Talencea: Building a Better Recruiting Model

Ash Kumar of Talencea.

Ash Kumar of Talencea.

When Ash Kumar set out to build his recruiting company Talencea in 2010, he envisioned a powerful, end-to-end approach not yet seen in industry. He bet on proprietary technology that matched talent and jobs with expert knowledge—a truly differentiating factor in the ever-crowded recruiting arena.

“Traditional recruiting methods are laborious, inefficient, and expensive,” said Kumar. He saw this first-hand when he was hiring as well with clients. “Talencea’s system is smart and sophisticated. We evaluate a much bigger pool of candidates to provide the best options possible.”

“Our software narrows the pool of candidates to find the best match for each position,” explains Kumar. “Job seekers may be qualified for a job they never knew existed!”

Talencea’s expert system (patent pending) learns skill relationships in a variety of specialized disciplines like engineering, IT, finance, and legal, among many others, to deliver the best candidates to its clients.

The system was developed by Talencea co-founders Ashish Kumar, CEO, and Jaime Carbonell, an internationally recognized Artificial Intelligence expert and professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

Using an expert knowledge system that employs a large candidate database along with an extensive web search, Talencea can evaluate millions of candidates quickly—compared to the typical 30 resumes a human recruiter reviews for a position.

As an added bonus, Talencea evaluates human factors and skills related to company culture and ranks potential candidates for all positions. These extra services optimize the interviewing process. This saves time, money, and effort for the hiring company and maximizes the opportunity for a successful result for the potential employee.

“With our subject matter expertise in engineering, information technology, legal, finance, human resources, and several specialized areas, we understand the client’s requirements,” says Kumar. “We do the searching and screening for you. Talencea provides quality candidates—faster.”

Talencea has gone to market as a Search Firm and is currently using the technology internally. The initial focus is on STEM positions for companies. Talencea is looking for investment to productize the technology with Software as a Service model and scale sales and marketing.

MindMatrix Acquires SMaSh Code to Add SMS Capability to Strategic Marketing Arsenal

Harbinder Khera has been building MindMatrix for more than 15 years.

Harbinder Khera has been building MindMatrix for more than 15 years.

When presented with the opportunity to acquire SMaSh, Harbinder Khera didn’t hesitate. After all, he has spent the last 15 years building his company, MindMatrix, into a turnkey provider of sales enablement solutions; so gaining an SMS component was ideal.

“Right now, we are in a very good position,” Khera said. “When combined with SMS, our marketing automation technology is very powerful. Based on buying behavior data, you can automate and customize customer engagement across a variety of media. Now we can offer a complete solution for sales enablement and marketing.”

Founded in 1998, MindMatrix initially focused its sales solutions on the high technology and manufacturing industries. However, thanks to the dotcom bust, Khera was forced to shift the focus of his startup away from technology to the real estate market. At the time, Khera wasn’t thrilled about the course of his business, but soon began to realize the benefits of selling his solutions into the real estate market.

“After the dotcom bust, the real estate market was very strong and had similar needs to our manufacturing customers in that large, spread-out sales teams are forced to rely on limited marketing resources,” he explained. “From this move, we gained several long-term national clients that provided self-sustaining, organic growth for MindMatrix.”

Fast-forward 10 years and the local tech outfit is in its best position to date, boasting more than 800 customers worldwide and looking to grow into new areas. Interestingly enough, MindMatrix has come full-circle and is focusing on technology and manufacturing again.

“It has been an exciting rollercoaster ride for us,” Khera said. “We are starting to see growth in areas other than real estate and have signed up some big accounts recently in the B2B space, as well as some B2C franchises, such as Complete Nutrition.”

The diverse nature of MindMatrix’s customer base reflects the common demand for its sales and marketing automation solutions. At its core, MindMatrix provides a “sales playbook” to its customers’ sales teams that is consistent yet targeted to specific sales channels.

“The challenge most sales people have is what to say, when to say it, and how to say it,” Khera said. “Our solution solves this problem by providing complete insight into prospect behavior in real-time, keeping prospects engaged with the brand with automated marketing campaigns, and providing personalized sales materials depending on the focus of the sales professional.

