The SeekOut team. (SeekOut Photos) LinkedIn can be a valuable resource for hiring managers sourcing potential candidates. But oftentimes it isn’t enough — and that’s where is stepping in. The Seattle-area startup today announced a $6 million investment round led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Mayfield. The company helps HR departments by using swaths of data to provide an AI-powered “360-degree profile” of potential candidates — particularly those that have sparse or no LinkedIn profiles, but may be qualified based on harder-to-find accolades. SeekOut is led by CEO and co-founder , a former technical assistant to Bill Gates who previously led Microsoft’s Unified Communications Group; and CTO , a former Microsoft partner engineering manager who worked on products including Bing and Office. Anoop Gupta with Aravind Bala, co-founders of SeekOut. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop) Their company is an evolution of , a professional messaging service formerly known as that Gupta and Bala founded. The premise of Nextio was to give recipients of promotional LinkedIn messages money paid by marketers, recruiters and others seeking to reach them. Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in 2016 — one year after Gupta and Bala left the company. While Nextio never took off, there was a “career insights” feature that analyzed millions of resumes to give users a birds-eye view of potential career paths and the necessary steps to achieve certain jobs. That garnered interest from recruiters who wanted to understand requirements for various roles at companies; how people moved from different jobs; and so forth. About 18 months ago, Nextio pivoted to SeekOut. “Since then the growth and traction has been phenomenal, and we are truly humbled and energized about serving this critical need for companies,” Gupta said. SeekOut’s thesis is that developers and engineers often don’t promote their experience or work on a LinkedIn profile, but may do so in a place such as GitHub or in research papers and patents. But sourcing potential hires based on public data is only one part of the company’s business. SeekOut also provides built-in diversity filters to help reduce unconscious bias; a machine learning-driven search engine that understands past hiring patterns and needs based on job descriptions; and the ability for recruiters to “hyper-personalize” messages when engaging with candidates. SeekOut has more than 75 enterprise customers from various industries including tech, defense, pharma, consumer-packaged goods, and more. “Our secret sauce is that we are engineering leaders who have tons of experience hiring tech talent for our teams and with challenges our recruiters faced,” Gupta said. “We also know of data available and how to apply machine learning, natural language processing and other technologies to the problem that we and our customers face every day: finding qualified candidates.” SeekOut competes against a flurry of existing hiring-related tools, from giants such as LinkedIn itself and Workday, to smaller startups including fellow Seattle company . Gupta said that most competing HR tech tools are spread over a wide range of tasks, such as chatbots or candidate scheduling. “The companies in the sourcing space where SeekOut focuses are fewer, and less mature,” he said. Gupta and Bala both left Microsoft in November 2015 and came up with the Nextio idea in early 2016. SeekOut has raised $8.2 million to date. The company employs 12 people and expects to double headcount this year. As a result of the funding, Madrona Managing Director S. “Soma” Somasegar will join the board. “As every company goes through the digital transformation, the need for technical talent is growing leaps and bounds,” he said. “The SeekOut team deeply understands these challenges and has the expertise and drive to address them.”
Gaia co-founders Mehtap Ozkan, David Vaskevitch and Hal Berenson. (Gaia Photo) As a former longtime Microsoft chief technology officer, has seen most of the major computer revolutions. He’s ready for the next wave, autonomous machines, and is building a platform to get in on the ground floor. Vaskevitch is one of three co-founders behind Gaia, a new Seattle-area startup aims to be a kind of app store for robots. “Autonomous apps are not going to be like any kind of preceding apps,” Vaskevitch said. “We’re going to build a platform that makes it easier and even practical to write them.” Gaia, which has raised $10 million, is looking for partners who are building autonomous machines. The startup does not yet have a website. Vaskevitch said that solving the autonomous software problem will spread the adoption of these independent robots. “Imagine if Steve Jobs had introduced iPhone but not Xcode or the App Store,” Vaskevitch said. “Apple would be a much smaller platform.” Gaia plans to build a kind of app store for autonomous machines, such as delivery drones and robotic chefs. Above, a test model from Amazon’s delivery drone program. (Amazon Photo) In recent years, Vaskevitch has been working on Mylio, which is known for a photo management app that . Two years ago, Mylio from Chinese investors to build a private cloud. The Gaia team has borrowed Mylio’s hybrid mesh network to make its vision possible. “Gaia is designed from the ground up for tomorrow’s yin and yang distributed world,” Gaia co-founder wrote in a in 2017. “Applications can be written just once and still run on a phone, a tablet, in a car or robotic surgeon, in a server or in the cloud.” Ozkan comes from a venture capital background as the founder of Istanbul-based Golden Horn Ventures. The third member of Gaia’s founding team, , first met Vaskevitch at Microsoft and also worked on relational databases at Amazon. One problem the team foresees is that today’s infrastructure — billions of devices connected through the cloud — won’t work with tomorrow’s autonomous machines. Instead, much of the computing power will have to be done locally. “Nobody’s really worked in that problem for the last 20 years,” Vaskevitch said. In his blog post, Ozkan added: “The good news is that hardware to create the new world is either here or clearly on the way. The challenge is that the software to enable a world like this is almost entirely missing in action.” At least for now, the startup isn’t diving into the rat race for self-driving cars, focusing instead on an application platform for everything else. Among your future companions: autonomous chefs, security robots and delivery drones. “Ten or 15 years from now, we’re going to see autonomous machines in our homes, at work, everywhere we go,” Vaskevitch said.