Investors are betting on the automation of human resources management in China. We reported last year that Moka, one of the key players in the space, secured roughly $27 million for its Series B led by Hillhouse Capital. This week, the startup announced closing a Series B+ at over 100 million yuan ($14.4 million), lifting its total raise for the B round to 300 million yuan ($43.2 million).
The startup declined to disclose its investors in the latest round, saying the proceeds will go towards recruitment, product innovation and business expansion. GGV Capital invested in its Series A round.
Chinese investors have in recent years shifted more attention to enterprise-facing products as the consumer tech market becomes crammed. Moka makes software to aid HR managers’ day-to-day operations, from posting job openings, discovering potential candidates, to managing current staff. For instance, Moka will alert the HR manager when employees update their resumes, a sign that they could be sniffing out new opportunities.
Moka’s newly appointed CEO Li Guoxing, a former engineer at Facebook
As the new round closed, Moka also appointed its co-founder Li Guoxing as its new chief executive officer. The five-year-old Beijing-based startup was founded by Li, a Facebook veteran, and Zhao Oulun, who was previously the CEO of the company. Zhao worked at the car-sharing service Turo in San Francisco before returning to China.
The new CEO claimed that Moka acquires users at two-third of the industry average cost, with subscription renewal rate for its software-as-a-service hovering above 100%. “The future of business competition definitely lies in the fight for talent,” he said. “So hiring will surely become a company strategy in the future.”
As of June, Moka had accumulated over 700 paid clients, from tech giants like Xiaomi, Didi, Arm China, Shopee, Alibaba, to fast-food giants Burger King and McDonald’s. Its team of 300 staff operates out of five major cities in China.
Mobile learning is an important aspect of flexible work arrangements that is becoming more and more popular. The increased use of smartphones has revolutionized employee learning and development. Many organizations are open to adopting mobile learning to provide a better learning experience for their employees.
Here are some notable benefits that come with mobile learning:
Provides flexibility by allowing employees to learn at their own pace
Saves a lot of time as several employees can be trained at once
Allows employees to select the course that is the most suitable for them
Improves employee retention by giving employees career growth opportunities
Enhances employee engagement by providing a personalized learning experience
Enables employees to refer to the learning materials whenever they need clarification
Mobile learning provides a seamless learning experience for employees, allowing them to learn whenever they feel comfortable. As one of the most successful extensions of e-learning, mobile learning can improve the efficiency of your organization’s learning programs. That is why we at Zoho People have included our Learning Management System in Zoho People’s Android and iOS mobile application. Now your employees can learn on the go, breaking geographical and time constraints.
Read more about the benefits of mobile learning in our HR Knowledge Hive.
As tech companies like Twitter and Facebook gear up for longer-term remote work solutions, the future of work is becoming one of the more exciting opportunities in venture capital, Charles River Ventures general partner Saar Gur told TechCrunch.
And as loneliness mounts with shelter-in-place orders implemented in various forms across the world, investors are looking for products and services that foster true connection among a distributed workforce, as well as a distributed society.
But the future of work doesn’t just entail spinning up home offices. It also involves gig workers, freelancers, hiring tools, tools for workplace organizing and automation. The last couple of years have particularly brought tech organizing to the forefront. Whether it was the Google walkout in 2018 or gig workers’ ongoing actions against companies like Uber, Lyft and Instacart for better pay and protections, there are many opportunities to help workers better organize and achieve their goals.
Below, we’ve gathered insights from:
Saar Gur, Charles River Ventures
What are you most excited about in the future of work?
Future of work is one of the most exciting opportunities in venture.
Pre-COVID, few tech companies were fully remote. While it seems obvious in retrospect, the building blocks for fully remote technology companies now exist (e.g. high-speed internet, SaaS and the cloud, reliable video streaming, real-time documents, etc.). And while SIP may be temporary, we feel the TAM of fully remote companies will grow significantly and produce a number of exciting investment opportunities.
I don’t think we have fully grokked what it means to run a company digitally. Today, most processes like interviewing, meetings and performance/activity tracking still live in the world of atoms versus bits. As an example, imagine every meeting is recorded, transcribed and searchable — how would that transform how we work?
There is an opportunity to re-imagine how we work. And we are excited about products that solve meaningful problems in the areas of productivity, brainstorming, communication tools, workflows and more. We also see a lot of potential in infrastructure required to facilitate remote and global teams.
