Upsider is a technology company that uses artificial intelligence to automate the most expensive and time-consuming parts of the corporate recruiting process: identifying the most qualified, highest-performing candidates for any given position.
Josh McBride has spent his career building businesses working for high-growth technology companies. He and Xuan Smith founded Upsider in 2016 and launched the talent-acquisition service in 2018.
“The hardest part of that process was always hiring,” McBride said. “And drilling into that, it was trying to find populations of candidates with the relevant background and experience.”
Upsider is one of eight businesses that completed the fall class of the early stage venture capital firm Newark Venture Partners’ bridge-to-seed accelerator. Newark Venture Partners joined with corporations to recast Newark as a home to innovation. These companies do not pay to be in the program.
NVP Labs makes an initial investment of $120,000 in these companies, with an additional $100,000 investment at the close of the program, and a potential investment from NVP’s direct investment arm of up to $1 million in subsequent funding rounds.
The example of Upsider, along with Talentegy, another tech company that helps in hiring, and voice analytics provider RankMiner, highlight the ways in which NVP can help nurture innovative businesses.
“We screened over 1,800 companies for the fall 2018 cohort and came away with a group of startups that can be game-changers across industries,” said Allison Williams, director of NVP Labs. “They were chosen for having a combination of stand-out tech, enthusiastic and experienced founders, and products that addressed serious pain points, validated by our corporate partners.”
Newark Venture Partners provided professional resources and expertise that allowed these companies to raise money through a seed round.
McBride and Smith run Upsider, a subscription service that focuses on high-growth start-ups and staffing agencies, from the NVP offices in Newark.
“We are looking to bring on engineers to help accelerate the product growth as well as salespeople to help accelerate the revenue growth,” McBride said.
McBride liked the idea of providing a talent-acquisition service after interviewing hiring managers who struggled to find the right candidates. Many applicants lack the skill set and experience needed to work for a particular company, he said. Only one of 200 people who apply to jobs through online sources are hired, he added.
A recruiter who must process applications is investing a tremendous amount of time in unqualified candidates, McBride noted.
“Recruiters are at the mercy of people who apply to the job,” he explained. “You think about their background and skill set you are looking for. Let’s say there are 250 people in New York who match exactly what they’re looking for but only a couple of them apply for that job. We want to find those 250 people and give you a mechanism to reach out to them and that’s what our platform does.”
Upsider provides tools to convert candidates into interviews through email and other forms of communication.
“The success metrics for us from a client’s perspective is are you finding that relevant set of candidates, and then are you using our tools if you want to find adjacent backgrounds and control the dials to change that background quickly and efficiently?” McBride said. “If not, are you able to make data-driven decisions to change the criteria to expand that population?”
Twenty years of work
Dwaine Maltais, Shawna Berthold, and Stephanie Ralston founded artificial intelligence talent analytics company Talentegy to help businesses reduce costs associated with hiring and retaining employees. They say that more than 50 percent of applicants end a business relationship with a company due to a poor experience and more than 50 percent of job candidates will abandon an application process because of a technical problem.
Maltais and Berthold worked together on an applicant tracking system and talent management technology for nearly 20 years before establishing Talentegy in 2017. “We kept seeing the same problems over and over that we are still trying to address 20 years later,” Berthold said. “The applicant tracking system was supposed to solve all of the problems and it really did not.”
Talentegy works with companies in health care and manufacturing. They take marketing principles and apply them to human resources.
“There is a big push to treat candidates and employees like customers,” Maltais said. “If they are not happy, they tell people and that hits the bottom line.”
Maltais explained that companies spend a lot of time, money and effort to attract applicants to their websites. “Our goal is to figure out why and what companies can do about it,” Maltais said. “We sit on top of all of the HR technology solutions within an organization and we measure how people interact with those systems. We look at people searching for jobs, applying for jobs, getting through the hiring process. We track that journey in real time, and certainly look for people who exit.”
Berthold notes that companies lose money by failing to retain prospective applicants. She gave an example of an applicant who has a negative experience during the recruiting process and is more likely to sever business relationships with that employer. That person will be more likely to share that negative experience with their social network of friends and family, further hurting the business.
“I am a customer of your health care organization and I have a bad candidate experience,” Berthold said. “I am going to sever my business relationship with you as a consumer. That kind of apples-to-apples comparison starts to translate to a CEO where HR becomes a revenue-producing impact versus a cost center.”
RankMiner founder Preston Faykus said his company helps businesses stop spending money unnecessarily due to employee turnover. RankMiner listens to companies’ phone calls and then analyzes human voices using 383 signals to extract the emotions and behaviors that lead to business outcomes.
Newark Venture Partners introduced Faykus to some of its limited partners in New Jersey. Faykus is looking to expand his company within the state through those connections.
“Call centers have been inundated with data for a long time,” Faykus said. “We analyze a speaker’s voice to predict future behavior. We apply our patented technology. We take massive amounts of unstructured data and automatically provide prescriptions.”
“We are raising $750,000 to expand our sales and marketing but it is not specific to New Jersey,” Faykus said. “This is through early stage investors and venture capital and other investors. We made new connections on the investor front and on the customer front.”
Faykus said his greatest challenge in seeking investors is time.
“A founder has limited time and tends to wear many hats,” he said. “It is finding the right balance so you are doing important things and not doing just what is in front of me. NVP was helpful in providing expertise in areas that have us accelerate in ways that would have taken us time.”