Last week at San Francisco Bakery and Café on Anderson Lane, Paula Soileau, cofounder and partner at Affintus Scientific Hiring, sat down with me to talk about her startup. Before Affintus, Soileau worked at the American Heart Association as senior vice president of finance and chief financial officer. She’s passionate about connecting people with the right jobs.
Q. What do you do?
A. We help companies identify which candidates are right for the job. We help companies improve their hiring. Affintus assesses a job candidate’s skills through a proprietary test called Affini-T.
Q. What is your market?
A. We are a software as a service company. We could do business anywhere but we focus our efforts on the Texas metros because that’s where business is thriving. Our major markets are Austin, Houston and San Antonio.
Q. Who are some of your customers?A. Big Commerce, Volusion, Campus Advantage, Explore Oil & Gas, Businessuites. We go after companied that have 100 employees to 2,000 employees. There are some smaller businesses that have the resources and are willing to pay for our service.
Q. What’s your secret sauce that differentiates your company from the competition?
A. We have a proprietary assessment that looks at cognitive ability, personality and work culture. We can create a benchmark or custom formula that is situated to that job. The benchmark is are customized for each job based on current top-performing employees in those jobs. If the company has employees that are already working out and that are high performers that is what we’re helping them find. High performers at a company can help elevate the whole team and low performers can have the opposite effect. A company’s secret sauce is their people and if they hire the right ones they do a lot better.
Q. Why don’t companies just look at a job candidate’s resume?
A. Resumes are not a strong indicator of performance. Personality and cognitive ability have the highest correlation of future success.
Q. Can someone game the system and cheat on the assessment?
A. We’re working with a company that has a fraud detection algorithm. It can tell if you’re not being truthful. There are patterns of lying that can be detected.
Q. Why should your competition fear Affintus?
A. Because we’re able to establish unbelievable customer loyalty. We’ve got employees who will stand up and talk about us in meetings. The people who use our product have unbelievable loyalty to us.
Q. How is Affintus financed?
A. Bootstrapped. Three founders started the company. (Her cofounders are Deborah L. Kerr and Dennis E. Wilison Jr.) The first two and a half years one of my partners was the only one working full time. That’s the downside of bootstrapping. Things move slower.
Q. What’s the biggest mistake so far?
A. We didn’t talk to enough prospective customers and do enough meetings early on. We spent so much time building our product. The sooner you get into the market the better.
Q. What’s the company’s biggest achievement?
A. The customer support and loyalty that we have.
Q. What’s the biggest hurdle Affintus has overcome?
A. Every few days there is a big hurdle. Managing resources is our biggest hurdle. Doing sales fast enough to do all the other things we want.
Q. Why did you choose to base your company in Austin?
A. We were all living here and working here. We launched in 2008 and we feel very fortunate we were in Austin. If we launched anywhere else in the country at that time the odds would have been against us. The economic climate here is better than the rest of the country.
Q. What philanthropic ventures are you involved with locally?
A. We support Dress for Success. We assess job candidates and explain their personality types and teach them how to talk about themselves to potential employers. We’re also starting t work with the Texas Veterans Commission.
Q. What resources have helped your business?
A. That’s one advantage of being in Austin, there’s so many. I participated in Rampcorp. at Texas State University. I also attend Big Austin which provides training and resources to small businesses. Tech Ranch and Bootstrap Austin have also been really helpful. We do some work now with the Austin Chamber of Commerce.
Q. Anything else I haven’t asked you about that you would like to make a point of?
A. What we do makes hiring so much easier and more accurate so why wouldn’t a company want to try it? It streamlines the hiring process. It has a huge impact on a company’s productivity and turnover. Most companies will agree that people are their biggest asset. What that means is if you don’t have the right people you’re losing money.