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Cash infusion for Gild aims to bring diversity to U.S. tech sector

By Sarah McBride

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Hiring startup Gild has raised cash to help it tackle one of the U.S. technology sector's highest-profile challenges: the lack of diversity among its workers.

Gild, which said it raised $13.5 million from Menlo Ventures and others, uses algorithms to find software developers that don't always fit the traditional mold. Customers run from online commerce site Gilt to software company Microsoft Corp to travel site TripAdvisor Inc.

"Hiring is not a meritocracy," said Venky Ganesan, a partner at Menlo Ventures, which is leading the funding round. "Most people in Silicon Valley think it is, because they don’t have conscious biases, but we have unconscious biases that we need to be aware of."

Many employers unwittingly value factors such as where potential hires went to school, their gender, and race above the more critical factor of performance, he said in a blog post.

Gild's fundraise comes at a time when technology companies are increasingly drawing scrutiny for a lack of diversity. Last week, Google Inc said just 2 percent of its employees are black, 3 percent are Hispanic, and 30 percent are women.

Separately, photo-sharing startup Snapchat's co-founder Evan Spiegel came under fire last week after the release of misogynistic emails he sent four and five years ago while at Stanford University.

Venture backers of startup RadiumOne drew criticism earlier this year due to their support of the company's chief executive officer, who pled guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence charges. The CEO, Gurbaksh Chahal, was ultimately fired.

Many in Silicon Valley blame what has become known as its partying male "brogrammer" culture on an environment where few women and minorities lead companies. Among senior venture capitalists, who fund the companies that grow up to become the next Googles and Microsofts, just 4 percent are female, a February report from Fortune showed.

Gild works in part by looking through open-source computer coding to track developers whose work is reused by other coders, indicating the original developer codes well. That way, as well as suitable developers who move in easy-to-find circles, Gild digs up people who lack social-networking profiles or who do not socialize with other developers who could refer them.

That is how Gild found one of its own employees: Jade Dominguez, who at the time Gild hired him lived east of Los Angeles and had no LinkedIn or Facebook profile. He is a well-regarded developer for Ruby, the programming language.

Besides Menlo, Draper Nexus participated in the funding round, as did existing investors Baseline Ventures, Globespan Capital, SAP Ventures, and Correlation Ventures. Gild has raised $27 million since its 2012 launch, it said.

(Reporting by Sarah McBride; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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