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As start-up innovation explodes, see the latest and greatest at Pitchfest

Steve Boese, HR Tech Conference chair
Steve Boese
Steve Boese is HRE's Inside HR Tech columnist and chair of HRE’s HR Technology Conference®. He also writes a blog and hosts the HR Happy Hour Show, a radio program and podcast.

The HR technology market is constantly changing—with innovative technologies emerging every year—and many of these come to light from the dynamic HR tech start-up ecosystem. At the HR Technology Conference, where we have always focused on trends in HR technology, we showcase several dozen start-up innovators at the annual Pitchfest competition.

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In just a few short years, this event has grown to become one of the fixtures of the conference. In fact, the crowds that assemble at the Pitchfest Theater in the Expo Hall are so large that many exhibitors vie to position themselves near the venue and take advantage of all the foot traffic in that area.

If you are not familiar with Pitchfest, here are the essentials:

From a group of more than 75 HR tech start-ups, approximately 30 applicants are selected to participate. We start with three preliminary rounds of three-minute pitches, and then an exciting “final” round of five-minute pitches, after which one innovative company is named the HR Tech Pitchfest winner, selected through a combination of audience and expert judging.

This year’s judges include myself, Innovation Summit chair George LaRocque; Madeline Laurano, founder of Aptitude Research; Tim Sackett, president of HRU Technical Resources; Katherine Salguero, senior investment analyst at Randstad Innovation Fund; Kim Seals, senior partner at West Monroe; and Michel Stokvis, senior director at Randstad Innovation Fund.  

Pitchfest winner Pilot Coaching CEO Ben Brooks accepts the winner's check for $25,000.
2021 Pitchfest winner Pilot Coaching CEO Ben Brooks accepts the winner’s check.

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The winning company receives not only the accolades and prestige that come with the title, but also a $30,000 prize courtesy of the Randstad Innovation Fund. Plus, they’re given a giant cardboard novelty “check” that representatives of the winning company have the greatest time taking back with them through the airport on their way home!

Here are just three examples of the HR technology start-ups you’ll meet at Pitchfest this year (I pulled these at random from the 30-plus companies scheduled to participate; I’ll be seeing them, along with most of you, for the very first time at the conference):

Boostpoint: Boostpoint combines technology, social media and innovative recruiting strategies to help companies attract more qualified employees, simplify their hiring processes and boost their employer brand in new ways.

Welliba: Welliba EX+ combines the best of behavioral science and people-centered technology to help organizations and employees work together to attract, onboard, retain and develop talent.

Hellohire: A live video interview platform for high-volume hiring that uses AI to automate pre-screening, scheduling and reporting so you can focus on meeting great candidates in live video interviews.

All of the companies that will compete at Pitchfest are seeking to join a small, but esteemed, group of former winners that includes Blendoor, Pilot, Onwards HR and Spotlyfe. Each of these winning companies represents the best of the HR technology start-up world and have all continued to grow and develop in their markets since their “debut” on the scene at HR Tech.

Importantly, the list of prior winners, and the group of 2023 participants, reflect the scope and diversity in the HR technology market. Pitchfest highlights innovative new HR tech solutions covering talent acquisition, compensation, benefits, performance management, wellbeing and much more. It’s a good reflection of the overall HR technology marketplace and proof that innovation and new ideas are literally everywhere in HR tech.

Hope to see you at Pitchfest at HR Tech this year! Check your schedules and your expo maps as you won’t want to miss a minute of this exciting event!