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Fireside chat with Maura Sparks, the woman who’s Keeping it Human in a Digital World

Who is Maura Sparks?

I take great pride in raising my two sons. As a single parent early on, I wanted to make them a top priority. To me that meant being present and involved as much as possible. I wanted to be there when they woke up and came home from school, but also help in their classroom, join field trips, host their friends and be free enough to taxi them when needed. Plus, find time to work during the day and at night. It was challenging to juggle everything. I thought teaching would be the perfect career and earned a dual teaching credential. I learned quickly childcare costs took over half my salary and I had less time to focus on my sons and create a happy home life. With a career in the tech industry before kids, I decided to work from home and focus on consulting to create greater balance and flexibility between work and family. During this period, I began a series of projects, including: a mobile game for women, an IoT device for kids, and a smart tech coffee roasting appliance. I knew I wanted to be a key member in a startup and realized early on, if I wasn’t a founder, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to really influence and shape the direction of an early stage company. I had co- founded an interactive game company and been an early team member in a tech company earlier in my career. So, in late 2019, I formed AccuChain with my co-founder Tim Connelly. AccuChain is an HR Tech company with a resume validation and recruitment platform.

What’s the story behind AccuChain?

The genesis of AccuChain originated from the college admissions scandal. In the fall of 2019, my son was finalizing his college applications. Over the next few months, stories about the fraud and deception began to circulate in the media. Admissions to a prestigious college is competitive and hig achieving students have worked hard to be offered a spot. It became obvious that it is too easy for parents to cheat admissions through these backdoor deals with fake content. It was clear this could have been prevented if another person in the admissions office had verified these applications.

In researching this issue, we realized this was predominantly impacting elite colleges and that represented about 500,000 students applying to these top schools each year. It was a small market, but important to understand how it could be applied beyond college admissions. We soon realized that the job market has a very similar problem. Someone sounds great on paper, but the claims on their resume have been exaggerated or falsified. Resume information may not be truthful. The Society of Human Resource Managers claims 46% of the resumes submitted have false information. There are 30+ million job seekers in the US and according to a recent Harris Poll the majority (52%) of U.S. workers are considering a job change this year. This is an important and big issue to solve.

What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?

Fundraising has clearly been the most difficult. It’s time consuming and in a startup it’s hard to devote the time and resources to find the right investor who is interested in your company. If I followed all the advice I heard from investors, I’d be running around in circles. I do take advice and listen, but I also believe it is important to stay true to our mission and not get derailed by a comment from someone after a 20 minute meeting. We were fortunate to obtain corporate funding from our partner in Japan that plans to handle our sales, marketing and strategic business in Japan and other parts of SE Asia. Once an investor commits to invest, we view it as an important partnership and together we have the best interest of the company Fundraising is always ongoing at AccuChain. As we gain more visibility and traction in the market, we look forward to more in-depth conversations with the right investors. We want investors who are looking to invest, bu also can add strategic value.

What are you most proud of regarding your business?

AccuChain has the potential to improve the hiring process. When we share with people what we are doing at AccuChain, everyone has a story to tell. They either made a bad hire or experienced working with someone who negatively impacted a project. The Society of Human Resource Managers claims 46% of the resumes submitted have false information. For most companies, when a hire goes bad it’s costly and time consuming. It can also sink team morale, damage brands, impact customers, and delay timelines. With 164 million U.S. jobs in the private-sector, we realized we were tackling a huge issue that needed to be changed. Our first product, AccuChain Validator, is a next generation resume builder that allows individuals to create their own validated resume that can be shared with hiring managers. For the majority of working Americans, having a satisfying and rewarding job is either the number one or number two issue in their lives. Our Validator platform can increase the likelihood that their next job will be better than their last job, and how a ‘validated’ AccuChain “Enhanced Digital Resume” improved their chances of landing that job Validator allows anyone to highlight their work history and stand out in today’s competitive job market. Our next development to be integrated into our platform is AccuChain Recruit. This software allows HR professionals to find top qualified candidates.

What is your vision for the future of AccuChain?

There are two parallel “Visions”— For Job seekers: Provide the best platform for job seekers by facilitating the validation of their key achievements and resume claims. Then offer services and features to improve their search for the right job and help them rise above the crowd by presenting their best self.

For hiring entities: Our platform will allow our customers to use AI and Machine Learning technologies that will optimize the selection of new hires. The validation systems used by the individual job seekers will also be part of the B2B platforms.

The overall economic “picture” for nearly two-thirds of all employees is that their real wages have not increased in the last 30 years. The exceptions are the top 20% — the high performers who have done very well. In most cases, it has been an “Employer’s Market”. In the past, there were more unions for middle class workers, and the unions were stronger. That is no longer the case. The “At Will” US labor laws clearly favor the employer.

AccuChain sees a future where more employees will have blockchain-based “Smart Contract” implemented in their Employment contracts. We have produced a White Paper covering this area. Another trend will be “Early Engagement” hiring—larger companies will team up with smaller companies and educational institutions. The large companies will be modeled after the “Major Leagues” in baseball, and the smaller companies will be analogous to the “Minor Leagues”. Educational institutions will be feeding junior employees into either league.

Finally, some technical people will form “teams” where they can get their entire team hired at once.

What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate?

This is a very broad question. The right answer will depend on many factors such as the business size, industry, and current level of success. Let me share our experience at AccuChain with our SaaS platform:

  • Finding business partners early has been very important. It is nearly impossible for any start-up to excel in all functional areas when they are just starting.
  • Having customer feedback early is a great idea—even if it is difficult to obtain.
  • Creating an affordable prototype is important for investor faith.
  • Be prepared to pivot if needed. We went from preventing a future college scandal to creating a resume validation and recruitment platform. We then went from creating a B2B platform to a B2C platform and now consider AccuChain’s SaaS platform to actually be a B2B2C platform.

The Pandemic has increased the likelihood that many employees can spend much of their working days from home. This change is very significant, and will affect the recruiting to a very large degree. If a new hire can work from home 100% of the time, then the job posting will be able to state that no relocation is necessary.

This expands the pool of eligible applicants by at least a factor of 20 for most jobs. Now, there will be more applicants applying for these remote jobs than ever before. Our advice for employers is to sign-up with AccuChain!

Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business.

My co-founder and I had just been working with a blockchain start-up that was being put on a back burner. But, we saw that blockchain technology would be a good fit for having immutable records of achievements that still needed a way to have those individual achievements validated. That was the impetus to invent our system of having trusted third party individuals validate selected achievements and claims, and then have their validations saved using blockchain.

  • Blockchain or blockchain-equivalent immutable storage
  • Agile software development
  • Natural language parsing — reading of resumes
  • AI and Machine Learning and Game Theory—these technologies will be used for applicant selection and also scoring the truthfulness of applicant supplied content

What books do you have on your nightstand?

  • Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain
  • Artificial Intelligence Business by Prezemek Chojecki, PhD
  • Quantum Enigma, Physics Encounters Consciousness by Bruce Rosenblum, Fred Kuttner
  • Frida Kahlo by the de Young/Legion of Honor
  • Vanity Fair (magazine)

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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