HR Tech Pitchfest 2022: Seeking new tools to improve the world of work

More than 30 emerging HR technology startups will be competing for $25,000 in prize money and the title of HR Tech Pitchfest winner later this month at the HR Tech Conference. In short, rapid-fire presentations, 33 founders will attempt to show a panel of expert judges that their solution relies on outstanding innovation, solves a compelling HR pain point for large organizations and is fueled by a superior founding team with a strong business plan.

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From AtlasJobs, a job-mapping tool, to pop-culture-inspired compliance solution EasyLlama to “brain-science”-backed coaching tool uMap and beyond, the solutions this year largely focus on talent acquisition, a persistent challenge for employers that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 lockdown and subsequent Great Resignation. And there’s plenty of work ahead in the TA space, given that unfilled job openings increased to 11.2 million in July.

Relieving the burden on talent recruiters is an area of keen interest for Thomas Jajeh, chief digital officer at Randstad Sourceright and a Pitchfest judge. Randstad’s strategic corporate venture fund, Randstad Innovation Fund, is donating the event’s $30,000 in prize money.

“I am particularly interested in anything that makes the talent, hiring manager or recruiter journey more seamless and enjoyable. In the past, a lot of the solutions sold to enterprise customers have been point solutions solving a particular part of the value chain,” says Jajeh. “Now, the focus has shifted to much more integrated and seamless total talent solutions.”

What else are the judges hoping to see and learn?

Jason Corsello, founder and general partner of Acadian Ventures, says he will be listening for answers to several questions. Does the company have some unique IP or technical excellence? Are they focused on a large market opportunity? Is this an outstanding founding team?” he says. He also wants to hear how the organization plans to scale and finance the business and whether it can overcome the challenges facing start-ups.

Corsello and his fellow judges also will be looking for companies that are disrupting existing categories of solutions, extending categories or even creating new markets. That means deep knowledge of the rapidly growing HR tech and “future of work” market is critical since it all comes down to lightening the load of today’s HR professionals, he says. 

George LaRocque

George LaRocque, master of ceremonies for the event, agrees, saying the judges are looking for “great HR technology,” which he defines as focused on the employee while delivering value to the company. It’s also easy to use, integrates well with other platforms and “strives to influence and change the world of work for the better,” he says. “Founders who understand this can speak to the employee experience and a real ROI to the business without shortchanging either constituency.”

Of course, Corsello says, innovation—of any variety—will beat a long list of features.

“It could be technology innovation: Is the company leveraging existing or new technologies to create competitive differentiation? It could be business model innovation,” he says, such as a go-to-market strategy with a distinct advantage. It also could be product innovation, including building products at scale and understanding how to develop complex software for global companies.

LaRocque says solutions also will be evaluated against the typical industry standards. “These judges will look at exactly what investors consider,” he says “Quality and background of the team, understanding of the market and ideal customer profile, the product’s ability to solve a problem in the market today, and the startup’s business model.”

About Pitchfest

The competition starts at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 13 in the Pitchfest Theater in the Expo Hall. It consists of three rounds of short presentations followed by a few minutes for questions.

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Competitors will advance based on a combined score from judges (70%) and the audience (30%). Beginning at 10 a.m. Sept. 15, the six finalists will present again before the winners are selected. The first-place winner will receive $25,000 plus booth space at the 2023 HR Tech Conference. The second-place winner will receive $5,000.

See the full schedule here.

In addition to Corsello, Jajeh and LaRoque, the other Pitchfest judges will be Ben Brooks, CEO of coaching platform Pilot and the 2020 PitchFest winner; Emanuel Cotronakis, executive vice president of LRP Media Group; analyst Tim Sackett, president of HRU Technical Resources; and Michel Stokvis, senior director of Randstad Innovation Fund.

Phil Albinus
Phil Albinus is the former HR Tech Editor for HRE. He has been covering personal and business technology for 25 years and has served as editor and executive editor for a number of financial services, trading technology and employee benefits titles. He is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and lives in the Hudson Valley with his audiologist wife and three adult children.