PITCH 1 EQ Hire
Welcome to the first season of Go Pitch Win! Each week Greg is joined by a guest judge to hear 2 entrepreneurs pitch their business or product. After hearing the two pitches they will pick the weekly winner to move on to the final 6. At the end of the 6 weeks, Greg will select the top 3 and then we need you to help us pick the winner! Once the 3 finalists are announced we will open the voting for you #FreedomBuilders to choose our $10,000 winner!
Greg Mercer, Jungle Scout Founder
Greg is the founder and CEO of Jungle Scout, a suite of tools that empowers freedom builders. As a successful entrepreneur, Greg leads a team of 65+ employees. He is also an influential educator, offering free and inspirational content that has helped thousands of people build their own businesses and freedom.
PITCH - EQ Hire
EQ Hire is a platform where candidates tell their story and get hired. We increase the speed that recruiters can make decisions and make hires which cuts costs and saves time.
Kelechi: Sure. My name's Kelechi Agwunobi. I'm the founder of EQHire. I founded this idea when searching for opportunities post grad and while having the offer to work at Big Four accounting, there was a part of me that just always wanted to pursue this because there was a gap in the market where if it were fulfilled I'd be able to provide individuals with a bunch of opportunity to have the platform or have the ability to tell their story beyond their resume, so I've been working on this project for about two years and we're hoping to continue moving forward.
One of the biggest challenges in the recruitment space is the divide between the two online and offline worlds. How a recruiter perceives someone online versus how they perceive them offline is vastly different, and the two perceptions rarely cross. Job candidates fill their resumes with experiences and achievements that are impressive but do not give us insight on their contributions to the end goal, especially when working within a team. Businesses embrace collaboration and innovation to make sure they're serving their customers as best as possible, and more than ever, the level of emotional intelligence an individual has plays a significant role for how they will perform working within different organizations.
We live in the information age where new skills can begin development after a short Google search. We see the importance of emotional intelligence growing as companies make efforts to create and develop their company culture. Recruiters at companies typically assess for emotional intelligence during the initial phone interviews with candidates, but the time it takes to filter down their pile of applicants, screen candidates, and carry out the remaining steps in the recruitment process often results in the loss of talent. Alternatively, recruiters seek third party staffing firms but often face the issue of their agents not working in their best interest.
What if there was a solution that could automate administrative tasks, provide information integrity, and also give recruiters the stories of each candidate to give them an understanding of the candidate's emotional intelligence? I introduce you guys, EQHire. EQHire is a platform where candidates tell their story and get hired. Through virtual interviews, pre-validated backgrounds, we increase the speed at which recruiters can make decisions about a candidate, which in turn cuts costs and saves time.
The platform works like this. Let's say a company like Jungle Scout is looking to hire a customer support representative. Recruiters can input questions that they typically ask during the initial round off interviews. Then the candidate that they like on paper will get invited to conduct the interview in audio format in order to reduce potential biases and assess from a contextual standpoint. The interview will be conducted with a voice bot similar to Amazon Alexa or Siri, and after the interview is conducted the recruiter and his team would be able to listen to the audio responses and move people along the onboarding process if they like the candidate.
So you might be wondering, "Well what if the company gets an abundant amount of applications per year?" My answer to that is we've researched and developed a feature that will provide personality insight to make it easier to search and filter through candidates. The last major benefit of our platform is that we create a professional credential ecosystem to ensure information integrity for experiences and accolades mentioned on a candidate's profile.
So overall, EQHire is a web platform where users can automatically interview candidates and validate professional backgrounds. Through using our tool we will provide companies with the ability to augment the recruitment process, instantly validate backgrounds, and overall save money and save time.
Now the employer background industry is valued at $4 billion. Our credential system creates a collaborative environment where businesses work together by uploading employee data to make it accessible by other participating companies. As a result we can minimize the costs related to validating a candidate's or employee's background. In essence, we will cut out the third parties used when validating the professional and personal backgrounds of each candidate. Now the global HR software industry is valued at $125 billion, proving that companies of all shapes and sizes are seeking the best tools to find the talent that they need. I included both figures because EQHire is an HR software company positioned to enter the employee verification industry.
