HR Tech Start Ups to watch (march 2016)

Bas van de Haterd Op 17 maart 2016
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Disclaimer: another article in English on this otherwise Dutch Blog. Because of the nature of the content (worldwide HR Tech Start Ups).

In November of last year I wrote an article on HR Tech Start ups to watch after the HR Tech World event in Paris. The London edition was this week, hence a new article about the new companies I’ve seen there.

This article is about the new companies I’ve met on HR Tech (and 2 I met in between). It does not mean the others I wrote about in november are not worth watching anymore, but I don’t want to repeat myself.


Teamily is the new start-up by the former founders of VR Application Layar. I wrote about them in Dutch before, since I’ve met and tested them last month. They are not in the recruitment space, but they want to help teams perform better. What they believe is that a project lead should be different for different stages in any project. And the lead should select him or herself, but by knowing your strengths and the phase of the project you know if this phase is right for you.

So you make a profile by answering 4 questions. And right now it’s focussed on a team that’s already in place. I know for example one of the major banks is working with their system to get a project done this year that ‘failed’ last year. It turned out the team had many people with the same characteristics, so maybe to progress they need an ‘edge worker’ (self employed professional) with different ‘skills’. And skills in this case are more ‘mentality’ then hard skills. They want to unlock the power of teams, they want to engage the ‘edge worker’ and get them in at the right moment or get them to build teams together. They haven’t figured out the reward system yet, but that’s one thing that might just be best ‘left open’ for now.

My main question for teamily is: will they get the business model right? For what part of the business will companies be prepared to pay.

Clearwater Report

The Clearwater report I met before I went to HR Tech in London. I wrote about them in Dutch already. This is one to watch, no doubt. Their promise is brilliant. Their technology seems good and will improve rapidly, their added value is fantastic. My main concern is: will they get the sales and marketing right?

So what does the Clearwater Report do? They give you a really great and freakishly accurate psychological profile of a candidate based on a 6 minute video interview. This isn’t based on the answers to the questions, they actually ignore those, but on the micro expressions you have when you give them. The great thing about this system is that it’s almost impossible to ‘cheat’. You can lie with words, but not with your entire body or even your face (with exceptions of alcohol, drugs use and psychotics). They’ve automated much of it and so it’s now possible to get a great psychological ‘base profile’ for an acceptabele fee. Given the move to ‘soft factors’ in recruitment I think they have really great potential.

HR Tech London

For me the biggest surprise on HR Tech on London was that most of the start-ups I talked to were in a similar space. Maybe it’s also because I never speak to all of them, but I was surprised to see so many do the same thing in a different way. And this thing… it’s employee engagement. They all try to be the next step in the old employee happiness survey. So I’ll start with all of them and then go on to the three others I liked.


Impraise is the Dutch start-up in the ’employee engagement’ space. They have their marketing and sales organized really well, unlike most start ups and that is a great asset. They have plenty of customers and great names in the start up scene.

The design of the system looks good and I guess it appeals to many. Personally I still wonder: how much feedback are we really willing to give? I have my doubt with any system to be honest, because all of them still rely on ‘questions’. Impraise made the questions as visibly attractive as possible, but still you ask people for their time. But this is the weak spot for all these apps. None has been able to bypass this (yet).

My main concern with Impraise is that they stay on the feedback loop. They’ve improved the survey to real time and 360 degrees, but they are not linking it to for example business results or hard numbers the business can work with (yet).


Peakon is the Danish player in this employee engagement field. Peakon relies more on textual feedback than for example Impraise. This has the downside that it’s much more time consuming to give feeback, but the upside of issues being clearer by text mining.

Peakon’s main ‘sell’ seems to be the way they present the results. They have very nice visual results for the HR manager or line manager and they are extremely flexible in this. The other thing Peakon is really good at, their ‘unique selling point’ is combining the employee engagement with business goals. So they measure what engages people and how they are motivated and combine this with information about for example customer happiness or turnover. This gets employee engagement to the level of the business and I do believe that’s the way it should be.


Tandem HR Solutions is the Irish player in the field. Their motto is ‘people don’t leave companies, they leave managers’. And what they’ve build is a double feedback loop. When you are given feedback, you can (anonymously) feedback the feedback. So a manager that gives feedback can be rated on ‘helpful’ and ‘trustworthy’. So any company will know what managers are seen by their team as helpful managers and trustworthy managers. The great thing Tandem does is they give coaching tips. So they help the manager on how to built more trust or be more helpful if his or her rating is low. When this doesn’t help they also have the possibility to send HR an alert that coaching this manager might be a good idea.

