81cents is on a mission to close the wage gap for women and underrepresented minorities. To do this, they have gathered a network of hiring managers and recruiters who give their time, data points, and specific advice to people who are going through the negotiation process.
“I’ve always been extroverted. I don’t have trouble asking for things, but when it came to asking for money I turned into another person. After one particularly rough salary negotiation, I thought, ‘I have to get better at this.'”
Like anyone who has entered a salary negotiation, 81cents Founder, Jordan Sale learned firsthand that negotiating for pay is one of the most difficult conversations every young professional needs to have. When she set out to solve the problem, she decided to name her organization 81cents, after the ratio of women’s to men’s average earnings–a figure that has failed to budge over the last few years.
Sale and her team of five have built an organization that taps a network of over 1,100 reviewers in over 20 cities to arm candidates with data and techniques for their annual reviews or offer negotiations. Their reviewer pool of hiring managers, recruiters, and senior employees grows largely through word of mouth. Reviewers find that in around 4 minutes (often during their commute or watching TV), they can provide feedback for someone going through a tough negotiation with the potential for meaningful impact: in just its first year, 81cents has empowered over 250 candidates from underrepresented backgrounds to negotiate an average pay increase of 15.8%.
Over time, even a slightly lower starting salary can make a significant impact.
The 81cents Experience The 81cents service provides entirely virtual and personalized feedback and negotiation advice, which can be sourced in as little as 36 hours. A candidate starts by filling out an intake about their individual situation and selecting what they could most use help with (for example, sourcing data points or figuring out what counter offer to provide). 81cents then pulls data from relevant advisors to produce a digital report, combining advice, salary data points, and best practices for their particular negotiation. A Concierge package adds in hands-on coaching and advising, including the option for mock negotiations or calls with your reviewers to more deeply strategize. Pricing for their packages ranges from $100 to $200, depending on a candidate’s timeline. “While some candidates just need data and tough love about their expectations, others need more support and guidance,” Sale describes. “Regardless, our goal is to make sure they walk away feeling confident.”
81cents has a remarkable refund policy: if you don’t see the value in their service, (for example you don’t see a substantial increase in pay or you don’t feel more prepared for your next round of negotiations) they will refund their entire fee. No one has taken them up on this policy yet, probably because, as Sale points out “there is no such thing as too much data for a candidate who wants to negotiate.” Sale is particularly proud of 81cents’ Net Promoter Score of 73 (in the NPS system, anything over 50 is considered excellent).
As a start, 81cents has mostly worked on reaching the over 12 million underrepresented individuals in technical roles within the tech industry. “Though we are planning to expand to other industries in the near future, there’s plenty of room to build a big company just focused on tech. We’re learning from other companies tangentially in the space who have enjoyed success despite being even more narrowly focused than we are,” Sale shares. 81cents decided to start with technical talent because the industry is growing, demand for this type of talent is high (thus they have leverage), and technical candidates rarely have formal training in negotiation.
The 81cents Story Sale founded 81cents between the first and second year of her MBA program at Berkeley Haas. As graduation approached she reflected on her future, “this work is so important, fun, and meaningful, I couldn’t bring myself to do anything else.” She strategized how to make it work: she left Berkeley and moved home to Los Angeles, where she found herself quickly embraced by the strikingly collaborative LA and UCLA Anderson entrepreneurial environment. As part of the UCLA Anderson accelerator, she’s found a community of other founders. “They’re such smart, capable, supportive people…even though we’re working in different spaces we all face similar challenges in getting our companies off the ground–for example, setting up healthcare plans for our teams, figuring out which credit card company to use, and how to prep for investor meetings.”
Sale is currently managing a team of five, some of whom have been there since the founding. Three of her team are in the Bay Area, covering design, development, and operations respectively. She’s always looking for folks with a passion for the problem they’re trying to solve, but her current hiring priority is in operations.
The Road Ahead 81cents has several initiatives underway for 2020, the first of which is launching a scholarship fund. As Sale puts it, “we know we are a business that needs to make money. As a result, our prices may be less accessible for some people who could really benefit from this service.” To solve this problem, 81cents will be launching a scholarship fund that will subsidize and/or cover the costs of their services for folks who wouldn’t otherwise have access.
81cents also has plans to extend beyond candidates by teaming up with employers this year. They play somewhere between Glassdoor’s high volume of salary data and the personal touch of a coach, a role that uniquely positions them to add value to employers by providing data to guide salary benchmarks or assisting with recruiting.
For now, they’re focusing on building out robust offerings for tech, and gaining a deeper understanding of the ins and outs of that industry. In the future, Sale sees more potential: “we really want to focus on industries that are seeing the largest gaps..a lot a fields relating to the sciences…healthcare in particular. Finance is another field where there is a lot of opportunity.” So far, 81cents keeps the lights on through their revenue and old-fashioned bootstrapping. They don’t currently have plans to raise capital, but they wouldn’t rule it out as they expand in the future.