To start, our target customers are companies that hire for positions that involve a lot of customer interaction. Either in person, through phone, or through other messaging mediums. We believe these roles have the highest demand for emotional intelligence, therefore they must have a tool to make it easy to find talent. I highlighted that there are more than 200,000 B2B businesses in the United States alone that hire sales and customer support representatives. Ideally, EQHire is positioned for these types of companies.
In addition, a company like Google receives over 2 million resumes a year according to Inc.com. Without the use of technology, a company like such will find it difficult to thoroughly screen candidates that may fit what they're looking for. The EQHire solution in essence widens the casting net for recruiters so they can hire the best by reviewing the most.
Now, here I'll cover our business model. In the event that there's a successful hire through our platform, we will charge a 10% commission of the starting salary, which is less than most staffing firms yet equally valuable. Our definition of a successful hire is an individual who remains at your company for over 90 days after the hire is made. Our revenue model is unique because we allow companies to set their own costs for using EQHire by contributing to our platform, so for uploading employee data solely related to when they started and stopped working at your company and inviting businesses that you partner or work with, we will reward you in the form of credit, and that credit can then be used to subsidize the commission payments. So in some cases, a company may be able to use our services at absolutely no cost depending on their size and value of contribution. So how about that for a bargain?
Now I'll go over the competition. Here's a quadrant that provides insight on who some of our direct competitors are. For podcast listeners, the quadrant is broken down into four sections. Solutions that are affordable and online, expensive and online, expensive and offline, and affordable and offline. Our solution fits in the affordable and online quarter because we give companies the opportunity to set their own costs while extracting the benefits of our tool. Competitive advantages of EQHire's solution include our voice-only feature since it reduces the bias that may come from using one of our competitor video-oriented platforms, the pre-validated background checks which empower companies to minimize the risk of losing talent late in the pipeline, as well as assure that the individual has the experience mentioned in their portfolio.
We also empower recruiters to only pick up the phone and call a candidate when they have 100% conviction that they should move forward in the recruitment process instead of wasting time emailing back and forth trying to organize when the first form of contact will happen. Next, our revenue model incentivizes our users to increase the value of our platform, which in turn reduces their cost of using it. Next, we provide risk management services by providing recruiters with accountability for their recruitment behavior in the event they need evidence of equal recruitment. And lastly, our memorable name represents everything that we stand for. Together, we've positioned ourselves to stand out among our competitors.
So again, I'm the founder, Kelechi Agwunobi of EQHire and I've had previous experience working Big Four accounting before diving into EQHire. I received a bachelor's in accounting and finance from the University of Rhode Island and I'm a self-taught programmer. My main advisor is Walter Callender of Practical Innovation. Walter has worked on Wall Street for an extended period of time before starting Practical Innovation where they're focused on investing in companies created by underrepresented founders. Some press that we've had. Last year I competed in the Toyota Startup and Go competition which took place in Los Angeles and ended up as a finalist among 300 applicants. During 2017 we also won the Practical Innovation pitch competition.
Two years ago EQHire was just an idea. Since then, I've interviewed over 30 recruiters to refine the idea, developed the first version of the platform with an intern, and tested it with a company that has been patient with our progress. Moving forward, our goal is to get the second version off the ground within three months and start growing the user base and team.
In order to do this, I need time and resources, something that I've been contemplating since having a corporate job, so if awarded the ten grand reward, Jungle Scout would essentially be buying time for me so that I could direct my energy towards development. Not only would it buy time but it would allow me to acquire the resources necessary to move forward at a quicker rate, such as more powerful equipment and an intern or external team that I can collaborate with in order to get version two of the platform up and running. The last benefit of this funding is that it provides us with a form of validation that can be used when we are ready to seek significant outside funding to ramp up growth. Additionally, by investing in EQHire, you will be able to hold us accountable for everything mentioned in this pitch because a company like Jungle Scout could potentially become one of our early adopters.
