Two former Googlers are guaranteeing workers in the tech industry that they get interviews with their dreamer employers thanks to artificial intelligence.
The past year or so has seen AI deployed to tackle a broad range of issues, and with their startup Leap.ai, ex-Google engineers Richard Liu and Yunkai Zhou believe it can be used to crack the hiring conundrum in tech.
As things stand now, LinkedIn is the 800-pound gorilla that defines online recruitment. But it is far from perfect. Most HR and hiring teams shuffle through endless digital piles of resumes. Since head-hunting options inside LinkedIn, which sold to Microsoft for over $26 billion last year, are often quantitative rather than qualitative, working the service is typically a manual process that can be time intensive.
Leap.ai founders Liu (CEO) and Zhou (CTO), who both hail from China but are long-time Silicon Valley residents, believe that there’s a more efficient way to map an individual’s skills and experiences, while matching them to the demands and culture of would-be employers.
“I probably hired 500 people into my division,” Liu, who spent eight years with Google, rising to become head of engineering for Project Fi, told TechCrunch in an interview. “We learned that hiring is hard.”
“Your ability to learn, collaborate or take initiative are strong characteristics, but it is hard to get a feel for them from an interview. Curiosity and drive, in an interview process you can’t do too much to gauge that,” he added.
Leap.ai, which was founded 18 months ago and currently has 10 staff, maps out a range of data, including obvious areas like employment history, qualifications and skills and personal interests, career motivation and more, to assemble a more complete picture of a candidate’s career aspirations. Part of that process includes mapping out their ‘dream’ employer and ideal role.
From there, the system matches job seekers with its clientele of companies that are looking to hire, including Dropbox, Uber and others. By asking candidates to name the two companies they aspire to work for, Leap.ai believes it can guarantee an interview with at least one, particularly when they are startups and not huge corporates like Google.
That’s because, Liu explained, companies really value candidates who can fit their culture and are motivated to join them beyond financial gains.
“LinkedIn solved the first problem, what you have done, perfectly but how good each person is and how they fit into organization is a lot harder and a lot more valuable,” he said.
The Leap.ai service also offers personalized suggestions on where candidates would be well suited to working, based on the data gathered by job seekers and those hiring.
So far, the results seem impressive. The company only makes money when it successfully facilitates a hire, and Liu said it is on track to hit profitability in August. To date, 70 percent of its matches have passed (at least) the first interview at their target company.
It is currently focused on candidates in New York, Boulder, Austin, Seattle and Silicon Valley but it is looking to extend that reach both in the U.S. and overseas. That’s partly driven by demand from its fifty-plus clients. Liu said that Leap.ai has seen significant interest from companies in India and China who are looking to locate overseas diaspora keen to return home to work on tech projects.
Already, the startup has built dedicated features to help these Asia-based companies with their U.S. hiring, and it plans to investigate local hiring options, starting in China.
It’s already made progress opening networks in China. Beyond their status as Chinese engineers who worked their way up Google’s ranks, Leap.ai’s founders have taken money from Zhen Fund — one of China’s top rate tech VCs — as part of the $2.4 million seed funding it has raised to date.
“We’re actively seeking opportunities in China [but] we want to make sure we are well established in the U.S. before moving into China,” Liu said. “We’ve set our targets for the U.S., China and India from day one.”
The company’s ambition isn’t just to help with hiring, Leap.ai wants to replicate the kind of mentorship that Liu and Zhou were part of when they were at Google. That’s to say helping younger employees map out their career goals and get from stage to stage to enable their ambitions — be that in a new role inside their current company or moving elsewhere.
Product-wise, that means a resource people use as a constant career companion. Already the startup’s app goes well beyond job hunting to focus on career and individual development, and they plan to add more depth here, too.
“We had been active mentoring at Google,” Zhou, who spent close to a decade at the search giant, explained. “And we want to encourage long-term career success.”
As a measure of its success, the company itself has hired more than half of it staff from its service. Now it hopes to allow others, both employers and employees, to take advantage.