In conversation with Sahiqa Bennett of Searchie

Searchie uses artificial intelligence (AI) to determine a candidate’s suitability for a job. The technology monitors 361,000 factors during a 15-minute video interview, including micro-facial analysis, body language and the interviewee’s talking points.

It was co-founded by Sahiqa Bennett, after going through a difficult recruitment process when hiring for her own business. Bennett claims that the AI platform prevents human bias and can help companies prevent high employee turnover and toxic work environment by identifying the candidates best suited to the job requirements and the company culture.

Searchie recently raised $2 million.

Why did you become an entrepreneur?

It was accidental and it was not at all what I expected it to be. I couldn’t really find the service I was looking for when we were hiring people and growing really fast as a business. Hiring was a dreaded pain, I moved into that space because I couldn’t deal with it.

The thing about being an entrepreneur is you can really experiment more. If you’re working for a company your wings are clipped, there’s politics, bureaucracy, things that are not good for the business. Being an entrepreneur you can create a unique offering and an environment you’d love to work with.

What were your main challenges when you first started?

Funding was the main challenge, you have to balance growth with cash. It was all self-funded, this year we had huge growth, so we raised a round this year. The decision is always difficult to go from self-funding to investors, we got valued outside the region and looked at our competitors and tried to gauge where we were. Sometimes you can be a bit blinded, you can be a big fish in the UAE, but a tiny fish globally.

What are the main lessons you’ve learned?

You have to be proactive, everything you get exposed to, you have to go start learning about it. You have to be so obsessed with your business and vision that you cannot think of anything else. One of the secrets of entrepreneurism is to be more open minded and absorb the expertise of the people who know more than you.

People think you have the freedom to do what you want, but you sacrifice so much. There is a fire inside of you which totally brings this whole new energy you never knew you had. You have to make many decisions under pressure, decisions on things you’ve never thought about. As you long you think strategically, the painful stuff doesn’t feel as painful, because it’s a step to get to your goal. If you get caught up in the pain and difficulty, you give up.

How did the AI component come into play?

We didn’t start with AI. Our [minimum viable product] MVP was a video platform for freelance recruiters, but we thought there are other video platforms out there, there were other freelance recruiter networks. We didn’t feel like it was a ground breaker. It took 10 months of research, reports, looking at personality traits and then we tried AI. We developed our own framework internally and used third party solutions in a different way to build our own and combine it all together.

What will your industry look like in the next decade?

AI is there to speed things up and be efficient. One of the biggest challenges is diversity of data and Mena has one of the most diverse databases, it is reflective of the region, which is one of our strongest points. The misunderstanding of AI is that it is taking away people’s jobs, but AI can solve everything about a business. If you give a person the right tools, they will improve the way things are done. As for hiring, a lot of people will continue to hire through word of mouth, then technology will change the way hiring is done and how we develop employees.

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