When One MBA Startup Gobbles Up Another

Pictured from left to right are Sarah Rumbaugh and Zach Mayo, co-founders of Relish Careers, and Mitch Kirby and Kevin Marvinac, co-founders of Transparent Career. Courtesy photo

Despite the proliferation of success stories in the media, successful startups are still a rarity. Last year at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, some 16% of the class launched a company; at Harvard Business School, the rate was about 7%. In other words, even at the top startup-producing B-schools, it’s still a rarity to even start a new business, let alone a successful one. But even less common than that is when a startup founded in an elite B-school is acquired by another startup from a competing B-school within five years of the principals’ graduation.

It happened earlier this summer when Relish Careers, founded by a duo from Virginia’s Darden School of Business, acquired Transparent MBA, founded by a team from Chicago’s Booth School of Business, for an undisclosed amount. For Relish Career — which acts as a matchmaking service akin to a Match.com or eHarmony for employers and students from elite universities — the acquisition was the perfect match.

“When we founded Relish, we wanted to help make the recruiting process as user-friendly as possible, and it was clear from the first time we met Mitch (Kirby) and the team that they shared a similar philosophy,” Relish Career co-founder and CEO Sarah Rumbaugh tells Poets&Quants by email. “On top of that, they built a really great application that clearly provided a lot of value to students and alumni in the job market. We’ve always admired their work for those reasons, so when the opportunity arose to bring their platform into the Relish family, we were obviously thrilled.”


Relish Career was founded by Rumbaugh and Mayo in 2014 while earning their MBAs at Darden.

“The recruiting starts even before the MBA program starts,” Rumbaugh told Poets&Quants in 2015. “Once you’re in your MBA, you really are spending just as much time recruiting as you are on your academics. It’s not that top MBAs won’t get hired. They will. Top MBAs will get a good job. Placement is very high at the top schools. The problem is a lot of money is spent, it’s very time-consuming, it’s crowded and competitive and inefficient.”

Transparent Career was founded soon after in 2016 as a Glassdoor for MBAs at Chicago’s School of Business by Mitch Kirby, Kevin Marvinac, and a team of other Boothies. Kirby and Marvinac stayed on and worked as the primary employees of the company after Kirby wrapped up his MBA. The team won Booth’s annual startup competition and raised an undisclosed about of investment funding.


Naturally, a “Glassdoor” and “eHarmony” for MBAs have some things in common.

“For starters,” Rumbaugh says, “joining forces with Transparent means that our users and customers get more of everything: more candidates and employers in our hiring marketplace, more data and career filters to inform their searches, and more tools to manage the recruiting process. We want users on our platform to be able to customize their experience for their specific career goals and interests, and this acquisition gives them a lot more options to do exactly that.”

Plus, the boosted data will help the matchmaking process — a tactic used by many online dating platforms.

“As most users on online dating sites can attest, robust datasets can be really helpful in matchmaking, which is why we gather degree-specific info on candidates and employers to aid in a more nuanced matching process,” Rumbaugh explains. “Because Transparent gathered complementary data on job compensation and company culture, the acquisition will help us improve our recommendations to both job candidates and employers.”


Rumbaugh says the acquisition will only benefit users.

“One of the biggest reasons we were excited about the prospect of acquiring Transparent was that each of our platforms focus on separate but complementary parts of the recruiting process; TransparentCareer has a lot of highly granular compensation data that helps candidates compare and contrast different career paths,” she says.

“RelishCareers is about facilitating relationships between candidates and recruiters. So together these two resources help candidates better understand the career options available to them and connect with opportunity.”


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