AI / HR / Startups

A new HR tech startup just emerged from stealth: Meet FairNow

The McLean, Virginia startup works to assess what technology companies actually use — and whether or not it's compliant and unbiased.

FairNow CEO Guru Sethupathy. (Courtesy)

As of this morning, the DMV officially has a new HR and compliance tech company in the game.

McLean, Virginia-based FairNow, a three-person startup founded late last year, just emerged from stealth. Prior to starting the company, cofounder and CEO Guru Sethupathy worked at Capital One developing a people analytics function; he also was a consultant at McKinsey focused on AI, talent and analytics. After spending 15 years in the industry, he told, he started to notice that very few companies knew if their technologies were biased or fair. That understanding led him to create FairNow.

“As I was talking and learning from others, I was realizing that other companies were not and they were just buying a lot of vendor technology and not knowing: Is it biased? Is it working? Is it fair? Is it effective? Is it even compliant at all?” Sethupathy said.

By connecting with HCM/HRIS/ATS and other talent systems, FairNow uses a threefold approach to its work with companies. First, it executes an onboarding or discovery phase to figure out what tools a company is using — because sometimes leaders don’t even know what tools their subordinates use. Second, FairNow monitors and generates automated reports on compliance, making note of changing state and local laws and general compliance audits that companies can take to their legal staff. Finally, it pulls insights from the company — i.e. if there’s some bias or problem and where it is — so companies can dig in and solve any issues.

Given the rise in technology such as ChatGPT, Sethupathy thinks that humans and ai will continue to work together, and he wants to make that work as transparent as possible.

“For some time it’s going to be AI and humans interacting with each other, jointly making decisions and interacting,” Sethupathy said. “So we can evaluate either one or both and show you, ‘Hey, where are their problems? Where’s their bias, but also their effectiveness?'”

He also noted that modeling can lose effectiveness over time, which is why the FairNow system keeps track of things consistently.

Sethupathy expects that the company’s main customers will be enterprises with a lot of moving parts to track. But he’s also hoping to work with vendors themselves and the FairNow system an asset to prove that they’re compliant and stand out in RFP processes. Still, he wants the technology to be flexible and easily integrated into other companies’ technologies and ecosystems.

The company is self-funded at the moment but just opened up a seed round with plans to raise up to $1 million. This year, Sethupathy said he wants to see the company get at least three customers and move into the next phase of revenue generation. Following that, he and his cofounders plan to raise another seed round in 2024.

But all in all, he hopes that FairNow can help build trust around AI technologies, which he thinks is necessary.

“For this technology to become prolific in all different spaces that it can be used, people are going to have to trust it, and the way to build trust is to demonstrate that it’s fair, it’s compliant, it’s not a black box and it’s effective,” Sethupathy said. “And those are the components of our framework.”

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