“Our goal is to become the de facto sales enablement platform for the manufacturing sector, as well as B2B and B2C franchises,” he continued. “I believe this is a realistic vision because our technology perfectly complements the sales cycle in these industries.”

Khera has big plans for MindMatrix in 2014. He didn’t rule out additional strategic acquisitions that align with the company’s service offerings, and said that the tech company is growing its footprint in the region as it looks to bolster its sales team.

“My goal in 2014 is to be one of the fastest growing companies in the region,” he said.

Learn more at MindMatrix.net.

Cork Guru: Danielle Gillespie builds a company based on her passion for wine and technology

Danielle Gillespie of Cork Guru.

Danielle Gillespie of Cork Guru.

CorkGuru’s Danielle Gillespie admits it… She loves wine and technology.

“By saying this I do not mean guzzling wine for the sake of it,” she said. “When I think of a bottle of wine I think about gathering with friends and/or family, sitting around a table and talking, laughing and reminiscing and cooking or sharing a great meal.”

With 20-plus years as a software developer, Gillespie has tech chops with all aspects of development, spec writing, problem solving, architecting solutions, developing, and in-field deployment. She has also worked closely with start-up tech companies to define their technology roadmap.

She had the idea to create electronic wine software more than five years ago when the cheapest tablet was $2,000.

“Regardless of this barrier, I still thought that with more information about a wine (a picture, anecdote, pairing information), the novice would be more interested in trying wine and the connoisseur would be more willing to try something new,” she said. “When the iPad was announced, I knew it was the platform that would help me bring the wine to the table.”

So Gillespie founded CorkGuru to develop and sell a wine menu app for restaurants and country clubs. Gillepsie approached the development of the product from the restaurant guest’s point of view and interviewed countless people on their wine buying fears and wishes. The result is a product that is appealing to all people from wine fans to those who aspire to love wine.


CorkGuru provides robust browsing capabilities, including sorts for varietal, vineyard and price. Further resolution for each wine entry includes a label picture as well as tasting notes and potential food pairings.

CorkGuru also incorporates a locker feature that private/country clubs can use to track individual locker inventories. The locker feature adds value to the club because it offers an additional level of service for members.

“The hardest part of growing this business is that it is a niche that is still in an infancy stage, so there is a ton of education that needs to occur,” said Gillespie.

In the next six months, CorkGuru plans to grow its base of Pittsburgh customers and will hire a dedicated sales executive to help place product into both restaurants and country/private clubs.

Tis the Season: Jason Wolfe is Mr. Gift

Jason Wolfe is CEO of GiftCards.com.

Jason Wolfe is CEO of GiftCards.com.

Chances are you are one of the millions of people around the world ready to give a gift card this holiday season. Safer and more thoughtful than cash, gift cards have become a popular way to present the perfect gift. Did you know that a driving force in the $110 Billion gift card industry calls Pittsburgh home?

As a child living on welfare, Pittsburgh-based GiftCards.com CEO Jason Wolfe grew up with few gifts. Yet, what affected him the most was not the lack of toys in his attic, but the pain and embarrassment generated by his inability to give to others, he said.

One cold Christmas morning in 1978, Wolfe sat huddled under a blanket with his mom and siblings with no heat, electricity, or gifts to be had – the  holidays looked bleak. But a knock at the door, the scuffling of footsteps on the porch, and a bounty of gifts left behind anonymously, brought a big smile to his face. Though his home life deteriorated further, and he spent the remainder of his childhood in the Milton Hershey School, Wolfe never forgot how wonderful that simple act of kindness made him feel. From that day forward, he has strived, through personal and professional endeavors, to make other people smile.

As founder and CEO of GiftCards.com, Wolfe heads up the highest-ranking and most-trafficked gift card website on the Internet. With the company slogan “make ‘em smile : )”, Wolfe is on a mission to bring about at least two smiles – one for the giver and one for the receiver – through the act of gifting.


Creating a Gifting Empire

A serial entrepreneur, Wolfe started, developed, sold, and even reacquired a variety of high-tech and/or dot-com companies in Pittsburgh. In his current and most meaningful project, GiftCards.com, he is attracting top talent from many corners of the world. In addition, he recently agreed to acquire the San Francisco-based tech startup, Giftly. 


