Headstart, an artificial intelligence-powered talent-matching platform looking to improve diversity in recruiting, has closed a $7m seed funding round led by FoundersX, a Silicon Valley venture capital fund specialising in artificial intelligence.

Headstart is one of several startups trying to design technology that can help employers tackle diversity problems at the same time as benefiting from the convenience of automated processes.  

The use of artificial intelligence in recruitment is particularly tricky because it creates recommendations based on data from past decisions and can end up replicating human biases. Last year Amazon was forced to scrap its recruitment tool after it was proven to be biased against women. 

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But Headstart says that its artificial intelligence-powered talent matcher not only avoids replicating human biases, it is able to actively counteract them. To do so, its algorithm uses a number of demographic data sources including school league tables, Ofsted rankings and postcode data to determine if any individual has been socially disadvantaged and to gauge how they have performed relative to their peer group.

The London-based startup says its algorithms are ultimately able to reduce bias in hiring by 20%. More specifically, as part of its work with Accenture in the UK, they claim to have increased the hiring of women by 5% and BAME (black, Asian or minority ethnic) hires by 2.5%. 

The startup works with several big corporates including Accenture, Lazard and Smiths Group, and has facilitated thousands of hires over the past two years.

The raise comes as workplaces increasingly turn to artificial intelligence to automate parts of their recruitment processes. According to a survey by the Gartner Institute, 23% of organisations that are using or piloting artificial intelligence are using it for recruitment, with talent acquisition being the most common use-case. 

Another UK startup tackling the same issues is Applied, a spin-off from the UK government’s Behavioural Insights Team — otherwise known as its ‘nudge unit’. In France Clustree is also working on artificial intelligence techniques that can boost diversity, specialising in natural language processing to understand how people’s skills relate to their job titles.

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