Ryan O'Donnell By Ryan O'Donnell • October 26, 2016

DisruptHR Comes to Raleigh, Finds Thriving HR Tech Start-Up Community

16 Start-Ups Changing How Employers Attract, Hire, & Retain Top Talent

Check out the original post on ExitEvent here.

MATI Energy. Mobile Apps. Referrals. Harley Davidsons. A.I. Resumes. Mad Men. 

What do all of these things have in common? They are a glimpse into the future of HR, thanks to a new event in the Triangle called DisruptHR RDU

According to their website, DisruptHR is an, “Information exchange designed to energize, inform and empower executives, business leaders and people in the HR field.” After hosting 400+ talks in 40+ cities, DisruptHR came to Raleigh for it’s inaugural kick-off event held at The Nest Raleigh. 

Cody Johnson, founder of ZenWorkforce and co-organizer of the event, said “Collaboration between 3 strong startups [ZenWorkforce, EmployUs, & TransLoc], being agile, and drawing on our connections made this happen so fast.” 

After expecting 40-50 attendees, the event sold out with more than 130 attendees and a substantial waiting list, who came to hear from entrepreneurs, HR executives and recruiters from across the Triangle. We curated a full list of the night’s rapid fire talks on Periscope or the DisruptHR RDU website. 

Competition for Talent (and Jobs) is Tough, But There’s Help

Today is a job seeker’s market, and small start-ups are competing with large employers to attract, hire, and retain the best people for their organizations. Three start-ups that took center stage at the DisruptHR RDU event are committed to helping employers and job seekers win the war for talent. 

For employers, EmployUs, which I founded, showcased how after raising a $750K seed round and launching with over 100 employers in RDU, companies have used our mobile service to super-charge employee referral programs, hire more referrals, and reduce recruiting costs. For those concerned about the impact of artificial intelligence, Leoforce launched an A.I recruiting platform called Arya to augment recruiters capabilities to boost productivity. 

For job seekers, former Netsertive executive, Max Leisten, just launched Protopia to help job seekers build better resumes. Job seekers upload their resume and get feedback from real executives, HR leaders or recruiters, instead of friends, family, or coaches who tend to be biased. The model offers donations to the reviewer’s charity to drive engagement and feedback. 

Employees as Consumers 

One of the themes that emerged from the event was the need to treat employees as consumers. Allison McMurray of RedHat reminded the crowd of Simon Sinek’s famed TED Talk and book, Start With Why, saying that unless employees love the product, it’s unlikely anyone else will. Allison Bonner of SAS shared how their global companies are putting the employee and candidate experience at the forefront of their HR strategies.Bill Fowles of ABB shared tips on how to use LinkedIn to get the most out of an employer brand. While The Motley Fool’s Erin Miller shared her experiences making trust the most important quality of the being a “fool” at the growing company. 

Startups like AllElements and Performance Culture highlighted ways to improve employee engagement and performance with their user friendly applications. Though it was the founder of Mati Energy, Tatiana Birgisson, who made the analogy stick. As she scaled her team, MATI Energy needed to hire people who wanted to engineer the healthiest energy drink on the market.

“Think of building a team like cooking,” she said. "You need to have a plan, buy the right ingredients, and take care of yourself. Don’t take short-cuts and make sure you “taste” success along the way by celebrating the every-day wins."

The Local HR Tech Start-Up Community is Growing

Work in the Triangle shared some stats how RDU has attracted employers and talent from both smaller communities and larger metros, so it is not surprising HR tech entrepreneurs are launching their companies in this region to market their products and services to large enterprises and fast-growing start-ups. The region received accolades like the #1 Best City for Jobs#1 Hot Spot for Tech Startups Outside Silicon Valley, and#2 City Where Your Money Goes the Farthest

CB Insights data shows an uptick in investment in this space.

In recent years, HR Tech has received a record amount of investment. Start-ups like Lever ($33M), Greenhouse ($60M), Gusto ($155M) and Zenefits ($584M) are trying to make HR sexy again (which is the one thing you probably aren’t allowed to say in a meeting with HR). This year’s $26B acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft and $429M acquisition of Monster by Randstad prove there plenty of room for these well-funded start-ups to scale and generate significant returns for their investors. 

What does this mean for the local start-ups that have emerged in recent years to disrupt how we attract, hire, and retain top talent? Will the increased levels of funding shower cash on these HR tech entrepreneurs too? 

We curated a list of 15 start-ups in our community focused on this growing market, here is what we learned. These local start-ups, with the exception of EmployUs, have not raised significant amounts of outside funding. Outside of the $100M PeopleClick acquisition in 2010 and the 2016 acquisition of Avelist by The Muse, there have not been any exits to report of HR software companies in the area. 

There is good news though. RDU is one of the best places to bootstrap your business, with our low cost of living, readily accessible talent, and (especially for HR Tech start-ups) plenty of large or fast-growing companies in need of HR/recruiting services. If the sellout crowd for the inaugural DisruptHR RDU event is any indicator, HR tech in the Triangle is worth a second or third look. 

