CEO INTERVIEW- Pulsifi : Identify, retain and develop great people using big data and artificial intelligence.
New Success Stories - Asia
Pulsifi’s CEO wears 7 hats - how many of these does your CEO wear?
Jay Huang, CEO/ Co Founder at Pulsifi
1. Please share with us briefly what you do.
I am the Co-founder and CEO of Pulsifi, a people analytics software company. I wear, and very much enjoy wearing, 7 hats - strategy, product, clients, investors, partners, team and self. While I am CEO, when I am wearing these hats, I contribute just like any member of the team, because we are fortunate to have strong leaders and team members!
2. What were you doing before this?
Before Pulsifi, I was the Head of Strategy and Development at CtrlShift, a pioneer in developing and applying artificial intelligence (AI) to digital marketing. CtrlShift uses numerous data points on each person to make predictions on consumer preferences. My co-founder, Pete, and I were inspired to use a similar approach to help organisations solve their people problems. Pulsifi uses numerous data points on each person to make predictions on how he or she will be at work.
3. Describe your product. How does it work?
Pulsifi helps organisations unlock the potential of people. Our software platform recommends people based on the ideal mix of hard and soft traits specific for each role.
Hard traits include competencies and experience, while soft traits include personality, interest, culture, attitudes and behaviours at work. Our platform analyses CVs, psychometric assessment results, social media, the web and other data sources to assess or predict these traits, with the predictions being 80 to 90+% accurate as validated by our clients. Our platform learns and continuously refines the ideal mix of these traits by benchmarking existing employees and incorporating feedback from managers, while guided by organisational psychology. AI, machine learning and predictive models power our platform.
From the user perspective, our platform creates a detailed holistic profile of each person, from the database of job applicants, passive candidates and employees, and assigns a fit score for the role to each person. The profiles and fit scores drive hiring, retention and development decisions.
4. What are the key benefits?
Today, 95% of employers and recruiters evaluate candidates based on their CV, even though what they are really looking for - traits such as grit, motivation to learn, and teamwork - are not found there. In fact, many of these traits cannot be easily assessed even in interviews. However, Pulsifi can predict them!
Strategically, organisations benefit from Pulsifi by getting the people they need that really fit the job role and company culture. By defining the mix of hard and soft traits that drive success at each role, organisations make better people decisions.
Operationally, organisations benefit from improved quality in candidate selection, reduction in selection biases, increased consistency in selection, targeted employee learning and development, and increased efficiency in terms of speed and cost.
5. Who are your closest competitors?
In our conversations with clients - which are multinationals, large regional companies and government agencies - we have not come across another company that takes the same approach as us in solving people problems. Pulsifi is unique for considering both the hard and soft traits of each person by analysing people data from both within the organisation and across the web in a scalable way.
Who the industry would consider to be our competitors - consultants and recruitment agencies - are actually our partners. We help clients solve similar problems, with them providing bespoke services and us providing analytics.
6. Who is your first customer and how did that happen? What were they using before this, and why did they switch?
Our first significant client engagement started with Nestlé in early 2018. Very fortunately for us, their progressive regional HR leader saw the value we could bring, and gave us the chance to prove ourselves. Before using our platform for analytics driven selection of young talent like management trainees, their team members worked with external service providers to handle the processes manually. Our partnership with Nestlé has led to better selection of high fit candidates, improved experience for candidates, and greater efficiency. Today, we are thankful for the opportunity to support Nestlé in multiple countries.
7. What motivated you to start this business?
Since the early days of my career in venture capital, I realised that I wanted to start a company - as they always put it - to change the world! After years of working in large organisations and growing small companies, I learnt that the single biggest challenge is always about people - truly understanding the people in the organisation and helping them achieve their potential. When the people achieve their greatness, the organisation achieves greatness. We founded Pulsifi to help organisations with exactly that vision, which we find very meaningful and impactful, and we want to help people and organisations on a global scale.
8. What is your biggest sacrifice to make this work?
I definitely have less time for family, friends and myself. It is true that it is difficult for entrepreneurs to “switch off” from their company. But I do not really see this as a sacrifice, because giving my time to Pulsifi is a very meaningful part of my life, and there are not that many things I would rather do!
