuses on helping companies navigate hiring and payroll challenges linked with global teams.

Back in April, Deel attracted $156 million in Series C funding from YC Continuity and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, among others, making it an HR tech unicorn within only four years of launch.

To date, Deel claims to have helped more than 2,400 companies — including Bubble, Doodle, and Makerpad – hire remote teams distributed across 150 countries worldwide.

Deel has not rested on its laurels since becoming a unicorn a month ago.

This is not surprising since when he announced the company’s unicorn status, Deel’s CEO and co-founder Alex Bouaziz stated:

“While we take the time to bask in the glory of this massive feat, our work at Deel is far from complete.

“It’s just the tip of the global iceberg for us.”

In the past month, Deel has introduced a few new features, including more payroll and invoice integrations, as well as the ability to personalize and send messages when an employee or a contractor’s contract is coming to an end.


The next HR tech unicorn to watch is Handshake. Like Deel, Handshake is focused on recruitment, but it has zeroed in on the graduate market.

Handshake was founded in 2013 three friends – Garrett Lord, Ben Christensen, and Scott Ringwelski – while they were navigating leaving university and finding graduate jobs.

During the process, they noticed that there were glaring inequalities in the graduate recruitment process – it was about who you know, rather than what you know – so they decided to create a platform that made networking platform equitable. The company’s motto is that getting a great job and building a career should be possible without any connections, experience, or luck.

Despite success over the past eight years, Handshake wants to use the latest influx of funding to further democratize the hiring process for graduates by working not only with universities but also with community colleges.

“Currently, the Handshake network supports more than 1,000 institutions of higher learning and nearly 17 million students and young alumni,” noted Lord, who serves as Handshake’s CEO.

“We want to continue to use our resources to expand Handshake’s impact across the early talent landscape by supporting students who are building skills and earning credentials from community colleges and bootcamps.”

Handshake is also starting to expand its reach beyond the US market. It recently launched its platform in the UK where it has already partnered with eight high education institutions, including my alma mater the University of York.


The third and final HR tech unicorn to watch this year is Workrise, which focuses on workforce management and plugging skills gaps in the infrastructure, defense, and energy sectors.

It claims to have a network of 500 companies who it matches up with appropriately skilled staff. Workrise then manages the payroll and benefits of these workers, as well as offers them training.

Following a $300 million Series E raise this week, Workrise is now worth $2.9 billion. Workrise has the ambition to place 100,000 workers in jobs by the end of 2023.

Workrise was founded in 2014 in Texas, but it was initially called RigUp to reflect its focus on the oil and gas industry.  

However, to reflect the broadening of the sectors it works with, RigUp rebranded and Workrise was chosen as the new name in February this year.

CEO and co-founder Xuan Yon explained: “We founded RigUp in 2014 on the premise that technology could be used to more efficiently and effectively source skilled labor across the oil and gas industry.

“In the years that ensued, we found that our approach could be taken further; we could help address a much larger socioeconomic shift across the infrastructure industry.”

“Today, Workrise reflects our aim to bridge the skilled labor gap across industries, to leverage technology and data to empower skilled workers — and, in turn, the economy at large — so the US can prepare for an infrastructure renaissance.”

Workrise’s position in the HR tech industry is particularly interesting since new US President Joe Biden has set his sights on reinvigorating the US infrastructure sector.

In fact, as part of his American Jobs Plan, Biden has set out a $2 trillion plan to improve the country’s infrastructure sector and shift to green energy over the next eight years.

According to CNN, this includes $100 billion to be spent on workforce development and helping retrain dislocated workers into high-demand sectors, including energy and manufacturing.

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