Creative Minds: In and Out of Silicon Valley







Innovation is alive and well in the start-up world:  the world of talent acquisition at least. In a panel at the MIT-Stanford VLab, a panel of young companies strutted their stuff in a VLAB session called  ‘Algorithm Alchemy: Turning Talent Search Into Gold.’  They responded to questions by moderator Craig Driscoll, Talent Partner from Highland Capital Partners on the theme of new disruptions in the talent acquisition market.  The younger companies addressed getting better talent faster—bookended by industry heavy weight Dan Shapero, the Talent VP from Linked-In.


Branding his company the “e-Harmony for jobs,” White Truffle’s CEO Alex Dévé described its goal as matching companies with tech talent through its tech recruiting program.


Venturocket, co-founded by Marc Hoag, intends to introduce job seekers directly to hiring managers, circumventing recruiters and headhunters, while his second start-up Crowd Vitae provides jobseekers with crowdsourced résumé feedback.


A young-but-already-started company (founded in 2011) at the event was Gild, represented by its CEO Sheeroy Desai. The company focuses finding engineers with the technical skills required for a specific job through scientific, data-driven tools.


In a demonstration area preceding the panel, these companies and others showed attendees their products: newcomers incuded Readyforce,  JobScore,, Loopd, HackerRank, and Hired – all focused on talent acquisition.

Innovation, however, is not just rooted in Silicon Valley soil. I also was a guest at the Dutch Consulate’s “Dutch Tech Pitch Night with Bill Reichert & Sander Arts,” hosted by the Netherlands Office of Science & Technology. Tech would-be entrepreneurs from Holland talked about their innovations, with three chosen to present their “pitch” to Bill Reichert from Garage Technology Ventures. These went beyond HR concerns to other areas, such as the smartphone app that would create odors – such as the odor of roses if you were entertaining a date (I for one would rather have a real rose…) 

There is certainly something to be said for software that improves, even slightly, the day to day tasks of HR professionals, recruiters, comp analysts and corporate learning officers. What struck me in all these creative ideas and nice looking software, though, was that we may be on the path to better mousetraps, but still they are mousetraps. The smellify app aside, the products and prototypes shown indeed did things that may need doing – shortening time to hire skilled talent is clearly a business goal, but let’s get some of these creative innovators to look at the processes within the organization – and change those as well as the software that they create so well.

The fresh new faces on the market may provide a novel twist on talent acquisition and other talent management areas – but these do not change the function or the business process; they do not tip an age-old existing practice on its head and shake it into a new way of doing things.

The HR tech market is ready for a shakeup: not more of the same, however gilded and bejeweled, but a technology-driven approach to the management of global workforces that fosters employee mastery and business productivity, rather than the age-old processes we cling to today.  I’d love to see our start-ups focus on that!



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Christa Degnan Manning

Vice President, Solution Provider Research Leader / Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Christa leads technology and service provider research for Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP. In this role, she helps businesses align their workforce support strategies with appropriate third-party software developers, service partners, and governance models. A 25-year technology industry veteran, Christa’s expertise assists organizations in creating functional capabilities and employee experiences that increase productivity, engagement, and workforce efficiency. Frequently cited by business and trade media, she has presented market research on business to business trends, leading practices, and expected challenges and benefits at industry and user conferences globally throughout her career. Christa has a bachelor of arts in English from Barnard College, Columbia University, incorporating studies at University College, University of London. She also holds a master of arts degree in English from the University of Massachusetts and has completed executive coursework on business metrics at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

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