So in conclusion, I want to leave off by saying that the beauty of EQHire does not necessarily come from our user interface or our backend code. The beauty comes from individuals and businesses being able to connect through the use of unique storytelling. People can now tell their story and businesses can now hire with high forms of transparency and efficiency. That being said I'd like to thank you guys for the opportunity and answer any questions that may have popped up.
Greg: The big picture stuff I understand. The problem with recruiting and how much time and everything it understands, but yeah, I don't quite fully understand EQHire's main ...
Steve: Like, how does it work?
Kelechi: From your standpoint, basically you would go on EQHire. You would create an interview, so as part of the interview creation process you would input questions that you would typically ask during an interview with a candidate, and then you would invite candidates via email to conduct the interview. The candidate on their end, they'll set a time to receive a phone call from the EQHire bot which essentially carries out the interview, so the bot will ask questions that you inputted on the platform and the candidate on the other end will have a couple minutes to answer the question, and then you'll receive the responses in audio format on your end.
Steve: Interesting. So how would this work for a tech interview? Let's say I wanted to interview an engineer and just do an initial phone screen or screen like that. It seems like this wouldn't work that well for that, right? Because you're asking them a technical question which often involves some sort of process and answer.
Kelechi: That's a great question. For a technical interview, we thought that it would be great to use EQHire to understand more of how they work together and how they collaborate with other individuals, so you'd want to ask those deep questions about their technical capabilities or processing during the next phase of the interviewing process, so after getting their audio responses from the initial round you would then move forward to the next round and ask those more technical questions where you can dive deeper.
Steve: I see. So this first interview is mainly to get an idea of the person's personality.
Greg: That makes sense to me. For example, we get tons of applications for customer support reps and I guess it would make sense for the first round interview to be able to interview all these people as opposed to just single out a few of them. But then your platform is going to use the voice recognition, some type of software to then grade these people based off their answers, or you would just get the answers to these questions either transcribed or in the audio format?
Kelechi: That's a great question. We're aiming on creating a tool that not only transcribes it but also gives you a fundamental score on the individual's emotional intelligence based on research that we've found through Google searches and technical papers, so through that report you'd be able to conduct comparative analysis between each individual and say, "Hey, this individual scored maybe like a five out of five on the EQ test versus the other individual who may have scored a four out of five," so with that you'd be able to compare and contrast individuals and quickly sort your batch of interviews through this method.
Steve: How is the EQ score calculated?
Kelechi: It's based on cognitive empathy, empathic concern, and basically situational empathy. What it does is it takes the context of what's being said during the interview and it's able to understand okay, is this person speaking from a position of empathy? And it'll score based on that. So it's up to the companies to really understand that they need to ask probing questions that'll give them insight on okay, does this person put themselves in the position of their consumer or who they're serving, or are they more of a self-centered person where they're just more focused on their own performance?
Greg: Tell us a little bit about version one that you currently have built. How is working so far? What's the feedback you've gotten? Give us a little more insight on that.
Kelechi: I developed it with an intern from Brown University and we were testing it with a company here in Providence, and we beta tested the entire summer of 2017 and it went well. Within the first week we had 20 individuals apply for one job opening at the company, which is a small nonprofit here in Providence, and each individual was able to tell their story but the HR representative mentioned that we needed to figure out how to make the platform more mobile because the job opening was attracting people of all sorts of different backgrounds. People who were much older to people who were much younger to people who are coming from different industries, so because of the technical requirements of the original version, he recommended that if we can make it mobile we'd be making it more accessible by more people. So that's why we decided to create this bot that'll give individuals a phone call so individuals aren't required to use an up-to-date MacBook or computer of some sort.
Greg: Okay, because currently they would just have to take it on their computer, or you're saying they would actually have to come to a physical location of a computer that has this installed?
Kelechi: They would have to take it on their computer.
Steve: So it seems like a company using your tool depends heavily on this EQ score, right? And I imagine there's some algorithm that automatically calculates this score. Is there any scientific backed research on how this is done and how effective it is?
