HRTech Interview with Hari Kolam, Chief Executive Officer of Findem

Discover insights on overcoming recruitment challenges, the data-driven approach to hiring, and launching an HR tech company during a pandemic.

Hari Kolam

Hari, can you please introduce yourself and tell us about your professional journey so far?
Yes, I’d be happy to. I am actually an engineer turned entrepreneur. I have built data and infrastructure platforms most of my career. I’m originally from India, and my professional career in the US started at a young startup called Aster Data, which was a pioneer in the whole big data space. Aster built petabyte-scale distributed databases. I joined that startup reasonably early and that experience gave me a lot of exposure to the complexity of building platforms at scale.

I subsequently started an internet-scale distributed system/CDN company called Instart with some of my colleagues from Aster and served as CTO. In that position, I drove the technical direction for the company and had the opportunity to innovate and co-author more than 50 patents. I then co-founded Findem, a people search and talent intelligence company.

What inspired you to pursue a career in HR technology, and what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in this space?
When I was previously running Instart, one of the biggest obstacles was building and scaling my team. Any entrepreneur will tell you how difficult, yet imperative, it is for successful growth to get the right people into your key positions. We were in really fast-growth mode at the time and expanding our company internationally, so we had to hire quickly and, of course, wanted a first-rate and truly diverse team. As we recruited, we encountered some stumbling-blocks, including making a couple of bad hires and having to compromise in some instances when recruiters lacked the tools to deliver on our candidate wish list.

These challenges weren’t just unique to us, of course. I kept hearing the same frustration from other business leaders and knew there had to be a better way. It struck me then that recruiting and hiring are in fact data problems and need to be approached as such. That was the kindling that got me working on Findem, which we launched out of stealth in late 2020.

Without a doubt, the biggest obstacle that I’ve come up against with Findem was launching right in the middle of the pandemic. Here we were announcing a new HR-related company at a time when hiring was coming to a screeching halt. We had to adapt pretty much across the board – our technology, our sales process and even our own workforce composition. I think back on it with gratitude, though, because we learned a lot about teamwork, perseverance and being agile and forward-thinking.

Can you give us an overview of Findem’s platform and how it helps companies with their talent acquisition efforts?
I’d welcome the chance to tell you more about it. Our Talent Data Cloud is an AI-driven talent acquisition and management solution that’s powered by attribute-based talent intelligence. It works by ingesting millions of human data points to define people with attributes, not just with words on resumes or LinkedIn. Attributes can be everything from whether someone saw a company to a successful exit, is mission driven or has verified code in GitHub. We use these attributes to create dynamic, multidimensional profiles for individuals, teams and companies that surface insights impossible to get any other way. These insights are accessible at every stage of the talent lifecycle, giving organizations the ability to find and manage talent like never before.

Using our platform, talent teams can make truly data-driven talent decisions that enable them to build and evolve their workforce with precision, objectivity and efficiency. They can develop strategic workforce plans based on market realities, find exactly the right talent for every role, enable diversity and employee mobility, and accelerate conversions at every stage of the funnel.

How do you ensure that Findem’s technology is free from bias and promotes diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
Our solution is purpose-built to remove bias from the sourcing and recruitment processes. The Findem platform works by searching or filtering for candidates based on attributes, such as whether someone has been a Presidents Club winner or regularly contributes source code. The vast majority of these attributes are factual and not based on deduced information that could introduce bias.

Our attribute-driven approach works by enabling employers to express their intent around their ideal candidates more accurately, not make deductions about them. In this way, it’s rooted in data search and presentation rather than AI.

Most of the recruiting technologies today are using AI to extrapolate information on candidates, which is not how AI and machine learning are applied in the Findem platform. Our technology is different in that we’re only enriching information that’s already available. We do not use machine learning models to create a hypothesis based on a candidate profile, which can introduce bias.

We also have extremely comprehensive market intelligence that shows companies their diversity make-up, as well as how they’re faring on diversity versus competitors or other companies they want to measure against. Having a benchmark allows them to set tangible goals for their hiring and workforce initiatives.

How do you work with companies to customize Findem’s platform to their specific needs and goals?
The Findem platform functions from three different layers. We have the system of records, which indexes all the internal and external data together to give talent leaders a complete picture of their entire people team. Then there is a system of intelligence, where we customize with companies to figure out the candidate attributes that matter most to them, which allows them to tap into the system of records in a very thoughtful way. Finally, we have a system of workflows, where we’re unifying multiple point-solutions to deliver a robust platform with a low total cost of ownership that solves the problem completely rather than piecemeal.

Can you discuss any case studies or success stories of companies that have used Findem to improve their recruitment efforts?
Yes, of course. We’ll always hop on the opportunity to celebrate clients’ successes and share in them. You can find a number of case studies on our website, but a couple that stand out are RingCentral and SuperLayer.

