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TalentSonar co-founders Alvin Loh and Hui Dai.
TalentSonar co-founders Alvin Loh and Hui Dai.

Women and minorities are historically underrepresented in the tech industry and companies often struggle to fix the diversity issue. Now one Seattle startup wants to help remove any unconscious bias that may influence a hiring decision.

TalentSonar‘s software removes names, contact information, and other identifying features from resumes so that hiring managers can focus on skills and experience.

“We think that if we can apply our deep security and machine learning backgrounds to helping companies hire diverse people, we will be able to improve society as a whole,” said TalentSonar CEO Alvin Loh.

Loh, a former Microsoft program manager, founded TalentSonar with Hui Dai, who worked as an engineer for both Microsoft and Amazon.

We caught up with Loh for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.

TalentSonarFullLogoWhiteBackgroundExplain what you do so our parents can understand it: “TalentSonar removes name and contact information, as a first step to remove unconscious bias, when resumes are being reviewed. We also have the capability to remove past employers, colleges attended, and other gender and ethnic identifiers. We hope that one day every resume that is viewed for the first time will have name and contact information removed to level the playing field.”

Inspiration hit us when: “We saw agency recruiters remove name and contact information from resumes as way to not have the talent they are helping to find work get hired from underneath them, causing them to lose their placement fee. So we developed our Resume Anonymization capabilities and then applied it to diversity hiring.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrap! We believe in running a lean company for as long as possible. We believe that if we build a great product and business, people will come find us. We’ve been approached by some angels and haven’t taken money yet.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We have developed technology that allows us to remove name and contact information from a Word or PDF document before presenting it to a hiring manager for review. It seems trivial but, having worked in the security and machine learning space for years, there’s actually a lot of work that goes into figuring out where the name is in a document and then how to remove it while keeping all the styling intact! Our work is patent pending.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “We made TalentSonar friction-free for a company to use. Just sign up and start using us; there is no installation required. We also integrate with applicant tracking systems via email and have an API for companies if they just want to use our Resume Anonymization capabilities.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We’ve made so many mistakes in all the phases of our journey. This will be a great blog post by us in the future, but the current thing we’re learning right now is to get as high up as you can in a customer’s organization when trying to make a sale.”

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Any entrepreneur would be blessed to have any of these guys supporting them. We think this question needs to be updated, though, to include some of the other amazingly diverse entrepreneurs in the world. Currently, as we move to selling our product, we’d love Oprah Winfrey’s marketing and sales power.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “We love having coffee, tea, or lunch with people who work with us to get to know them better.”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “We love people that care, don’t give up, and believe in the power of diversity.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Find a great co-founder. This cannot be overstated.”

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