Kelechi: We found that IBM has been testing their NLP, natural language process feature that basically can take any form of text and give you a summary of the individual's personality. So what we want to do is we want to make something maybe comparable to that but more focused on just emotional intelligence, because again we believe that emotional intelligence is very important for roles that require a lot of human-to-human contact and communication.
Steve: Greg, I'd be afraid to see what my EQ looks like. I don't know about you, man.
Greg: Yours would be terrible, man.
Steve: What if it tells me I'm crazy?
Greg: Are you working on this full time right now, or are you programming it? You mentioned having an intern. Are they the one programing it? Give us a little more insight where it's at right now.
Kelechi: I work part time basically to pay the bills, but outside of work I'm always quoting. I'm doing the whole nines of running a startup where communicating with investors, communicating with potential customers, doing research, as well as coding. So personally it'd help a lot if I had an intern because one, I'd have somebody that I can bounce ideas back and forth and then we can come to a consensus of how best we should execute the development of the code. That's one of the biggest takeaways that I had when working with an intern before, and personally I'd prefer to continue working like that moving forward but again, that's going to cost money.
Steve: Do you own the algorithm? Do you have some sort of patent on it, or is it just something that's widely available that you're just using?
Kelechi: The algorithm is widely available. It's licensed.
Steve: And it has nothing to do with the tonality. It's purely based on the words that are being said. Is that ...
Kelechi: On the context, correct.
Steve: Okay, got it. How have your trials been? I imagine that you went through and you had this EQ number and then you probably then physically interviewed people to see how accurate it was. Can you talk about some of the results that you've had?
Kelechi: We haven't done any personal testing using our version of the algorithm, but based on the company that has made the algorithm they've done extensive research on the different traits of a human and through their research that they've done they've created something that has a high confidence score, so to start again we want to use their algorithm and navigate to making it more geared towards just emotional intelligence, so there's a lot of testing to be done but in order to test we need more people using and interviewing through our platform so that we can learn.
Greg: Okay, so this is like a pre-built, already proven NLP algorithm. You're just essentially just using this for this new use case which is specifically for hiring. Is that a good way to put it?
Greg: Cool. Then I guess one other question. Is the idea that you're also recruiting applicants to EQHire and take these tests and then be placed in one of these jobs, or it'd be up to the employer to drive the traffic to this site? So like I'd say, "Hey, Jungle Scout's hiring new customer service reps. Stage one of the interview is here."
Kelechi: We would have our companies that are using the platform drive the traffic. For example, Jungle Scout would invite candidates to interview through an EQHire platform, so where we come into place is when they create profiles in the EQHire platform, we want to make them sharable so let's say an individual was moving from Jungle Scout to another company. So since there's a ledger that basically accounts for when they started and worked and Jungle Scout, that'll be able to get shared to another company and that company will have the assurance or trust that okay, since Jungle Scout physically uploaded it themselves, I don't have to hire a third party company to basically give you a call and say, "Hey, did this individual work at Jungle Scout?" So basically we'd be facilitating data between participating companies.
Steve: So you do the reference checks essentially.
Kelechi: Well, the platform does.
Steve: So let me ask you this. I used to do a lot of recruiting at my last company and whenever we used a headhunter or whatever and they charged us a percentage it was like one or two month's pay or whatever. They're bringing in the candidate, right? The way you guys charge it seems like I'm providing the candidate, and then I'm getting charged if I end up hiring them. Right?
Steve: Okay. Have you run that by companies before? Because part of the value add of a headhunter is that they're bringing outside candidates that match already, or closely match, as opposed to our existing pool which we've already gone through and we have our own HR department do that, right?
Kelechi: That's a great question. I actually talked to somebody at a major telecommunication company about that, and they had mentioned that they use a third party staffing firm to do essentially what you said. Find the talent and move them through and basically come to them and say, "Hey, I have these five individuals who are a great fit for your company." But what they found was that some of the staffing firms that they were working with weren't really working in their best interest, so what he had mentioned about the EQHire platform is that it transforms the engineering of the role of a staffer because now they can focus their energy on marketing the open opportunity and just funnel the leads directly to EQHire, so they don't have to worry about the last third of the recruitment process.