RingCentral’s talent team came to us initially because they wanted to build a ready pipeline of top candidates and continue to bring more diverse candidates through the door. LinkedIn Recruiter lacked the targeting RingCentral needed and the team was growing fatigued spending hours sorting through irrelevant search results. With Findem, RingCentral can now search for candidates using attributes and AI and go far beyond what’s written on a resume or profile, resulting in a significantly larger, more relevant and diverse talent pool. By finding the right people with the right skill sets and then creating these incredibly customized nurture campaigns using our talent data, they’re seeing much higher conversion rates than they were before.

Within a relatively short period of time of using Findem, the RingCentral team increased their talent pipeline with top-quality, interested candidates by 22% and had 40% more interested candidates from underrepresented groups. Also, because our platform covers everything from sourcing to talent CRM to analytics, RingCentral was able to consolidate multiple tools, further boosting their team’s productivity.

Superlayer, a leading Web3 venture studio, is another compelling one. They’re at the cutting edge of tech and hiring for some very specialized and hard-to-fill roles. Beyond hiring for their core team, they’re hiring co-founders to build Web3 companies and partnering with them to launch these startups. Superlayer’s Head of People and Talent set an ambitious goal to hire three C-level roles by the end of the year – and these are not your run-of-the-mill candidates. With Findem’s precision search capabilities, she found seven people who fit the exact profile and successfully filled a C-level role from that pool of Findem-sourced candidates. Similar talent pools were generated to fill the other two.

Our platform has also been instrumental in helping Superlayer’s talent team increase stakeholder trust and align with hiring managers on expectations. The talent pool they created with Findem may have been smaller than what other solutions deliver, but it was extremely targeted and made the hiring managers confident in the quality of the hires. Instead of focusing on screening out people from larger pools, their time can be dedicated to conversion efforts.

How do you approach building a strong team at Findem, and what qualities do you look for in employees?
I prioritize building a “we’re in it together” culture that permeates every team and across the organization as a whole. The positive energy of everyone pulling in the same direction inspires me and sets the tone for a collaborative and trusting work environment. People know that their colleagues have their back and will help them navigate through any issues that may arise in a given day, week or month. We even have a Slack channel dedicated specifically to team shoutouts, which is very active with colleagues thanking their teammates for going above and beyond.

As a company that launched and “grew up” remotely during the pandemic and then became more internationally dispersed over the past couple of years, it’s been a paramount goal for us to build more human connection into our teams and I think you’ll see that reflected in our culture. I also welcome a challenge from anyone and everyone at Findem – my ears are always open to hear new ideas or ways of doing things.

When it comes to employees, the key attributes that I look for are humility, curiosity and scrappiness.

How do you balance the need to prioritize growth and innovation with maintaining a strong company culture?
My view is that innovation leads to growth. It’s also important to ensure innovation is channeled into the go-to-market side just as much as the product side. In a tough market where efficiency is key and teams have to do more with less, there needs to be perfect alignment between go-to-market and product. It’s also super important that problem-solving happens on both sides because otherwise it turns into an exercise with a non-outcome.

When you organize teams internally in a way to make this happen it supports a more positive company culture because culture is created by forming teams of people between different orgs and different job specs. The way we accomplish this is by focusing the business on the business and aligning every part of the innovation towards making the business a reality.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own HR technology company?
The best advice I can offer is to challenge the status quo. I see many companies try to work around the status quo rather than challenge it. There are many places and pockets in HR tech where the status quo is antiquated and the practices are old, and challenging it will ultimately be what disrupts the industry.

Also, forge allegiances with experts in the space who can guide the change management that is essential to winning in the space. Because of the nature of the space, change management is something that needs to be tackled by practitioners, but the vision and innovation has to break the status quo.

Can you discuss any future plans or goals for Findem?
Our future plans are to continue to innovate and learn from the market and scale the company. We are steadfastly focused on finding even more efficient and effective ways to scale, which includes looking at opportunities that are channel centric or not-direct centric to expedite growth. That part of the discovery and innovation will be ongoing.

How do you stay motivated and continue to innovate as CEO of Findem?
The motivation comes from the people that I work with on an everyday basis and the opportunity in front of us. It’s a massive opportunity, and talking to our clients, employees and partners in the space is pretty contagious because the excitement around the company is very very real. Looking at the road ahead and seeing our strategy receive such strong endorsements keeps me quite motivated.

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Hari Kolam
Hari Kolam Chief Executive Officer of Findem

Hari Kolam is the CEO of Findem, a talent acquisition and intelligence platform. Hari is responsible for driving the company’s overall direction and strategic growth, as well as overseeing its day-to-day operations. Hari is a serial entrepreneur and accomplished technologist, with nearly two decades of experience building companies and creating trailblazing technology solutions. He holds over 50 technology patents and is constantly innovating to transform what’s possible in HR technology.