We are also excited by companies that are enabling new types of work. Companies like Etsy (founded 2005), Shopify (2004), TaskTabbit (2008), Uber (2009), DoorDash (2013) and Patreon (2013) have helped create a new workforce of entrepreneurs. But many of these companies are over a decade old and we fully expect a new wave of companies that give more power to the individual.
Given the endless drumbeat of layoff announcements — with deep cuts by Airbnb and Uber garnering much of the industry’s attention this week — it’s reasonable to wonder: what happens to all of the talent that’s being laid off? How does the changing supply and demand balance impact pay? Is anyone safe in this market?
Because the questions are top of mind for practically everyone everywhere right now, we reached out to recruiters in the one industry that we know — tech — to ask what they are seeing and what they predict will happen over the next three to six months. Unsurprisingly, they told us they’ve seen a steep drop-off in job searches and loads of salary cuts, but they also say there are silver linings in these turbulent times.
First the bad news, and for the moment, it’s mostly bad news.
Sales and marketing positions — particularly at consumer-facing startups — have been hard hit, and they aren’t coming back any time soon, possibly not even in 2020. Carolyn Betts, the founder of the national recruiting firm Betts Recruiting, says when the “coronavirus hit and shelter-in-place notices came out, we saw 80% of our business freeze. And then it went down from there.”
Betts’s bootstrapped recruiting company — which fills sales, marketing and people operations roles — was forced to conduct its own layoffs because of the lost business, shedding 30 percent of its staff and cutting remaining employees’ pay by 20%, although though Betts says a PPP loan has allowed the company to adjust pay upward again by 10%.
In the meantime, she has had a front row to the nearly overnight switch from an employee market where rising salaries and signing bonuses had become routine, to an employer-driven market where candidates get what they get. “There’s so much talent in the market that there are backup candidates for backup candidates.” Her advice to job candidates right now is to recognize the game has changed and not push for too much or risk that the hiring company might “just move on to the next candidate. Everyone is going to hire within their budgets right now, and they aren’t going to make exceptions for the most part.”
Executive searches are also, predictably, largely frozen right now. So suggests Teri McFadden, a VP of recruiting at the venture firm Norwest Venture Partners, where for nearly 12 years she has helped the firm’s portfolio companies fill key positions.
Before COVID-19 struck the U.S., the firm was staring at roughly “160 open active executive level searches in our portfolio — clearly more than my team at Norwest could handle,” says McFadden. (Like most venture firms, Norwest sometimes retains outside search firms.) Now, that number has fallen by more than half. Some, she says, are “full cancellations,” while “other people are just putting searches on pause to see what happens in the next couple of quarters.”
In the meantime, certain roles have been harder hit than others, says McFadden, who specifically cites marketing units as one example. She also notes that executive pay at companies that have been impacted most negatively by the coronavirus is coming down, an observation the public has seen play out in company announcement after company announcement in recent weeks. Generally speaking, she says, top brass is taking a 20% reduction in salary while the next level of management takes a 10% pay cut and “anyone below a certain salary level” sees no pay cut. But it varies from company to company.
Even engineers in today’s climate aren’t being spared, suggests Sam Wholley, a longtime partner with the Silicon Valley recruitment firm Riviera Partners, which specializes in engineering, product and design leadership. While new jobs are paying roughly what they did two months ago, both Wholley and McFadden expect the engineering market to soften in the coming months, with pay dropping 10 to 20 percent. (Wholley says pay for engineers was trending this way even before the virus sent everyone running for cover.)
It’s a matter of demand and supply. For the first time in more than a decade, the supply of engineering talent may exceed the need for it — or, at least, the ability to pay for it. Indeed, asked whether younger companies that are receiving early-stage funding might be able to absorb the engineers who’ve been let go by bigger companies, Wholley says that, “unfortunately, I don’t think so, and I don’t think it will be that [way] for a while.” While new companies are always being created, he continues, “It could be up to a year to find that right match.” It might also mean “looking in a different industry or possibly a different geography” than engineering candidates have looked in the past.
But wait! As promised, the news is not all terrible.
Because much of the tech sector is holding up better than elsewhere, there is still some movement on the hiring front.
For her part, Betts says she’s beginning to see companies “up level” their teams, meaning parting ways with “bottom performers and replacing them with talent that has entered the market.” This is particularly the case with industries that “sell into the government, in security, that sell collaboration software, and in healthcare,” she observes.
Betts also notes that some customers in places like Texas where people are re-entering public spaces are “opening up” and starting to strategize about who they want to hire or re-hire.