The strength of Tandem is their coaching angle. They want to help managers improve. The weakness is, once again, the amount of time it takes to give feedback. Yes, it’s much better than the old survey, but will you write two or three lines about everybody in your team every week or two weeks? It should be done, but will it?

The last one I met in the employee engagement space was from Finland. takes a different approach to employee engagement and culture than all the others. They ask both managers as well as employees about the culture and the vision and the strategy and see where this doesn’t align. From there the look at how to align this better. This seems like ‘old skool’ maybe, but of course it’s done ‘real time’ and so. I personally would be surprised to see ‘make it’. The sell is easier, but the way they actually measure the culture for me is the wrong way. You cannot ask about behaviour, you need to observe and measure it. It’s in small things, not in big questions.

Real time employee engagement feedback

So by far the most venture capital seems to have gone into real time employee engagement and feedback systems. Personally I still have doubts about the entire concept. Because it still relies on old fashion questions. I don’t like questions. We are moving to a system where more and more is measures. We step on our scale in the morning and it measures not just weight, but blood pressure and heart rate. My phone tells me where and how fast I rode my bike. I don’t have to fill in the details and draw lines on a map. Although I will be watching these companies, I have doubts about the entire concept of feedback in this way.

Recruitment start-ups to watch

As promised there were three recruitment start ups to watch too.


Softfactors is a Swiss company that enters the soft factors of a job into the recruitment process. They have some tests and some questions that redefine the recruitment process. So you get a match more on the character of the person than just the resume. They also test if the person has the same ‘feel’ about what is important in this job as the company does.

What I like about them is that they are redefining the recruitment process and eventually a system like this might make the resume obsolete. I believe strongly in these types of start-ups, since the resume is a terrible way to recruit, but the best way we have right now. They also have really good and good looking dashboards for recruiters, and that’s a real asset.

Two things I feel they need to improve. First is the testing. Their way is too old skool. Again, too many questions, not enough games. They should look at Artic Shores (next start up) for example on how to improve this. The second part: they ask too much right now. Because they also ask questions about ‘the resume’ that could be extracted. Maybe not all, but some. Not every resume has ‘driving licence’ in there, but you should only ask that if it isn’t in there already. I will watch them, but I really hope they will start to use smart gaming to assess people more than rely on asking questions.

Arctic Shores

Arctic Shores is English and the thing they need to change first is the name. I had many conversations about them on the event and everybody was ‘yeah, the gaming guys’, and nobody remembered their name. But what they do is really nice. They have games, and I mean genuine games, and the way you play gives them insights into your psychological profile. And I love that. They had a game where you needed to fly a spacecraft from one planet to the next. And they kept changing little things. Do you see those changes? Or do you screw up? I screwed up. With many different parameters this means I tend to act faster than is sometimes wise. And that is true. How many times do you retry? It goes to persistence. Stuff like that.

Of course they validate everything they do with existing psychometric data. So they system gets validated against existing academic tests. I think Artic Shores are without a doubt one to watch. It’s going to be a hard sell in a traditional market like recruitment, but I do believe they add plenty of value.

IT Tests online

The last one I really liked it IT tests online from Romania. Since I’m not an IT person I cannot assess if the IT tests are genuinely good, but they seem to be. The data they retrieve about the IT developer that’s applying, I love.

They do real testing. So you get a problem, you get a piece of code and you need to insert your own code in order to get the desired result. What they do next is they have an automated test on the quality of the candidate. Both quality of code (does it do what it needs to do), efficiency of code (how many lines were used, how fast will it run), speed of programming (how much time did it take) and one more that honestly, I forgot. It shoes this for every candidate in absolute terms, but also in relative terms. So how do the candidates perform on each of these to each other, and maybe even to everybody that took the test.

I love this way of recruiting. It’s the way in my opinion to recruit IT people, simply by actually testing their skills. You might not even need a resume anymore.

Their main improvement, as far as I’m concerned, is they need to build a way to integrate this into a corporate website. Right now you can just link it. So you need to send out an e-mail to candidates to go into that system. I would like this to be simply the application process on the website of the company. For all that apply. Even before the resume.




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