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Exclusive: Ex-Google staffers raise $4.3M for networking platform

Mar 11, 2024
Illustration of a lone keyboard key with a briefcase icon on it.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Palo Alto-based startup Key has raised $4.25 million to build a networking platform aimed at tech workers, the co-founders exclusively tell Axios.

Why it matters: The funding underscores an opportunity to support workers affected by the sweeping layoffs in Big Tech.

Catch up quick: The co-founders of Key — CEO Kushagra Shrivastava and president Christopher Fong — are the same people behind Xoogler, an online community for former and current Google employees with more than 32,000 members.

  • Fong founded Xoogler in 2015 after more than eight years at Google. He met Shrivastava, also an eight-year Google veteran, at one of the first Xoogler events. They later co-founded the Xoogler Investment Syndicate.
  • Last year, they began building Key in stealth after Xoogler had rapid growth spurred by layoffs — adding 14,000 people in two months.
  • "We are one of the largest tech communities, and we had such crappy infrastructure," Shrivastava says. (The community relied on a mix of tools like Slack, Google Forms, Substack and email.)

How it works: Key offers tools for networking and career development. It has community groups, focused on specific companies, colleges and startup networks, with chat and directories. It helps people host and participate in virtual, in-person and hybrid events.

  • Key doesn't make money yet. Future revenue is expected from charging for talent recruitment and referrals or membership fees, the co-founders say.
  • The startup has 11 employees.

Zoom in: Felicis led the pre-seed round, which closed in December.

  • Liquid 2 Ventures, Alumni Ventures, Archangels Ventures, Cerigo Investments, Everywhere Ventures, Startup Shibuya, MVP Ventures and Xoogler Ventures participated.
  • Felicis founder and managing partner Aydin Senkut tells Axios that Key differs from other networking platforms by focusing on community.
  • "LinkedIn is all about the individuals and the companies," Senkut says. "Just having a Facebook page or some group is not necessarily the right answer here."

What's next: The platform launched in private beta to former Google employees three months ago and some other communities about a month ago. It plans to open to more communities in the coming months.

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