Steve: So you're essentially replacing an HR person at someone's company as opposed to replacing a headhunter.
Kelechi: That's actually exactly what he said.
Steve: I see. Because traditionally the HR department is there to sift through all these massive resumes, right?
Steve: And so you're reducing their load so they can focus on just doing the phone screens and scheduling the final interviews.
Greg: As far as the background checks or reference checks goes, is that what it is? Is it just a background check that looks for criminal background, or would this platform also be reaching out to prior jobs and verifying them? Can you speak a little bit more about the background check or reference check part?
Kelechi: If you could imagine a Google doc where us three are participating and I upload my employee data, Greg, you upload your employee data, and Steve, you upload your employee data, and we're three different entities. We upload information regarding when an individual started and when they stopped employment if they stopped employment at the firm. So if somebody's transferring from EQHire to Jungle Scout, Greg, you'd be able to directly on their profile basically see a check mark similar to Instagram or any of the social media accounts that proves that okay, this individual worked at that company, and I know this because the head of HR uploaded this information themselves. So since it's public information uploaded by the entity, I can trust it and don't need to hire a background checking company to validate that information for us. So in terms of professional experiences, that's how we help companies basically validate that.
Steve: I was just going to say, that's assuming that person's already in the database, right?
Steve: And you're not tapping into larger databases to seed your database so to speak. You're relying on your customers for that database.
Kelechi: Yes. We want to build it organically. The reason being is because companies that are participating in our ecosystem, they will actually receive a form of credit for keeping up to date employee information, and that credit can then be used to subsidize the percent commission that we will charge per successful hire that we help facilitate.
Steve: I'm sorry. How does that work? I upload my entire list and I get credit for it?
Steve: I see, because you're using the data that I upload for other purposes. Can other companies tap into that data, the people who are applying to my company?
Steve: Okay, and so that's why I'm getting the credit, so in fact by uploading my list I could be competing with a competitor in hiring one of these people then.
Kelechi: One of these people from ...
Steve: Let's say Greg and I are competitors, so I upload my list. He uploads his list. But then oh, I notice that someone applied that he uploaded I want to hire for my company. Can I poach that person?
Kelechi: Oh, not directly through our platform.
Steve: Okay. So how are you using the data that I'm uploading?
Kelechi: If the individual was to find the opportunity at your company through Indeed.com or any other marketing method that you use, if they apply through EQHire you would then see, "Okay, he worked at Jungle Scout." You wouldn't be able to poach his employee pool and say, "Hey, I noticed that you've been at Jungle Scout for X amount of time. You should come work for me." You wouldn't be able to do that.
Steve: Okay, so you're using the uploaded data purely for reference checks or employment verification.
Greg: Have you raised any money so far, Kelechi?
Kelechi: I received the money from Brown University which was used for the intern. I was awarded funding from Practical Innovation for the pitch competition and I raised a small amount from friends and family, but besides that I've just been trying to bootstrap as much as I can. But I do have relationships with other firms which hopefully I can get to the point where they'd be able to help out, but right now I'm really trying to build leverage so those conversations are kind of in the favor of the vision that I had for EQHire.
Greg: Collectively how much money do you think that would be that you've raised so far or been awarded?
Kelechi: Close to $20,000.
Greg: Realistically speaking here, this seems like a pretty big and grand project maybe to get to the final state. Realistically, how much time and money do you think it's going to take to get V2 live where it's in good enough condition that people are willing to pay you money for it?
Kelechi: I think without the artificial intelligence aspect we can get V2 live within three months. What that would look like is the ecosystem basically where the information regarding each employee can exist. That would be established. The new version of the interviewing bot. So those two things, basically the credit system and the background ecosystem as well as the new version of the communication or interviewing bot can be done within a three to four month span. As for the artificial intelligence, I believe that I'll need a team or at least an individual who's more committed to this project to begin working on that with, because that's going to take a lot of work and research.
Steve: When you talk about AI, which part of your product is that exactly? That's not the NLP part, is it? Or is it?
