Business Plan Challenge

This e-Harmony match was ideal -- even without the romance

Chris Daniels won as CEO of Candidate.Guru. His firm is now called Elevated Careers.
Chris Daniels won as CEO of Candidate.Guru. His firm is now called Elevated Careers. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Since Candidate.Guru was named Challenge Champion in the 2016 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, its data-driven hiring solution has been on the fast track to advancement.

Just a year ago, in March 2017, the Boca Raton-based company received a $300,000 investment from The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research. That closed out a $1.1 million financing round. And last August, the company acquired Elevated Careers owned by eHarmony. It now has 10 employees and annual revenues in six figures.

The marriage made perfect sense. Created in 2014 by Chris Daniels, a former executive recruiter, Candidate.Guru used artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to determine whether a company and a prospective hire would fit together culturally. If that sounds a little like a human resources-version of match-making, you won’t be surprised that eHarmony’s Elevated Careers had a similar goal.

CEO Daniels combined technology and strengths from the two companies under the name Elevated Careers. Powering the combined company is eHarmoney’s human-compatibility know-how and Candidate.Guru’s AI abilities.

“We are really the only platform that can help companies find people on the front of the [hiring] process with artificial intelligence, look at a company’s overall employee engagement and then match job candidates to corporate culture and personality,” he said. The goal: to attract the best people to build a brand.

Winning the Business Plan Challenge gave his company validation and credibility at a critical juncture, he said. “The PR value was almost immeasurable.”

But the most critical component of start-up success, he said, is human.

“At the end of the day, these things are about the people. You've got to have the patience and fortitude to persevere against all odds. It can be a very lonely thing … the mental strength required to build a company pushes you to your limits.”

Acquiring Elevated enabled his company to expand its product. “The challenge for us was that it was a very narrow problem we were solving. The baby we had invented wasn't good enough to take us to the next level.”

But recognizing that reality wasn’t easy. “The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make is that they can't see the reality in front of them. You get blinded by the passion. I've tried at every turn to look in the mirror and say, ‘Where is my business really at and what are its weaknesses and strengths.’ ’’

2016 winner: Elevated Careers

Original name: Candidate.Guru

Milestones

2014: Launched

2017: Acquired Elevated Careers from eHarmony

2018: Raised $2 million in investment since inception

Keys to success

Patience and perseverance. Everything takes a lot longer and is significantly harder than you expected. You have to believe success is the only option and failure is not even something in your vocabulary.

Great challenges

Ironically enough for a company that is in the human resources technology market, it’s the people. A start-up can be a very challenging experience.

Advice for others

Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Do it because you believe in something so strongly, it’s almost a “calling.”

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