True’s Growth, Culture, and Innovation Attract Investment from LLR Partners
Published May 25, 2021

Global executive talent management platform True has partnered with LLR Partners to develop and expand innovation within the talent space. A private equity firm that’s raised more than $5bn, Philadelphia-based LLR shares True’s mission to disrupt a stagnant industry in desperate need of tech-driven talent solutions.

The Deal

David Reuter, a partner at LLR, joins True’s Board of Directors alongside Nick Caldwell (Twitter), Jenni Ceran (Smartsheet), Alex Shootman (Workfront/Adobe), and Evan Wittenberg (Ancestry). Following the minority stake investment, True co-Founders Brad Stadler and Joe Riggione will continue to lead the firm with support and guidance from this impressive Board.

Financial terms of the deal are undisclosed but True’s valuation reflects LLR’s belief that True has the potential to become the most important brand in the executive talent industry. Additionally, the deal is structured to grant employee participation in value creation over time.

True and LLR have a mutual respect that goes back several years, making it an easy business conversation when LLR called.

“They expressed interest and we were compelled to listen, even though we were not looking for a financial partner. Through our discussions, we quickly became aligned on how they could operationally and strategically support our long term vision,” said Brad Stadler, True co-founder and co-CEO.

“We also aligned on our ability to control our own destiny with no pressure to transact. Our collective vision is for True to remain independent and become the industry’s dominant brand. We couldn’t be more excited about partnering with LLR to get there,” said Joe Riggione, True co-founder and co-CEO.

“True is building a future where data will help companies make better-informed talent decisions, even beyond hiring and developing executives. Couple this vision with True’s incredible culture and strong brand, and we became very excited about the company,” said David Reuter, LLR Partner and True Board Director.

The True Difference

As long-time believers in the idea that the executive recruitment world was unresponsive to the need for change, True’s founders set out to revive a lagging industry that couldn’t keep pace with the companies it aims to serve. In nine short years, True pushed the industry forward by building products that dramatically improve all points of the talent lifecycle including leadership assessments, diversity solutions, and talent management tools - all while keeping in mind its core business: placing high impact executive talent.

“We’ve always believed that search as a whole could be better in many ways. First, you have clients who’ve had to accept essentially the same service for the last 60+ years without any meaningful innovation. Then you look at the candidate experience. Typically it’s not great, sometimes horrible, and they are often left in the dark and not given enough data to make good decisions,” said Stadler. “On top of that, most of the industry does not treat its own people well. Search consultants work in cut throat, non-meritocratic cultures and are saddled with non-compete agreements and compensation structures engineered to make it incredibly difficult to leave,” Stadler added.

“We say it often and it repeatedly proves to be true - successful business outcomes are the result of treating people well,” said Riggione. “The happiness and long-term success of our people is paramount to us and Brad and I believe our primary job is to make True the place to work in executive talent. We have amazing people come here, get world class training, and a platform that supports them personally and in their career goals, whether in search or as a head of talent for example,” said Joe Riggione, True co-founder and co-CEO. “This employer value proposition plus our focus on innovation, sometimes leads people to ask if we’re disrupting ourselves. To us, that’s a compliment because it shows the huge opportunity to bring meaningful change to every aspect of our industry, and we’re the ones driving that change,” Riggione added.

What’s Next

Stadler and Riggione shared their outlook on the future of True and the recruiting sector overall:

  • We believe the executive search firm of the future will look very different. There is an opportunity to expand the addressable market by developing offerings that empower companies and executives to take control of their talent/career goals.

  • Data will play a prominent role in the evolution of our industry. How can we package useful information and put it in the hands of decision makers? Answering that question is key to adding further value to our clients and talent networks.

  • Many of our clients are investing meaningfully in building their internal talent teams. In order to perform well, those teams need access to data and information that will help them make smart decisions quickly. This is a priority for us.

  • Companies need more diversity in leadership. It’s always been true and that mandate is not going away, and it shouldn’t. We co-founded AboveBoard to address this massive challenge. Our approach is to invite all executives, especially those who are underrepresented, to express interest in roles and get connected to the recruitment team working on that opportunity. This model dissolves the veil of secrecy that often surrounds search work. AboveBoard has exploded over the last six months and we’re excited to watch it take off.

  • The industry will have to rethink its compensation model for senior professionals. Our above-market compensation structure results in higher earnings because we’re commission-only. Every consultant is made whole on a monthly basis without having to wait for a year-end commission or bonus payout. This progressive approach is highly motivating and helps keep employee retention very high.

  • We formed an investment vehicle, True Equity, and raised a $50m fund. True Equity invests in our client companies so we are directly aligned with their success. It’s a really exciting model for our people too because they’re able to take equity for services without sacrificing any commission. They receive all the normal commission plus additional upside in the equity received. We believe this fund is only the beginning and we will have multiple funds focused on every asset class and domain we work in.