Seattle startup vet launches KeeperHR to help workers use imagery to better express personality

A LinkedIn profile or a standard resume might show off hard skills, but KeeperHR thinks fun animal images and more help express other qualities. (KeeperHR Images)

The fun GIFs and videos that you like and share on social media platforms or in text messages with friends could be just the type of imagery that lands you your next job or helps you better interact with a team at work.

That’s the hope of KeeperHR, a Seattle company founded a year ago by serial entrepreneur Dean Graziano. The goal is to revolutionize the way employers assess soft skills and move beyond the traditional resume to highlight such traits as sense of humor, attitude on life, hobbies and working style.

Those characteristics are brought out through a series of questions when creating a Keeper profile, and they’re illustrated using everything from funny animal GIFs to clips from movies.

Dean Graziano.

Graziano, who founded and led such companies as Lively and uZoom, also co-founded the social media analytics company Visible Technologies in 2004. He said that that early work laid the foundation for his latest venture, especially as it relates to how younger people and digital natives communicate with imagery.

“Anything that has to do with consumer generated media, I’m definitely an OG in,” Graziano said. “As an entrepreneur, I think you’re always looking for a gap in a market and then always looking to fill that gap with a win-win scenario.”

KeeperHR, also led by co-founder and CEO Vishal Ahluwalia, who is based in New York City, has raised about $750,000, has six employees and early clients include Vodafone and Ogilvy as it focuses first on enterprise customers. Companies are encouraged to use the tool as part of their recruiting process or turn it on current employees to determine best fits for particular teams.

According to Keeper, 92 percent of talent professionals say that soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills, and 85 percent of job success is due to those soft skills.

While the focus right now is on human resources, Graziano said he can envision Keeper being leveraged for use in the dating space or even education, where a subject’s creative side might influence college admission.

We caught up with Graziano for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire:

What does your company do? Give us your 2-3 sentence elevator pitch. Optimize team performance, retain top employees, and shape the workplace of the future by utilizing our interactive portal to “reveal” soft skills.

Capturing invaluable cultural, social, and behavioral insights through imagery allows you to develop employee best fit profiles and personalize the employee journey. Unlike LinkedIn, showing the analytical side of someone, Keeper leverages the “other half of the brain,” the creativity side, and is a profile that allows users to “show” who they are.

Inspiration hit us when … The original spark for the idea came from the perspective of “dating.”

One evening I was talking to my step daughter about her luck on the “dating apps” like Tinder and I said to her, “It doesn’t look like you’re ever going to get to the core of someone, these profiles are nothing but bikini pics or people’s faces.” She agreed.

I then asked her to read me one of the text threads she’d had with potential dates. She began to read me one which said, “I’m in Suncadia with my kids, there’s so many great ‘activities’ here to do.” We simultaneously laughed a little, as “Step Brothers” is a favorite movie of ours. I said did he just say, “activities?”

In the spirit of getting to the chase, I told my step daughter to send this link back to him and write back, “Did you just say Activities?” and let’s see what he says back. Two minutes later he writes back, “Oh, I haven’t seen that movie, my kids have, is it funny?” Immediately and viscerally she looked at me and gave the “he’s out” signal. “How could he not see ‘Step Brothers,’ it’s my favorite movie,” she said.

That was the jumping off point for what has become Keeper. The ability for users to leverage imagery as the defacto way to express one’s personality.

VC, Angel or Bootstrap (And Why): We have raised an initial friends and family round and are currently raising our seed round. We have recently secured multiple brand-name clients and are looking to continue our growth before initializing our Series A, institutional or strategic rounds.

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Keeper fits into a favorite quote of ours by Jack Dorsey. “It’s really hard to build something simple,” and that’s what we did with Keeper. It’s a very small technology footprint, and super easy to use, but enjoys an endless amount of value propositions, use cases and industries it works for. HR and human capital is just one of several ways to leverage our Keeper concept.

The smartest move we’ve made so far: When we decided as a team that the best place to initially launch the Keeper concept first would be in the HR-human capital industry. This a great beach head industry and use case for Keeper.

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: We made some decisions early on with our technical architecture that pigeonholed us a bit that we are now focusing on solving. Thinking about your technical stack and scaling is a vital part of any startup.

Which leading entrepreneur or executive would you most want working in your corner? Jeff Bezos comes to mind immediately. For over 20 years he has sustained a trajectory of growth with Amazon that is unparalleled. We like to think as a team we are all as stubborn as Jeff. It’s the only way to be, one has to be stubborn about success. Having Jeff in our corner when the hard times hit would be beyond valuable for us or any startup-founding team.

Our favorite team-building activity is … During this time of COVID-19 and remote working we are trying our best to mix in and find as many fun team building exercises as we can. We look forward to getting back in front of one another and enjoying some hiking together this summer in the great Pacific Northwest.

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is … Of course, soft skills and personality. We will always bet on people first and their hard skills secondary. We feel when it comes to the “hard skills” a candidate wouldn’t be in front of us if they hadn’t already checked the hard skills box. We are always looking for real “Keepers.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Energy begets energy. There is no replacement for hard work and making sure everyone you come across knows your passion for your idea. Buy into the leap of faith you’re taking whole hardheartedly as nothing compares to internal passion.

Company website: Keeper

Twitter: @keeperhr

LinkedIn: KeeperHR

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