Q&A with Daniel Yanisse, Cofounder of Checkr

by Y Combinator10/17/2018

We put together a list of the top YC companies by valuation as of October 2018. You can see that list at https://ycombinator.com/topcompanies.

Here’s a Q&A with Daniel Yanisse, Cofounder of Checkr, one of the companies featured on the list.

What does Checkr make/do?
Checkr’s mission is to build a fairer future by improving understanding of the past. Using Checkr’s AI-powered background check technology, companies of all sizes can better understand the dynamics of the changing workforce, bring transparency and fairness to their hiring, and ultimately build a better future for workers.

With Checkr, we’ve created a new standard using artificial intelligence and machine learning to classify the data and automate the filtering, compliance and ID matching in our database. The result is faster background checks that increase accuracy, while reducing bias and compliance risk.

No matter the industry, background checks are a consistent part of the hiring process. They are constantly discriminatory, tedious, and inaccurate, while also constantly changing. We’ve taken unorganized and inconsistently categorized data, and through our technology, have created a streamlined, accurate platform that increases the speed of background checks, reduces bias, and lowers compliance risk for our customers. Instead of waiting upwards of 10 days to begin work, people can begin work within a matter of hours, which is crucial in both the gig economy and for traditional employers who increasingly find themselves at a disadvantage in the war for talent.

The technology we’ve built is high stakes—it can impact if someone can get a job and thus their well being. Ultimately, it’s allowing us to to build a fairer future.

How many employees does Checkr have?

How many founders?
Checkr was founded by CEO Daniel Yanisse and CTO Jonathan Perichon.

What is your most impressive recent product milestone?
In July we released Continuous Check, a new technology that provides continuous updates about criminal records that may affect ridesharing drivers’ eligibility to drive. Continuous Check, which was designed with Uber, is currently being piloted with both Uber and Lyft, dynamically identifies potentially disqualifying records to help ensure drivers continue to meet the ride sharing companies’ safety standards. Continuous Check will be available to all Checkr customers in 2019.

What is the larger impact / societal impact of your product in the space you work within?
Historically, backgrounds checks have proved to be unfair and even discriminatory to consumers.

Checkr was uniquely situated to see the flaws in the traditional background check system and recognized an opportunity to fix those flaws to reduce bias and compliance risk and allow filtering of irrelevant offenses for a specific role. Checkr is a champion of Fair Chance Hiring—helping the 1 in 3 Americans with a criminal record receive a fair chance at employment. This large, untapped pool of talent is given an opportunity where normally they would be overlooked due to their history.

What’s an interesting element of Checkr’s company culture?
We lead by example when it comes to hiring people with criminal records and participate in Fair Chance Hiring. This year we have a goal of people with previous records comprising five percent of our workforce, and we’d be a weaker organization without them. We’ve also partnered with organizations like The Last Mile, 70 Million Jobs, and Root & Rebound to promote a stronger understanding of criminal records resources and re-entry to the working community.

As our company has scaled from 20 employees to more than 230 employees, our culture has evolved but remained rooted in our mission and values. Checkr prioritizes employee well-being and personal development. All employees have access to hands-on coaching and professional development, including a $3,000 annual education/training credit. We also regularly host employee roundtables and lunches so employees from all levels and departments can share feedback and build relationships with each other.

Looking back, what motivated you to start Checkr?
My co-founder Jonathan Perichon and I were working as engineers at on-demand delivery startup Deliv and saw firsthand that the background check industry was antiquated. As the on-demand economy was exploding, the background check process was stuck in time—tedious and slow. It was slowing down the hiring process on both sides, especially among companies with a fast moving, flexible workforce like the gig economy.

At heart, I am an engineer. I see a problem, and I want to fix it. I knew I could streamline the background check process to put people to work quickly without sacrificing accuracy. This led to the creation of Checkr, a technology platform that combines the best in human expertise and AI to simplify a disjointed, labor-intensive process.

Our mission really solidified over our first interactions with job applicants. We heard firsthand the hardships of finding a job—and putting food on the table. We saw applicants get rejected because of something in the past, which in no way impacted their ability to do the jobs they were applying for today.. We saw an opportunity to be a positive force in the job market – to focus on eliminating bias and championing a fairer future.

What was a particularly important insight you had about your market that made your product work?
As more of the economy is shifting to flexible work, it’s causing a talent pipeline issue, with traditional companies needing to compete for and hire at the pace of on-demand companies. Traditional hiring processes take multiple weeks and interview candidates one-by-one. The on-demand economy hires contractors or employees in an automated way, which is also known as “funnel hiring.” Applicants can get the job in just a couple days, which is very attractive. The companies that have implemented practices to hire with transparency, fairness, and speed are the ones that are staying competitive.

What’s one piece of advice you’d share with a young founder?
The people you hire really matter and make a difference in the way company culture grows no matter what stage you are. Founders should attract people for the right reasons,not for the high growth or money, but because they care about the mission and value what the company is working towards. When you’ve found the right mix of purpose and culture within your company and the people running it, that’s when positivity can thrive. Even if you’re hiring the right people, you still need to define your values to keep your teams on track. At Checkr, we have core values posted on our walls, we discuss them in our all-hands meetings, and are all passionate about instilling them in others.

As we’ve scaled, the culture we had while were 20 people has naturally evolved. It is important to be flexible and grow with your team. While still mapping back to your values, the culture will continue to evolve as the company expands.


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