Working as a software contractor for a large IT company, Naga Rayapati grew frustrated as he saw more than 40% of his paycheck go into the pockets of middlemen, who were part of the hiring chain that brokered the job.
“While the contractor puts in their heart and soul working for the company, these ‘preferred vendors’ reap the benefits,” said Rayapati, who is now the CEO and founder of GoGetter, an online job matching marketplace for software engineers.
The Rolla-based company uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to remove the middlemen from the hiring process and brings contractors and hiring managers onto the same platform, Rayapati said. And discoveries his team made while developing GoGetter led to the formation of another startup called Guise, which makes facial recognition software.
Rise of the gig economy
With the gig economy growing rapidly, the demand for the contingent labor has skyrocketed in recent years, said Jennifer Brown, a technology consultant at GoGetter.
“Gig economy workers actually have higher employee engagement numbers than full-time workers,” Brown said. “Contractors can come in and fill in the gaps on projects and pick up projects that have a sense of urgency.”
But contractors can have a hard time connecting directly to potential employers, Rayapati said. From turning in a job application to being placed at a new job, the hiring process through third-party entities is riddled with difficulties.
“I realized that the process is so inefficient and highly opaque because if the hiring manager wanted to hire the contractor to a full-time employee, they won’t know which companies are associated in the process,” he said.
A ‘chicken-and-egg problem’
Since its creation in 2016, GoGetter has on-boarded 20,000 software contractors on its platform to supply talent to firms looking to hire, Rayapati said.
Once a contractor is hired, the hiring company pays 20% of the contractor’s salary to GoGetter — a rate that is lower than most third-party entities, according to Rayapati.
“It’s a different ballgame altogether for us,” he said. “We have to solve the chicken-and-egg problem on both the supply side and on the demand side.”
Hear more: Naga Rayapati discusses GoGetter on the Speaking Startup podcast
The startup has raised about half a million dollars from angel investors, Rayapati said. The firm is based in Rolla to access talent from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, and it has a sales team in Kansas City to tap into the larger job market there.
“The IT industry in Kansas City is like a chess match,” Brown said. “The supply and demand of talent is way off, and it’s about moving people from place to place skillfully.”
While Rayapati said there is not a lot of competition for GoGetter, a firm called Upwork — a global hiring platform for freelancers — is as similar as any company is to the Rolla-based firm.
“In Upwork, companies don’t have direct contact with contractors,” Rayapati said, “and they can’t hire someone full-time because of the risk of hiring someone they haven’t even met.”
GoGetter uses artificial intelligence to read data from a contractor’s résumé and fill out a profile, Rayapati explained. Algorithms suggest prospective companies based on the contractor’s previous experiences and preferences.
“Our platform also uses a diversity index and face recognition to show contractors how diverse a company’s board of directors are, and we’ve also used machine learning to predict hourly wages to contractors,” Rayapati said.
Algorithms are not free of bugs and biases, he said, citing the example of faulty algorithms used by a previous version of Google Photos failing to properly identify people of color.
“This is one of the biggest problems with AI algorithms,” Rayapati said. “You need to make sure your data is as diversified as possible. We recruit a diverse team of engineers to minimize bias in our algorithms.”
Seeding a spinoff
Using diversified data sets has helped the team make headway with its facial recognition technology, Rayapati said. That prompted the creation of a spinoff firm, Guise, which integrates facial recognition capabilities into products.
“We are seeing significantly serious breakthroughs with respect to gender recognition, ethnicity recognition, face detection and celebrity recognition,” Rayapati said, mentioning potential uses of the technology in retail and marketing.
The company’s facial recognition technology could also be used to help reduce automobile accidents by detecting faces of tired drivers behind the wheel, Rayapati said. Guise is now looking to partner with auto companies in both the U.S. and India, Rayapati’s home country.
While Guise is in the early stages of licensing its product, Rayapati believes there is potential for the technology to to serve a variety of niche markets.
This story was produced through a collaboration between Missouri Business Alert and Startland News.