San Diego Business Journal Burning Glass Founded:

1999

CEO:

Krishna Gopinathan

Employees:

24

Revenues:

2001, about $500,000

Headquarters:

3990 Ruffin Road, San Diego

Business:

Developer and provider of information extraction and predictive software for human resources industry.

With competition for jobs getting stiffer and job boards swamped with resumes, recruiters and headhunters are relying on the kind of specialized software developed by San Diego-based Burning Glass to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Founded about two years ago, the firm makes a software called Lens that uses statistical modeling to find the best candidates for jobs. It does so by first breaking down hundreds of factual components contained in the resume and matching them with the job qualifications of a given position.

Burning Glass CEO Krishna Gopinathan said the product builds upon the predictive software he helped create for HNC Software called Falcon, which helps banks and other finance companies detect credit card fraud.

Instead of predicting anomalies in the use of credit cards, Gopinathan decided the human resources industry needed help in the expensive and time-consuming process of finding the best candidates for job openings.

"Looking for a job is an incredibly inefficient process," Gopinathan said, referring to the activities of both employer and job seekers. "There was an opportunity to use predictive technologies to make this process a lot more efficient."

What Burning Glass has created is a quantum leap beyond the current use of search engines wading through millions of electronic resumes, looking for the right match, Gopinathan said.

Just as using keywords when doing any kind of data search on the Internet often turns up thousands of useless Web sites, the same thing happens when recruiters and headhunters go looking for the right job candidate. Hitting a few keywords usually results in countless resumes, most of which won't have even the minimal qualifications for the position.

For example, an employer trying to fill a slot for a software engineer with a minimum of five years' experience in using Java, a type of software code, might use the keyword "Java," and find resumes from those who have taken a course in Java or helped design or write a manual about Java.

Using Lens, the search focuses on the part of the resume dealing with job experience and pulls out only those who have actually used the software code. It also "learns," while searching, figuring out patterns from earlier successful candidates for particular jobs, which helps it to find higher quality matches among candidates.

Saving Time

Mark Malone, vice president for National Search Associates, a Carlsbad executive search firm, said Lens has been a big help in reducing the search time in locating the best prospects for a job.

"The key thing about this software is it allows a recruiter to focus on the most qualified candidates within a few seconds of the search," Malone said. "It understands the relevance of a person's experience versus another's experience and also understands that current experience is more relevant."

Burning Glass, which takes its name from an old term for a magnifying glass, counts six customers today, ranging from a small boutique recruiting firm to mid-sized search firms. But Gopinathan said last week he is on the verge of signing a contract with "a major employment firm."

Since the Lens product was only rolled out last year, sales this year should hit about $500,000. Next year, however, the figure could range anywhere from $5 million to $10 million, he said.

"I think we've crossed the chasm," Gopinathan said, referring to the best-selling book by Geoffrey Moore about the adoption of new technology.

The prices for Lens can range from $1.50 to $2.50 per resume scanned or be sold on a flat rate for unlimited use which can also range from about $300,000 to $500,000, depending on the volume of the resumes being scanned.

Looking For A Challenge

After spending eight years at HNC and helping build the successful Falcon product line, Gopinathan said he was looking for something new to rekindle his creative juices.

"I helped produce (HNC's) first successful product and grow revenues in that division from zero to about $35 million," he said. "I felt I should do something new. I'm a builder. I like building teams, like building products, and like building markets."

Together with two other former HNC colleagues, Ted Crooks and Anu Pathria, Gopinathan launched Burning Glass in December 1999 in a small office in Sorrento Valley. Most of the next year was spent developing and testing the Lens product, which was released in May.

"The three of us all enjoy creating new products and applying technology to new areas," said Crooks, the company's vice president of sales and business development. "We all enjoy the small entrepreneurial environment."

To bankroll the enterprise, Gopinathan put up $500,000 toward the seed capital round of $1.9 million. Arjun Waney, founder of Pier One Imports, was the largest investor with $1 million. Subsequent investors include the Jacobs Family Trust and HNC.

Crooks said the firm is putting together a prospectus for another round of about $5 million, which will target private venture capital firms.

When he launched the company, Gopinathan knew the software would be based on predictive analytics, but he was intent on creating something totally new and unconnected to HNC's product line that was used by credit card companies.

He focused his attention on the human resources industry, or the buzzword now in vogue, human capital management.

Cost-Cutting

Looking at the job search and hiring process, most of the time spent by either party is wasted, chasing prospects down blind alleys, he said. That time translates to a serious outlay in spending.

Gopinathan cited one study that found domestic contracting for executive search firms at $13 billion. Another report by Thomas Weisel Partners found overall spending by all U.S. companies on hiring, including the budgets for companies' human resources departments, to be about $190 billion.

On average, a company will spend 76 days and $10,000 to hire an exempt or salaried employee.

A study done by the Employment Management Association and the Society for Human Resource Management found although the development of the Internet and fast-growing sites devoted to job search such as Monster.com have given job seekers and employers another big source for prospecting leads, the problem comes with sifting through these prospects to determine which one deserves more research and, eventually, an interview.

The Lens software that makes its searching far more accurate combines two types of artificial intelligence , statistical natural language processing and predictive modeling. The technology "parses," or breaks out hundreds of fields of data contained in the resume.

These include the positions the person held, their length of employment, the companies they worked for, their education and other data that might provide clues to determining whether the person might be a good candidate.

The more resumes the software scans for a particular job, the "smarter" it gets, Gopinathan said. Besides being able to distinguish relevant data and work history, it has the ability to see patterns in the data, figuring there's a greater chance for a successful match if a person's resume follows a specific career path.

For example, the software might conclude that accountants working for KPMG have spent part of their careers at Ernst & Young, and so those resumes containing this data would receive higher scores, Gopinathan said.

As with any function carried out by a man-made technology, it isn't foolproof, nor will it always give the absolute right answer.

Using the Lens software, an employer or recruitter is provided with a list of qualified candidates. It's still comes down to a personal interview to figure out who is the best match for a particular job, Gopinathan said.

Lens has its limitations. Certain types of work and resumes don't easily fit into data that can be quickly assessed. There's no getting around looking at a graphic artist's portfolio, which the software can't do. And it also can't measure the bedside manner of a nurse, Gopinathan said.

But there are plenty of applications and industries the software may be used besides human capital management, giving Gopinathan and his partners reason to dream of a focused and lucrative future.