Top 15 Start-Ups Disrupting HR in RDU


Type: Recruiting/Sourcing 

EmployUs helps employers hire more referrals and save money with every hire. Using our mobile and web applications, employers can boost employee referral program engagement to generate more pre-qualified referrals, which is proven to be their best source of talent. Anyone can download their iOS or Android app to refer their connections to jobs and earn up to $10,000 when their referral gets hired. 


Type: Workforce Insights / Decision Analytics 

ZenWorkforce, an AI company, makes it easy for any organization to capture real-time data, using their mobile or web applications, and use advanced real-time analytics and insights to more effectively engage and manage your employees, as well as measure your company's performance. The combination results in improved employee engagement, effectiveness, and morale. All in a fast-to-implement, easy to use solution.  


Type: Employee Engagement/ Communication 

AllElements believes that #PeopleMakeItHappen, and they show this through the People Ecosystem way of thinking. By removing boundaries and using a simple user interface, goals can be set easily and efficiently, and customizable progress, which allows for real-time feedback, coaching and support the moment an employee needs it. 


Type: Resume Reviews 

With Protopia, job seekers upload their resume and get feedback from real executives, HR leaders or recruiters, instead of friends, family, or coaches who tend to be biased. The only thing you need to do to get someone to tell you the good, bad, and ugly about your resume is to make a contributions to a reviewer’s favorite charity. 

Arya By Leofore 

Type: Recruiting/Sourcing

Leoforce is a recruiting AI Company with a flagship product, Arya, that integrates with your ATS, popular job boards and social media sites to automatically bring you the talent that your company needs. Arya is sent into the open web to search for passive candidates, and then compiles information from their social media into one profile that gives you way more than what a resume can. 


Type: Employee Engagement/ Communication 

OfficeAccord is an employee digital bulletin board. It helps employees communicate nonbusiness related matters with their colleagues such as classifieds, events, ride shares, and housing. Within weeks of their launch, Harvard University purchased the tool to help enhance their workplace culture and internal communication. 

Glance Technology  

Type: Recruiting/Sourcing 

Founded by a pair of college students who are members of Raleigh Innovators Program, Glance helps job seekers discover unique job opportunities through a friendly and knowledgeable chatbot. Job seekers message Glance and they are returned relevant, quality jobs, all the hard work of searching for a job is done by Glance. 


Type: Employer Reviews 

InHerSight is an anonymous platform designed to help women find and vet employers, rate their old ones, and explore new professional opportunities. If you’ve ever been curious about salaries, parental leave policies, and diversity states, in addition to what it’s like to work at a certain place, especially as a woman in the workplace, this is a great place to start. And it’s anonymous, so you can get the real scoop. 


Type: Pre-Screening/Assessments 

Founded by famed Adam Grant and led by Dane Barnes, Optimize Hire’s pre-hire testing can improve hiring decisions and reduce the time spent on the hiring process by up to 90% through testing applicants on traits like cognitive ability, personality, and motivation. 

Atlas Certified 

Type: Pre-Screening/ Assessments 

Atlas Certified makes it possible to keep the represented licenses, certifications and skills of your workforce and applicant pool monitored without the unreliable, error-prone and resource intensive process of manually managing credentials. 


Type: Recruiting/ Sourcing 

When looking for a candidate for a position, reviewers tend to favor people with the same gender, ethnicity, educational background as themselves. What BlindedHR is doing is taking the bias out of hiring, and preventing bad hires based on this bias, by making job applications anonymous. BlindedHR was one of 12 teams who participated in last week’s Google for Entrepreneurs Exchange Black Founders at American Underground. 


Type: Recruiting/ Sourcing

Instead of launching your hiring campaign to just anybody, LineHire promotes them to industry-specific Talent Scouts, who then have 30 days to find, screen, and submit candidates. Within these thirty days, you can expect to receive 10-20 candidates, which you can then contact and recruit as usual. 


Type: Recruiting/ Sourcing 

AmazeTal seeks to increase transparency in the job search, by creating a marketplace where employers, experts and candidates can all interact. Instead of applying to a million vague job descriptions, candidates fill out one profile, which is analyzed and screened. Hiring managers can reach out to pre-vetted talent in a less time consuming way. 

Performance Culture (Based in Wilmington) 

Type: Employee Engagement/Performance Management 

Performance Culture replaces the traditional appraisal with a coaching session focused on team leaders and their employees. Performance Culture aligns company goals with employee expectations, coaches employees on both performance and key behaviors, and manages team members using the Performance-Values Matrix™. 

MindSumo (Based in San Francisco with a Triangle Office) 

Type: Recruiting/ Sourcing 

MindSumo helps businesses host projects, or challenges, as a way to engage an audience of undergraduate, masters, and PhD students. Students can compete in challenges held by companies like Ericsson and Adobe for real-world experience, cash prizes, and job opportunities. 


Type: Employee Engagement/ Performance Management 

90% of new skills learned at trainings are forgotten by the first day back at work. Talented lets learners practice new skills on their mobile device for 3-5 minutes a day with low stakes, high feedback simulations. Their performance is shared with their mentors, who can provide just-in-time guidance so the new skills actually stick. 

If we missed any HR software companies, please comment below or message me directly to add your company to the list.