“A lot of people have received some relief regarding their growth plans,” says Betts, “but it’s May. When things get back [to a more normal state of affairs], [management teams] will be expected to put their foot on the gas to make up for lost time, and no one wants to be caught flat-footed. If you start hiring when everyone says ‘go,’ you missed your head start.”
McFadden and Wholly echo the point, with Wholley saying that “strong hands are continuing to hire” and McFadden offering separately that Norwest is seeing two categories of companies that are “poised to do well long term,” including younger startups focused on product development (with fewer mouths to feed), and those finding even more demand for their products right now, like software tools made expressly for remote teams and even direct-to-consumer hair colorant companies.
While that’s still a comparatively small pool of potential employers, “I think in general,” says McFadden, “companies are beginning to think about what does life look like after COVID-19.”
Sounding an optimistic note, she adds, “It’s not all doom and gloom.”
Namely, an eight-and-a-half-year-old, New York-based company that sells payroll, talent management and other HR services to mid-size businesses across the U.S. via subscription software, has let go of upwards of 40% of its roughly 400 employees.
The cuts are across the board, from high-ranking staffers, including a CFO who was brought on almost exactly two years ago, and a chief security officer who has spent just the last year with the company, to its entire customer success team.
In a call earlier today, Namely CEO Larry Dunivan said the company had reduced executive pay five weeks ago, hoping to avoid layoffs, but that the coronavirus and its impact on the business made that impossible. He also shared the difficulties of running a startup right now that depends largely on small- and medium-size businesses, noting that even though Namely’s customers sign up for between one- and three-year-long contracts — they also pay an additional amount for a minimum number of employees — many of those customers are finding it difficult to fulfill those contracts at the moment.
He pointed to one client who has numerous yoga studios and who earlier this year employed 500 people but has laid off all but 15 of them in the shutdown. Said Dunivan, “We just had a stark, painful conversation and you could tell I was one of many people she was calling. [But] because I care about that relationship, I waived that minimum for some period of time so she can conserve cash.”
Which means less revenue for Namely.
It’s a situation that many startups find themselves in, of course. According to Layoffs.ai, a site that’s trying to track industry layoffs as they happen, at least 356 startups alone have now laid off 34343 employees. That’s saying nothing of the many companies and small businesses like yoga studios that don’t register as tech startups. In fact, nearly four million people filed for unemployment benefits last week alone, bringing to more than 30 million the nation’s number of unemployment claims.
While the deep cuts are understandable in the current context, they also represent one in a series of milestones at Namely that no startup wants to encounter. Though it was once among New York’s most promising businesses and accordingly raised at least $217 million from investors, including Matrix Partners, True Ventures, and Sequoia Capital, it has seen more than its share of transition at the top. In the most devastating development for the company until now, Namely’s board abrupt fired the company’s cofounder, Matt Straz, as its CEO in 2018.
Accused of actions “inconsistent with that which is expected of Namely leadership,” as the company told employees at the time, Straz has gone on to launch an employee benefits startup called Bennie. But it cast a cloud over the the company (which still isn’t talking about what happened).
Soon after, the board member who led the investigation into Straz — longtime Silicon Valley executive Elisa Steele — was appointed as Namely’s permanent CEO, which at the time helped attract $60 million in new funding to the company led by GGV Capital.
Yet by last summer, she had also left as CEO, a decision that she made based on family commitments says one source, and owes partly to the relationship she had established with Dunivan, he said separately. Specifically, Dunivan said that in his previous role as the interim CEO of the human resources company ThinkHR, he was consulted by Steele on business and product strategy, and that “as sometimes happens, one thing led to the other and i joined” the company in her stead. (Steele remains on the company’s board.)
Certainly, he inherited a business that no longer enjoys the sheen it once did.
As says one person with a stake in the business, “I don’t think anyone is giving up on Namely but it had a modest growth plan at the start of 2020 and that’s now been made uncertain because of [COVID-19]. I think the company is just trying to control what it can and to structure itself so it can operate more efficiently with a major drop-off in revenue.” Adds this person, “It’s like a clean sheet of paper.”
It’s an optimistic perspective and surely one that remaining employees will need to embrace, at least until the fourth quarter, which is when Dunivan estimates that businesses across the board may pick up again.
“This is an extraordinarily difficult time, but we look at the world through a fairly conservative lens and we’re making certain assumptions about how new customers will buy, how existing customers will increase or decrease headcount, and how many businesses will be closed and never to come back,” said Dunivan when we spoke earlier.
