The tech space is far from lacking in startup accelerators, but few have the HR focus that Veremark’s does.
Veremark is a hiring platform that automates and checks the validity of candidate’s documents. Given the importance of remote working and hiring in the current climate, it would be fair to say the company has its finger on the pulse when it comes to HR tech.
As part of Veremark’s The Workplace Accelerator, eight of the most exciting new startups in HR tech have been chosen to take part in a 16-week operations-focused bootcamp that involves advice and mentorship from experts.
Keen to get insight into these emerging technologies, UNLEASH sat down with startups involved in the accelerator to find out the challenges they face and the importance of their technology in the future of work.
The subsequent four-part series provides the thoughts of leaders and a look into the future of HR tech.
To start, UNLEASH caught up with Knack CEO, Amna Aljarwan about its mentoring and learning tech. In an informative discussion, she also shed light on the state of the HR startup space in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
How Knack came to be
Amna Aljarwan explains that after her engineering research at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, she began to research blockchains, smart grids, among other topics.
This led Aljarwan into the exciting world of startups and she soon began integrating forward-thinking technology into the government sector.
Eventually, Aljarwan joined forces with Knack co-founder Divesh Lachhwani, who was a HR consultant at PWC. The mission was simple: “We wanted to make it easier for organizations to develop their talent”.
As a result, Knack collects data from education courses and feeds them back to a company’s HR departments to keep them informed about the progress and status of employees’ learning and development. Additionally, the platform offers staff access to certified coaches who can deliver bespoke training on a variety of workplace topics.
Aljarwan explains that the duo realized that coaching and mentoring is “still old school”. At the moment, in the UAE, top firms bring in “top dollar executive coaches to coach exclusively executives”. This means there are less opportunities for employees, making it hard to scale.
Knack has focused on enterprise clients as coaches for large teams are “not necessarily affordable”. To drive down costs, Knack brings in a “digital layer to coaching to scale it”.
By making training affordable, Knack aims to “make sure that it touches every employee in the organization”. This led to surprisingly quick success in the enterprise market and they have attracted custom from Ahlibank and Hunger Station.
Working with enterprises
Aljarwan notes that Knack saw a lot of interest immediately; surprisingly, they got their “first set of paying clients on a bootstrapped product”.
Knack is no longer bootstrapped and is now a much neater product. On the back of this, the value is evident for large businesses.
Aljarwan says a common problem is that “in coaching ethics it’s a pretty confidential engagement between the coach and the coachee.
“And then at the end of the cohort, naturally, the coach will say, yeah they were amazing, but what does amazing mean? You cannot quantify that you can act on [the coaches’ advice]; there is no data behind it.”
As a result, Knack empowers “HR managers with data, quantitative data, qualitative data” in a way that is “easily accessible”. They can “just log in one button, and then you see everything that is happening in real-time”.
This means HR can answer the following questions: “Are people engaging with it [coaching]? Are people you know, scheduling their sessions with the coach? What are they talking about during those coaching sessions? Is there a trend happening in this company? Maybe a lot of my people talking about conflict resolution? Does this tell me that we have an internal issue with conflict?”
The present and the future
At the start of the pandemic, Aljarwan comments that HR budgets were “slashed” and more specifically training budgets suffered. Further to this, organizations started to look internally for mentors and coaches.
However, “as soon as budgets came back, people wanted external coaching” from the likes of Knack because they realized “that we have a number of people that we want to extract or maximize their potential as much as possible.
Aljarwan adds that mentoring is becoming a trend as we adjust to the pandemic.
To adapt to the in-house coaching trend, Knack “can license the platform for companies to enroll their own coaches, facilitate automatic matchmaking between coaches, mentors, and employees can create their own directory of mentors.”
Going forward, the platform looks set to continue adapting; “there’s a high demand for integrating with enterprise infrastructure, integrating with HRIS systems, and just locking any new app into the organizations’ technical infrastructure.
“We see that in the immediate pipeline because that gives us the stickiness factor.”
In terms of why Veremark’s workplace accelerator was an ideal fit for Knack, Aljarwan candidly explained: “At the stage we’re at, we get emails almost every week about a new accelerator that we have the potential to join.”
She adds that Veremark’sr was an ideal fit because “there’s a lot of insider information about HR; what’s the trend? What do they need? What is the pain point? What does the sales cycle look like an HR, it’s completely different than any other industry.”
Aljarwan also notes: “We share offices with other big startups, but I don’t think any of them are enterprise startups. It’s really hard to get that kind of mentorship.”
This mentorship with Veremark will undoubtedly be useful as the company has plans to expand across the Middle East and then possibly look to Southeast Asia.
The need for education platforms
In terms of education, Knack is also facing a new frontier and Aljarwan comments that companies are focused on training and taking care of the wellbeing of their employees as part of attracting good talent.
She notes: “Now, companies have to work for it [talent] and if they don’t spend on education, then the talent will not come to them, and good talent will not be retained.
“Actually, I think there’s a statistic here in the region, around 80% of talent is willing to leave a company for better training opportunities.
“So if a company does not spend on that, if if I come to work for a company, and there’s no growth potential for me, then I wouldn’t want to join that company.”
Evidently, there is huge potential for Knack in this climate, and it will be fascinating to see what the company does next.