Kelechi: It is. It is, yeah.
Steve: That is, okay. Which is the value add of your product though, right?
Greg: The rest of it you feel like you can build yourself. You have the programming chops to do that, or do you feel like you need some programming help with that as well?
Kelechi: I feel like I can build the first portion of it which is the ecosystem and the new version of the chat bot. As for the NLP AI, I'm definitely going to need some help with that.
Steve: I used to be a former engineer and something like this is going to require a lot of developers as well as quality assurance, especially if you're going to get big companies to sign onto this and depend on it, right?
Steve: So I would imagine it's going to cost a lot more. I'm just curious, how much are you looking to raise total?
Kelechi: As for a seed round, I don't have an exact amount. I've been really focused on getting the next version of it built and then estimating what it's going to cost to bring it to a level that people would start paying for it.
Steve: Do you have any companies that are onboard right now just as a trial or a beta?
Kelechi: There's a nonprofit in Providence that was using the platform before we took it down to fix bugs and work on the next version of it. They're a nonprofit that basically hires for a diverse number of roles and they only have one HR manager, so this tool has been doing him a lot of justice.
Greg: What's the current competitive landscape look like? Are there other companies doing something similar to this that have proven the concept? Are you kind of like the trailblazer here?
Kelechi: There's definitely companies that are providing services that allow for asynchronous video and audio interviewing. Most companies are doing video, but the issue with video comes in the biases that may come from seeing somebody's video interview, so humans are just inclined to be more favorable towards people that look like them or people that they're attracted to, so by focusing strictly on audio we make recruiters essentially just focus on the context of what's being said so that they can understand if the individual's really a good fit.
In terms of companies that are leveraging audio only, we have one direct competitor and they were founded in 2015 and they've been essentially making some progress but I believe that if we're able to execute through the way that was mentioned during the pitch I think that we'd be able to take some market share.
Greg: Kelechi, do you have any final thoughts on why you think you should be selected to win the $10,000 prize?
Kelechi: Again, I think the $10,000 prize can get me to a point where I can at least have companies test the new theory or new thesis that we have for the EQHire platform, and from there we'll be able to hopefully attract funding to help us get to the next level that we need to get to to finally start acquiring paying customers, so I think the ten grand can go a long way and hopefully if things go well we can get version two out within the next three months and hopefully even have you as a potential user and provide feedback on it.
Greg: Excellent, and if someone's listening to this podcast in the future and they are interested in using EQHire, where would they find it and sign up for it?
Kelechi: Our landing page is going to go live and they can find the landing page at EQHire.io. If you have any questions or concerns or want to give feedback you can feel free email me at [email protected]. I'm pretty active on my email inbox so just feel free to reach out and stay tuned as we progress forward.
Greg: Kelechi, thank you very much for that. Before we go, Steve, after listening to this pitch and listening to Kelechi's business idea, do you have one or two minutes worth of advice or feedback that you'd give to him?
Steve: I do actually. I think that your platform is more ideal to customer support people where empathy and people skills really make a huge difference, so I would say that you might want to specialize in one sort of type of recruiting to kind of niche down a little bit and that way people will be more likely to sign up for you, as opposed to this broad based platform. For example, I don't really see a good use for it for recruiting engineering talent, because we had a very strict protocol when we were hiring engineers, but for customer support I think your tool might work pretty well assuming the NLP works well.
Greg: And a little bit of feedback or advice I would have. It's actually similar to Steve's. In my notes here I wrote, "Niche down, at least to get going." It's easier to market your tool and to build the tool if you really try to niche down and specialize in one particular area, and I like the idea of using a bot to do first round interviews, especially for jobs that you're getting tons and tons of applicants for. You'll probably learn a lot as you get going about if the NLP doesn't work well for EQ maybe you can judge other things on whether or not they can move forward to the next round or not. That's probably going to take some testing to figure out, but overall I think you did a nice job with your pitch. I appreciate you coming on the show, Kelechi, and we will let you know if you're going to move forward to the final round or not.
Kelechi: Hey, thank you guys for the time. I appreciate the opportunity.