“It’s my believe that the recovery will start to show signs of life in the fourth quarter and into the first quarter, and our current looks at it through that lens,” he added. “But in the meantime, employers will be paying fewer people.”
Faced with dwindling options, Namely is now among them.
Due to the current COVID-19 situation, many organizations are preparing to provide a remote work option to their employees as a part of social distancing. When your employees work remotely, it’s not only essential to ensure their work activities continue unhindered, but it’s also important to keep employee …
The Wuhan coronavirus, named after the city it was first detected in, has affected thousands of people in China and is spreading across Asia and the United States. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronavirus belongs to the virus family that causes diseases like the common cold, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The virus spreads through coughing, sneezing, and direct contact with infected people. There are no vaccines or cures for the Wuhan coronavirus as this strain has never been seen before. Scientists around the world are working together to develop a vaccine. The CDC lists some of common symptoms of the Wuhan coronavirus as:
What can employers do to prevent the virus?
Spread awareness about the virus and its symptoms
Encourage employees to wash their hands often, and provide hand sanitizer
Use disinfectants and sterilizers to clean surfaces, door knobs, dining areas, water coolers, desktops, and copiers
Allow employees to take leave or work from home when they are sick
Tweak your sick leave policies for a certain time period, if necessary
Ensure that your workplace has a proper ventilation system
Sponsor free flu vaccines to prevent the spread of influenza
Avoid business trips to countries where there has been a coronavirus outbreak
Provide masks to help employees, and avoid contact with infected people
What can employees do to prevent the virus?
Avoid contact with people who have a cold or fever
Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer regularly
Sneeze or cough into your upper sleeve or a tissue, not your hands
Stay at home if you have or think you have the flu
Avoid contact with wild and farm animals without proper protection
Do not touch your eyes, mouth, or nose without washing your hands
Drink enough water to keep your throat moist all the time
Seek medical help if you have any coronavirus symptoms
Ensure your food is cooked properly before consuming
More than 4,500 people have been infected by the Wuhan coronavirus, sparking fears among people around the world. The virus can cause acute diseases including pneumonia, SARS, and MERS. It is especially dangerous for those with weakened immune systems, like children and the elderly. In rare cases, it can lead to death. As there is no specific vaccine to cure the disease, it’s vital to take the preventive measures to contain the virus from spreading further.
In recent years, increasing workplace diversity has become a top priority for many organizations. Hiring people from different backgrounds increases your organization’s productivity as different perspectives and ideas are brought together. Organizations that support a diverse workforce are also more respected and tend to have a better reputation. This is vital for attracting and recruiting talented candidates. When the work atmosphere is inclusive, employees will feel respected and valued. This enhances employee motivation and satisfaction.
Though workplace diversity has several benefits, managing people with different interests can be challenging. Here are some tips to manage a diverse workforce:
Develop a multichannel communication strategy to ensure that organization procedures and policies are communicated to all employees.
Treat your employees as individuals. Generalizations and stereotypes at work can alienate employees.
Encourage employees to collaborate well with their teams so they feel free to share their opinions and feedback.
Build an inclusive work atmosphere to increase employee engagement and participation.
Receive inputs about inclusion policies from your employees to create a welcoming environment.
Conduct diversity training for managers to increase awareness about diversity issues.
Read more about workplace diversity in the HR knowledge hive.
Today, the explosion of development in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology has created a market for which it appears there’s no limit. No matter the industry, if you name a reasonably-sized (or larger) company, there’s a good chance that they’re investing in AI and ML technology as a cornerstone of their strategic plans. With each passing day, it’s even becoming part of the small business equation, too. Here are four high-potential sectors for AI and ML startup success.
The takeaway is that there are as many ways for businesses to use machine learning as there are businesses. It’s the kind of burgeoning market that is perfect for fueling startup growth, and entrepreneurs have started to take notice. That’s why there’s been such a recent boom of startup activity in the sector – creating what many analysts are referring to as a 21st-century gold rush.
The problem is, like in the original gold rush in the late 1800s, there’s going to be a point where the majority of those rushing to stake their claims will see their odds of success dry up. That’s why it’s more critical than ever for entrepreneurs to understand which parts of the AI and ML space still have plenty of room for startup innovation, so they can mine the right vein and strike it rich.
Here’s a look at four of the parts of the market that show tremendous potential, to use as a guidepost.
