When Hypepotamus first introduced readers to Noelle London back in 2017, she was a recent Atlanta transplant ready to drive innovation through her work at Invest Atlanta.
Now in 2022, she’s moved to the other side of the proverbial founder-investor table with the launch of Illoominus.
“I’ve helped over 500 startups to scale and grow from running incubators to corporate venture programs at a Fortune 500. But all along the way, I have always known that I’m a builder,” London told Hypepotamus. “Throughout my career, the programs that I’ve been able to work on that are focused on inclusion have absolutely been the most rewarding.”
The idea for Illoominus, a play on the phrase illuminate us, was born in the summer of 2020 when the murder of George Floyd sparked national outrage and protests.
2020 also prompted corporate conversations about creating more equitable workplaces. But talk is cheap, as the idiom goes, and an Instagram post or a website update about DE&I efforts isn’t enough. While companies rushed to print DE&I pledges, reports on HR professionals suggest many companies are “just going through the motions.”
That is where London saw the chance to help companies better understand the data needed to develop more inclusive workplaces.
“Companies are struggling to activate and manage these strategies. As I looked across the HR technology landscape…I was seeing important pieces of the puzzle, but I wasn’t seeing anyone really bringing it all together,” London explained to Hypepotamus. “Data is very siloed today, so you aren’t seeing the whole story of what’s happening across organizations.”
As a data analytics platform, Illoominus helps company leaders track and manage progress surrounding their team’s DE&I efforts. It is about bringing all employee data together to “tell the complete story of what’s happening throughout the employee journey,” said London.
Many of those goals, particularly around representation and hiring, are known to the public. But important data to track goals around retention and promotion might be scattered throughout different departments in a company, making it more difficult to track. Automating the HR reporting process, providing internal and external benchmarks, and giving context behind those numbers can help companies better understand how DE&I efforts are actually being implemented.
That is particularly important for companies trying to better understand high attrition rates or how DE&I efforts are changing representation at the leadership level.
The platform currently works with companies with over 250 employees, across industries and has already been adopted by an Atlanta-based unicorn startup.
Turning pledges into action
Even with a record-setting amount of venture capital funding pouring into the overall HRTech space in 2021, companies of all sizes still rely heavily on big players in the space like LinkedIn, Indeed, or Monster to recruit talent. But these platforms don’t often focus on diverse talent pools.
More Southeast founders are jumping in and tackling problems still plaguing the hiring process.
Jonathan Cornelius, a recent graduate of Georgia State University, is officially launching Stratos later this summer as a new type of networking and hiring platform for Black and Latinx professionals. As a social platform, Stratos users can share authentic questions, advice, and feedback on career moves, whether or not they are actively looking for a new position. Users connect via different “layers,” which are industry and interest-specific areas of a growing digital community.
That is a different approach than the traditional job search platforms, Cornelius said. “A lot of our competitors lack scale factor. But they don’t ask the question, what happens after someone gets the job?”
Stratos works on both the employee and employer sides of the hiring process. Companies committed to diversifying their talent pipeline can access Stratos’ database. The startup has already worked with 20 companies on hiring efforts, many of which are hiring for tech-focused roles.
In the Southeast, Stratos has worked with Atlanta-based Acadia and North Carolina-based Pendo.
“The number one thing that we prioritize is giving Black and Latinx professionals a place to not only network and find community, but also to just really see that representation matters,” he said. “We’re a platform that doesn’t want to shy away from the things that go on in the workplace that affects our target demographics,” added Cornelius.
Cornelius is one of several Southeast founders taking different approaches toward changing the hiring and workforce development space. Several we’ve covered previously on Hypepotamus, like Birmingham-based Joonko, Birmingham-based Boulo, Atlanta-based SkillPointe, Atlanta-based Grayscale, and Tampa-based Chattr.
On the retention side, new players like Atlanta-based Chezie help companies retain talent by creating more impactful employee resource groups (ERGs). UnboXt, Inc., founded in Atlanta, looks to turn employee data into actionable leadership and growth opportunities. The UnboXt team will be pitching at SHRM’s (Society for Human Resource Management) upcoming WorkplaceTech Accelerator demo day as part of its inaugural cohort.
Big tech names have also jumped into the space recently. Kabbage co-founders Kathryn Petralia and Rob Frohwein have joined forces again and launched Keep Financial, a compensation platform focused on enhancing recruiting and retention efforts within a company.
Atlanta, Tampa, and the Research Triangle have become natural homes to a growing number of HRTech startups. They are all looking to change the narrative around what it takes to create a strong, inclusive, and scaling workforce in our post-pandemic world.
“Every company needs HR,” London added when asked about why she is building something like this in the Southeast. “That’s why it is exciting to build [Illoominus] in Atlanta. When something is interesting to one company, sometimes they’re sharing that with other companies So they see kind of cross-pollination of ideas and innovation across different companies, which I think makes it a really good place to test a new platform,” London added.