Innovative Recruiting Enabler Brings In Its First CFO's new finance chief describes how the company built a business around user-contributed reviews of employers.
David McCannFebruary 18, 2014

Are you familiar with If not, you should be. You can find out what your employees are saying about your company. If you care about that sort of thing, that is.

On Glassdoor, present and past employees can publish anonymous reviews about a company. Just be prepared: It might not be all roses and chocolate.

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What Glassdoor actually wants most is to interest you in its talent and employer-branding solutions (like clickable employer ads on the platform), which is where its revenue comes from. But let’s stay with the company reviews for a bit first, since it’s a sexy topic.

A fairly obvious question is this: Wouldn’t human nature dictate that the review capability would mostly draw the interest of the disgruntled? The malcontents with axes to grind? Every company has those, of course, but can we really expect the reviews on Glassdoor to proportionately represent the opinions of a company’s employees?'s first CFO, Adam Spiegel’s first CFO, Adam Spiegel

Adam Spiegel is glad we posed the question. Just starting his third week as the company’s first CFO and armed with statistics, he says, “It’s a good question that gets asked all the time. We have 22 million members, and among everyone who has shared a review, 70 percent are either OK with or satisfied in their jobs. Which sounds about right.”

Glassdoor reaches out to two audiences. On the front end, it aims to help job seekers find what they’re looking for. It accomplishes this primarily through user-generated content. Site users not only post reviews, they can also upload work-site photos and, most intriguingly, their salaries. The site contains six million pieces of user-generated content on 300,000 companies, Glassdoor says.

But, tell you how much money they make? Why would the site visitors do that?

“We have what we call a give-to-get model,” Spiegel says. “If you’re a product manager and want to find out about product-manager salaries at Cisco [Systems], the site will give you a little bit of information. But it’s going to ask for your information, too, and once you give it to us, you get unfettered access to all our data. That’s what feeds our engine.”

Glassdoor uses the information to supply recruiting capabilities to its other audience — employers. It currently has about 1,500 customers, including Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Nordstrom, Pepsico, PNC Bank, Shell, VMWare and WalMart.

CFO can’t vouch for the efficacy of Glassdoor’s business model, but it does sound like an innovative way to potentially deliver solid job candidates who could be hired at a low cost.

“People who come to our site can see all kinds of information about companies they’re interested in,” Spiegel says. “They can become highly educated about a company, and the role they’re looking for at that company, before clicking on a job ad.”

In December, Glassdoor landed $50 million in new venture funding, for a total of $93 million — reason enough to hire a finance chief.  “It came down to the company being at a phase of development where it had proven enough of the business model,” Spiegel says. “The growth ahead will introduce complexity to the business. Anytime a company gets to that point in its evolution, it’s natural to bring in someone with my background.”

He’s worked on a series of high-growth companies, for sure, but his background is otherwise quite varied. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in electrical engineering and got an MBA from the University of California at Los Angeles Anderson School of Management. After that he put in two years as a consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton before going into investment banking for nine years.

And then he put his career on hold for two years, for what he calls a personal sabbatical. From 2002 to 2004 he embarked on the kind of mid-career sojourn that most hardened business professionals only dream of — if that.

“When I left investment banking in the spring of 2002, I knew I wanted to do some backpacking in New Zealand and Australia but didn’t want to go during the southern hemisphere winter,” Spiegel says. “That left me with about six months to kill. I’ve always been passionate about sailing, so I applied to several sailing schools and got a teaching position at J World in Annapolis, Md. I taught everyone from beginners to advanced racers.  It was one of the best summers of my life.”

He then headed down under for several months that happened to coincide with the America’s Cup races in Auckland before setting sail for Tahiti, working on a crew of six delivering a 70-foot sailboat.

But Spiegel, itching to be an entrepreneur, came back to business as the CFO of two successive life-sciences startups that didn’t pan out. Then he hit paydirt at a third stop, RPX, a novel provider of subscription-based patent-risk solutions — essentially, tools for fighting off patent trolls.

“Little did I know at the time I joined, but the company was on a path to going public two and a half years after it was formed,” he says. “A year after I took over as CFO we were hiring bankers. When the company is a year old and doing $30 million, you don’t know where the future lies. But shortly after that we did a $183 million IPO, which was pretty crazy.”

At Glassdoor, Spiegel says he’ll be doing what’s normal for a company at its phase of growth: figuring out how to scale the business, allocate capital and build a good team. On the latter count he’s got a fairly blank slate: four accountants and a couple people who had been handling finance matters and working on scaling the company.

A big part of Spiegel’s focus will be helping the company continue its international expansion. About 25 percent of its business is now outside the United States. Other priorities will be building out a financial planning and analysis function and shoring up the company’s ad-server technology.

“I love hyper-growth companies,” Spiegel says. “There is a constant stream of challenges, a lot of interesting, complex things to deal with.”

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