Educational AI Systems
As AI and ML technology started their march into the business world, much of the attention paid to AI with respect to the education sector centered on producing the skilled worker’s businesses would need to operate their new technological platforms. Very little initial movement or investment went toward developing AI or ML solutions for the education sector.
In recent months, however, that has started to change. Education-focused platforms have been starting to roll out AI-powered tools and are increasingly viewing the technology as a game-changer for the industry. An analysis of spending by the education sector on AI and ML technology predicts that it will be the industry with the biggest spending growth by percentage through 2022. For an education-focused AI or ML startup, that’s a very encouraging sign.
Human Resources AI Technology
Another industry that’s been somewhat slow to adopt AI and ML technology is human resources (HR). The one exception has been in the adoption of applicant tracking systems (ATS) that use ML techniques to perform application screening for potential hires. That alone has spawned a cottage industry of AI-enhanced services meant to improve applicants’ chances of passing muster, as these machine-created resume examples should attest.
The thing is, the surge in ATS use is expected to be just a prelude to much wider adoption of AI and ML technologies in the realm of HR, with industry experts expecting adoption rates of the technologies to pick up significant steam in the coming years. That means it’s a great time to launch an HR-focused AI or ML startup now, to capitalize on the all-but-certain growth in the space.
AI-Powered Marketing Tools
As the world edges closer and closer to an always-on internet-connected reality with the emergence of IoT technology, businesses everywhere are coming to grips with the fact that there are more marketing channels to manage than ever before. The only feasible solution is to turn the bulk of the work over to AI-powered marketing systems, using ML to adapt and evolve marketing efforts over time.
Already, such tools are cropping up in all phases of the marketing industry, from social media management to content marketing and all points in between. That, however, is just the beginning. Businesses that have already seen how AI-influenced marketing decisionmaking can help them grow are now looking for ways to turn more of their marketing efforts over to AI-powered solutions. A startup that focuses on delivering an AI solution to enable real-time marketing automation at scale could find itself well-positioned for long term success.
Financial AI Solutions
When startups are seeking an AI or ML market with solid growth prospects, their best bet is to go where the money is – which in this case means to the financial sector itself. AI and ML technology adoption in the world of finance has been so swift and complete that it spawned the whole new business category of fintech. In particular, asset managers are already going all-in on the technology as are hedge funds, financial advisors, and the entire banking sector.
It’s also an industry that has almost inexhaustible resources to pour into worthwhile AI and ML technology, which bodes well for any startup that looks to build solutions for the industry. The size and scope of the sector mean that there’s a near-limitless number of opportunities to be had in the space – and they’re all there for the taking for any savvy entrepreneur who finds an innovative way to capitalize on them.
Fools Rush In
The bottom line here is that there’s no shortage of opportunities to be had for AI and ML startups, as long as they choose their markets carefully. It’s not a coincidence that analysts are starting to call this the AI gold rush – they’re doing it because the stampede of development will eventually lead to an oversaturated market that can’t sustain the number of startups that it is spawning.
When that happens, only the entrepreneurs that made it a point to work within sectors that have long-term growth prospects will see their startups survive. When the bubble bursts, it won’t be because interest in the technologies has waned, it will be due to two factors – a systemic need to cull underperforming members of the startup herd, and a round of consolidations that will see the best of the bunch scooped up by larger entities.
Startups in the above four sectors will stand a good chance of being part of the latter group. As for those in the former group, I suggest they do some research into the end of the last gold rush for some insight into their ultimate fate.
Andrej is a dedicated writer and digital evangelist. He is pursuing an ongoing mission to share the benefits of his years of hard-won expertise with business leaders and marketing professionals everywhere. He is a contributor to a wide range of technology-focused publications, where he may be found discussing everything from neural networks and natural language processing to the latest in smart home IoT devices. If there’s a new and exciting technology, there’s a good chance Andrej is writing about it somewhere out there.
Time off is vital to both employees and employers. When handled improperly, time off can have a huge impact on business operations. As an HR manager, you have to ensure that your firm runs smoothly and employees remain happy. Having a clearly defined leave evaluation system can help.
Encouraging employees to plan their time off well in advance can save you from a lot of chaos. Set deadlines for when employees can submit their time off requests. If you receive multiple time off requests, allow individual team managers to handle the final decision. These managers may have a better idea about the time off needs of their employees. If you have to reject a time off request, convey it as kindly as possible to avoid any resentment. If possible, allow employees to work from home when they have the resources to finish their work away from the office.
Read more about time off management in the HR knowledge hive.