The Future of Gifting

Wolfe sees gifting going digital in the future, and is determined to lead the way.

  • When homemakers were clipping coupons out of Sunday papers, he launched MyCoupons.com in 1995, releasing a wave of daily online discounts.
  • When Madison Avenue was searching for a paid-for-performance model, he launched Direct Response Technologies in 2002, one of the first affiliate network tracking solutions.
  • In 2003, when retailers were selling paper gift certificates, he envisioned a thriving gift card market, and bought the domain name ‘giftcards.com.’

Today, Wolfe has his eyes on the future of gifting. Surrounded by senior talent from AT&T, AOL, Viacom, and SkyMall, he is building a digital gifting powerhouse around online and mobile commerce.

Today, Wolfe employs 100 people in a company poised to multiply in size, thanks to the thriving gift card industry he helped build. One of his primary objectives in giving back is to create jobs in the city that is his home.  The gift card industry accounts for $110 billion of consumer spending, and the general gifting market surpasses $500 billion. He is determined to position the city of steel as a major hub in the gifting map.

“I find it ironic that outsiders often see more value in Pittsburgh than the locals,” explains Wolfe. “We have a world class university like CMU, great quality of life, and a growing tech community valued by the likes of Google.” But he claims Pittsburgh locals suffer from a bit of an underdog complex.

An underdog himself, Wolfe grew up in the Milton Hershey School (an orphanage school for significantly poor children) and graduated high school with a small suitcase, and $100. After paying his way through college, he suffered another blow, literally. Laid in a hospital bed, Wolfe taught himself how to program PERL, and coded what became his first startup: MyCoupons.com.

Having overcome poor odds a number of times, Wolfe is convinced Pittsburgh can do the same, and is determined to lead the way.

Elissa Ashwood Builds Truly Accomplished to Address Work/Personal Effectiveness

Elissa Ashwood has overcome many obstacles to launch Truly Accomplished.

Elissa Ashwood has overcome many obstacles to launch Truly Accomplished.

No one knows better than Elissa Ashwood that the life of an entrepreneur can be fraught with twists, turns and surprises — some even life threatening.

Deep in the throes of starting her software company Truly Accomplished, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. With determination and courage she stepped back from the day-to-day operations of the startup to concentrate on her full recovery.

“Things happen!” said Ashwood. “What can you do to deal with it?”

As a cancer survivor, Ashwood is even more committed to and convinced of the difference Truly Accomplished’s Trueprint software and methodologies can provide to improve the quality of people’s lives.

Trueprint helps individuals, companies and programs focus and follow through to accomplish goals.

The software and methodologies are based on 30 years of award-winning research and a powerful measurement and feedback system. Ashwood said it creates on average 150 percent increased effectiveness with organizations using it to increase productivity, retain talent and motivate action.

For leaders wanting to help their team members combine personal success with company success, Truly Accomplished developed Trueprint PRO. The software is used for leadership development, retention pilots, organizational change and widespread employee engagement efforts.

“Our mission is to use the most effective, relevant, motivational self-management solutions to help you do the things that matter to you,” said Ashwood. “Learning to think about your priorities in this new way is game-changing. Business-changing. Life-changing!”

Her “can-do,” never give up attitude started at a young age where she admits to “always being fascinated with figuring out what you want.” At the age of 27, Ashwood was VP of finance at Citibank and a mom.

Her leadership experience includes roles as a Finance and HR executive at Fortune 100 companies, including McKinsey & Co. and Strategy 42. She quickly found success in developing leaders and improving the performance of some of the best organizations in the world. At the same time, Ashwood mastered the work-family balance, rethinking how to achieve career success without giving up the best parts of personal life.

All of these factors led to her quitting a lucrative corporate career to build a new company that helps people and business improve their happiness and, ultimately, effectiveness with technology as a driver.

“I loved corporate life. I worked with some amazing people. I was doing the best work of my life,” Ashwood admitted. “But I wanted to concentrate on that one small slice of my work.”

Learn more at www.trulyaccomplished.com and www.33dresses.com.