9. How did you get funded?
We set out to raise funds from 10 angel investors, each of whom would bring strategic value to Pulsifi beyond funds. We were very fortunate for our fundraise to be oversubscribed, and we raised over USD 1.1 million from 11 angel investors, who lend us their network and their extensive experience in HR, recruiting, business and corporate development, enterprise software, blockchain and other innovative technologies. This is huge leverage for our relatively small team! Before we confirmed the investment with our angels, we spoke to over 100 potential investors.
10. What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Word-of-mouth! A lot of our clients, partners, investors and team members originated from referrals. We take pride in going the extra mile to deliver value and create impact, and I think the very positive referrals reflect that. Content leadership such as HR Digital Today, targeted conferences and social media are powerful marketing platforms for us too.
11. Describe a typical workday
In a typical week, one-third of my time is with clients and partners; one-third is with team members; and one-third is alone time. I am the type that needs time alone to think deep and hammer things out!
12. Who has been the greatest influence in your business and why?
Most definitely my co-founder Pete! While we share the ups and downs equally, he inspires and complements me because he is so different from me - in terms of personality, experience and background. I learnt from Pete how to strike a balance between our “heart” and “brain” in everything we do as logic alone often does not provide the solution in life and business. Pete also advocates “burning out” rather than “fading away” - in other words, going all in even at the risk of failure, rather than settle for safe mediocrity. His many lessons have made me a better person and entrepreneur.
13. What has been your proudest moment in the history of your business and why?
It was a random moment when the whole Pulsifi team, in Pulsifi T-shirts at our office, was discussing important topics for our business. It struck me how Pulsifi has come so far in a year and a half, to grow into a team of talented people who live the Pulsifi vision and mission as much as I do. As we keep this up, we will succeed in changing the world. I think I might have teared at that proud moment!
14. What is your favourite business failure (and what did you learn from it)?
This is not really a failure, but in our early days, we struggled a lot to build our team. We had talented people with us, but the fit was not always great. It took us over 6 months to get our groove, and practise what we preach to clients. Our experience reinforced our belief that organisations around the world, most of which do not have the luxury of starting from scratch like us, struggle with people on even larger scales.
15. If you could go back in time to speak to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell him/her?
“Your life is for you to lead, not follow!”
Looking back, I feel that I took the standard route for most of my life, in terms of education, career, interests, experiences, etc. Only in recent years did I fully appreciate that my destiny is really in my own hands. I am happy with where I am today, and the journey getting here was a great experience, but it would not have hurt to have been more adventurous when I was 20!
16. What’s one productivity hack you can’t live without?
Besides Pulsifi, that would be… Public transport! Without needing to drive and park, so much can be done on the train, bus, taxi or private hire car!
On a more serious note, I recently discovered the benefits of scheduling recurring time slots in my calendar for things that I usually end up not having time for, such as thinking about big issues impacting the business; checking in with clients, partners and team members; and even having a meal with loved ones.
17. Where can people find out more about your product offerings and you online?
LinkedIn, which is regularly updated:
and our website:
18. Rapid fire questions
- First job
My first job was at International Enterprise Singapore, now part of Enterprise Singapore, the lead government agency helping Singapore companies expand overseas. The companies I supported were small and medium-sized software and technology companies. Among the owners of these businesses and my colleagues, I learnt that many people “work” for a greater purpose, not just for money. However, many people have not discovered their purpose - that is where Pulsifi can help.
- Favorite Gadget
Fujifilm X-E1 with 35mm prime lens. I enjoy photographing special moments in portraits, close-ups, and happenings in our everyday lives. I do not chase the newest photography gear - this relatively basic mirrorless set-up captures beautiful colours and creamy bokehs.
I assume you meant to ask favourite gadget apart from the mobile phone!
- When you are not at work, where can we most likely find you?
In the kitchen! I enjoy making wholesome meals for loved ones and myself. I prefer using fresh ingredients in their natural form, and very seldom use processed foods, sauces, etc. Apart from people, food and nutrition is probably my next biggest passion!