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Friday, September 27, 2013

U of Windsor Grad’s Company Gets Big Backers

The Windsor Star/Dave Hall

Two years ago, Emilie Cushman was writing exams at the University of Windsor’s Odette School of Business.

Today, the Tecumseh native is chief executive officer and co-founder of Kira Talent, a provider of video interviewing technology, which has now raised almost $2.5 million in angel and investment funding for a new suite of video software products for clients in about 100 countries across the globe.

“I’m amazed at how this has taken off,” said Cushman. “It’s far better than I had anticipated. It’s really been a fantastic experience so far.”

Cushman established Kira with business partner Konrad Listwan-Ciesielski whom she met last year while part of The Next 36, a group of entrepreneurial students from across Canada. As part of that program, Cushman and three fellow team members developed human resources technology designed to streamline the hiring process for businesses.

It became the basis for Kira Talent which allows employers to save up to 75 per cent of their recruiting efforts and expenses by using video interviewing technology.

“In a perfect world, employers would be able to meet with every single job applicant but we know that’s impossible,” said Cushman. “Our technology allows prospective employees to answer video questions and receive feedback from employers.

“The information is then shared with selection committees who are at the final end of the hiring process,” said Listwan-Ciesielski. “As we look to the future, we’re thrilled to have developed the industry’s leading mobile suite that will allow reviewers and appliances to have a world-class recruitment experience across a range of devices.”

In the past three years, the percentage of companies using video recruiting services has increased from 10 per cent to 60 per cent and Kira has been perfectly placed to take advantage of that growing trend.

Among the investors to come on board recently are Relay Ventures, Tony Lacavera,  CEO of Globalive Communications Corp; Gary Slaight of Slaight Communications, millionaire businessman and professor Reza Satchu and David Shaw, CEO of Knightsbridge Human Capital.

Cushman and Listwan-Ciesielski locked up $2 million in funding earlier this week which will allow the company to develop more technology and expand its reach in a growing global market.

“Video interviewing is not a fad but represents a truly innovative way to improve the recruitment process by saving time and having greater visibility into the personality and potential of your candidates. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million,” said Cushman.

“I’m already telling my friends they should be making their initial application by video because it allows their personality to shine through and may get them on that all-important short list,” said Cushman.

Cushman, who switched from engineering to business just prior to enrolling at Windsor, was named winner of the HSBC Woman Leader of Tomorrow Award from Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship in 2012. She was also president of the Windsor chapter of Students in Free Enterprise, which has recently been renamed Enactus.

Kira currently has 15 employees but Cushman said an upcoming hiring spree will double those numbers within the next two months.

Kira’s clients include Steam Whistle Brewery, Lafarge Inc., University of Waterloo, 1-800-Got-Junk, Ernst and Young, KPMG, Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, Forum Equity Partners, McCarthy School Uniforms, University of Windsor, Medcan Clinics and Griffiths University in Australia.

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