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October 09, 2019 | Tom Ballard

Current Knoxville resident joins with former resident to launch HRPredict

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

They share a mutual interest in artificial intelligence (AI) even though their professional backgrounds are very different.

John Sharpe, who divides his time between Knoxville and Nashville, has an entrepreneurial bent with a specialization in human resources. Among his several ventures over the years are StaffSource, a recruiting service with offices around the Southeast, and DataCorre that specializes in AI and machine learning.

Mik Bertolli, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Avrio Analytics, a data analytics company that relocated more than a year ago from Knoxville to Denver, brings his scientific background and previous experience as head of machine learning at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to the venture.

Today, the two have teamed-up to launch HRPredict where the initial focus is on helping corporations address the challenge of employee turnover.

“There are 6.5 million jobseekers in the country and 7.5 million jobs that need to be filled,” Sharpe says. With more jobs than applicants, the scales are obviously tipped in favor of those who want or might consider changing positions. “According to Forbes, the estimates to replace an entry-level position is 50 percent of salary, mid-level is 125 percent of salary, and senior executives are over 200 percent of salary.”

How do employers retain and develop their good performers? Sharpe says that is where HRPredict is focused.

As described on its website, the start-up explains that “there is a much smarter way to make people-related decisions,” something that is “a more strategic way that drives better outcomes for both the organization and its employees.”

HRPredict focuses on what it calls “People Analytics” to leverage the power of data to identify the relationships between HR practices and business outcomes and make better, evidence-based decisions.

“The architecture of the AI is critical,” Sharpe says. HRPredict uses a variety of data sources that range from an individual company’s data to data for the industry sector as a whole, information about specific positions, and other external feeds.

The start-up was launched in February with a third individual – Jim Tait – handling business development. Sharpe is self-funding the operational side, and Bertolli is funding the development of algorithms.

The long-time Knoxville business executive, who had been attending staffing conferences where AI was being discussed, connected with Bertolli several years ago at the “36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival,” and they began exploring ideas.

“I knew we were going to develop a product,” he said. “I thought about streamlining the acquisition process for employees” before settling on turnover.

That said, Sharpe admits that “we’re still learning how to sell attrition.” As the ramping-up process evolves, HRPredict has already executed a three-year contract with PetSafe and, as Sharpe says, “is progressing nicely in both the private and public sectors.”

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