Our start-up of the week is Opening.io, which is using AI to make the recruitment process entirely data-driven.
Employing AI enables users to narrow down candidate pools based on role-specific criteria, and data science can be used to help recruiters sharpen their game and not overlook important CVs or opportunities.
Opening.io was founded by two Transylvanians who have made Ireland their home, Andreea Wade and Adrian Mihai.
‘Recruitment is broken and the industry itself is often dubbed “the rejection industry”. We want to help change that’
– ANDREEA WADE
“At Opening.io, we have algorithms that match people to jobs,” Wade explained.
“We built an AI-powered résumé recommender engine – much like Netflix is a film recommender engine and YouTube or Spotify are music recommender engines.
“Opening.io provides matching, predicting, recommending and intelligent search technology for résumé databases and job platforms. We can plug into any entity that has candidates and job openings. We sit at the very beginning of the recruitment funnel, between sourcing and interviewing, performing pre-screening automation.”
Wade said that Opening.io focuses on companies with large résumé databases who are actively hiring.
“We currently target multinationals and recruitment enterprises in Ireland and the UK, but are expanding into several other European countries this year. We are also able to power recruitment CRMs, applicant tracking systems and job boards.
“The recruitment industry is consolidating, a lot of exits and M&As in the last couple of years, all fuelled by what is called the ‘war for talent’. AI, in particular, is a hot topic, as [there are] a lot of industries that are in badly need of automation. Overall, this is a billion-dollar opportunity.”
Wade’s background is in programming, journalism, product management, business development and entrepreneurship.
“I used to be a start-up mentor, having mentored in all the major incubators and accelerators in Dublin but also London, Tel Aviv and Berlin. I was involved in running the Irish wing of an EU-funded accelerator with a €4.5m fund, where I assessed European start-up applications and mentored the successful cohort.
“I was the head of product management in Independent News and Media and I have previously founded companies – Opening.io being my fourth venture.
Mihai is the co-founder and CTO of Opening.io. He was heavily involved in the development processes of entities such as Lufthansa, National Geographic, Magnum Photos, WWF and the Rational Group.
He founded a national multimedia festival called Dracula PC Party, an event that gathered several thousand participants in Romania. He is also a programming Olympiad, having won first place at the Romanian Programming Olympiad.
“Both Adrian and I were hiring managers and candidates. Opening.io was built from the candidates’ perspective and our aim is to empower companies to become candidate-centric.”
Opening.io is positioned at the forefront of global recruitment AI research, taking a science-first approach to candidate pre-screening and performing deep learning in recruitment versus classical machine learning.
“We employ linguistic algorithms to identify patterns within the structure and phrasing of job posts and CVs, converting them into data points to match candidates to suitable jobs,” Wade explained.
“The algorithms break apart every single résumé, analyse the skills and knowledge of every applicant, search for additional candidate information out on the web like portfolios or code repositories, and position the candidate in relevant knowledge and experience spheres, matching or ranking them accordingly; for example, against a job description, another candidate or a pool of candidates.
“The algorithms understand concepts rather than just keywords and so, you don’t need to search for a word like ‘java’, for example – the algorithms know what java means and they will surface relevance regardless.
“Last year, we were invited to present our technology at the largest data science/data pipelines event in the US: Scala by the Bay in San Francisco.
“We were one of the few small, European companies sharing the stage with Salesforce Einstein’s VP of data science and engineering, lead scientists, engineers and mathematicians from other entities that are building recommender engines (Netflix, Spotify, Uber, Twitter) or other platforms with large capabilities (Stripe, IBM, AOL, Comcast etc.).”
Wade is not short on ambition for Opening.io. “Our vision is for our company name to become synonymous with recruitment AI technologies.
“We are a science-first company and so our focus will always be data science-driven. We are continuously developing our technology; we do a lot of R&D work and have a busy roadmap ahead as over 80pc of our machine learning processes are now deep learning. [Our] new AI engine went live in March 2017. This new approach allows us to build better models, engineer self-learning algorithms, expand into any industry and any language.
“The ultimate goal is to help transform the recruitment industry globally, empowering companies to truly become candidate-centric. Recruitment is broken and the industry itself is often dubbed ‘the rejection industry’. We want to help change that. We believe in linking good people with good people, talent with opportunities, at company, city, country and continent level.”
Out of beta
Opening.io came out of beta and officially launched on 5 September 2016.
“We are a team of six, we have paying customers, trials with multinationals and recruitment enterprises employing thousands of people and, in March 2017, we powered Career Zoo, Ireland’s premier career fair, distributing the résumés to all the participating exhibitors.
“The partnership was a success and our Career Zoo collaboration is set to continue. As founders, we invested our own money into the company and in January 2017, we took investment from NDRC Catalyser (an accelerator programme that invests in deep technologies).
“We are looking to raise a large seed round in the next six months.”
Resources should never be squandered
Ironically, for a company focused on the human resources business, the biggest challenge for the start-up is indeed resources.
“Every day has its ups and downs. It comes with the territory. Resources – of any kind, monetary or human – are scarce and as a young company, you can’t afford to waste any of them.
“Developing technology like ours would put a strain on any company, no matter the size. To do the core of what we do, we had to build several elements, from parsing to document conversion and more, [which], out in the real world, are stand-alone businesses and offerings.
“We are not a company that was able to start with an MVP; we had to build a complex engine that is able to handle scale.”
Stay in Europe, build in Europe
Wade’s knowledge and experience of the start-up scene in Europe has served her well and has enabled her to avoid the pitfalls and distractions that often beset founders in the start-up scene.
“I used to be very involved in the Irish start-up scene, from speaking at events to organising events, mentoring companies and overall adding to the ecosystem.
“Once we started Opening.io, I had to learn to say no and take a step back from all that. Today, we pick our participation in all things start-up very carefully, and the aim is pretty much to reduce them to zero.
“The ecosystem is vibrant and it has a lot of support at idea level, from hackathons to meet-ups. Once you start building, things change a bit. Today, I personally seek counsel from founders that have done it – people that have built companies, scaled or exited. We are lucky to have built our own network of good, trusted people, and feel privileged to have received the help we have so far. Shout-out here to Niamh Bushnell – previously our Commissioner for Start-ups (who we already miss), today building Techireland.org, and to Peter and the rest of the guys in Teamwork for creating Saasnetwork.ie.
“One thing that is important to mention here is the educational factor of the technical meet-ups that the Dublin ecosystem has to offer. Our tech team often participates in data science-focused talks and events, and these have often been of great help, hence why we also like to give back and share our learnings.”
Her advice to fellow founders is to stay in Europe. “Stay in Europe. Build in Europe, for Europe. Surround yourself with good people, seek the doers, find the right communities and support systems. And if you want to start something, focus on the problem. It’s very easy to fall in love with the solution, it’s much harder to remain committed to the problem.”
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