Besomebody Acquires Artificial Intelligence Startup Pixelbug
By PR Newswire
CINCINNATI, Feb. 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Besomebody, Inc., a Cincinnati-based business innovation firm that specializes in skills-focused job training programs and employer services, announced today the acquisition of Pixelbug Technologies Inc., an augmented reality and artificial intelligence startup headquartered in Montreal, Canada. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Pixelbug founder and CEO, Dany El Eid, will join Besomebody as Senior Director of Technology.
The move – Besomebody's second acquisition in the last two months – adds emerging technology expertise to the company's suite of offerings, including AI capabilities for its recruiting and training division and AR expertise for ongoing software development. Besomebody partners with Fortune 500 companies like Kroger, Pepsico, and Mass Mutual on several core aspects of corporate growth and development, from recruiting and training, to content strategy and company culture.
"We're so grateful to add Pixelbug's deep AR and AI expertise to our team," said Kash Shaikh, Besomebody, Inc. Founder and CEO. "Dany, in particular, has been a pioneer in this space for seven years, and our team will instantly benefit from his knowledge, passion, and experience. There are so many practical applications of AI and AR that we can weave into our business and products to better deliver on our mission to help build the world's best companies. That means enabling even more companies to find great people, do great work, and create great cultures."
Since 2012, Pixelbug has helped multinationals like P&G, Nestlé, Sony Mobile and Lego adopt emerging technologies at the intersection of AR/VR, AI and the internet of things. The company has focused on developing its own proprietary apps that enable customers and corporations to better connect, learn, and interact through educational and entertaining content. Pixelbug was a winner of the MIT Enterprise Forum Startup Competition in 2015 , an alum of Boost VC, the leading frontier technologies accelerator in Silicon Valley, and a founding member of Montreal's "XR:MTL" in partnership with Ubisoft.
"I'm really proud and grateful for this milestone," said El Eid. "Not only has our work been recognized by a great and growing company like Besomebody, but we will get to continue to innovate in the AR and AI space in such a purpose-driven way. Besomebody's mission is inspiring, and their jobs training program is game-changing. I'm excited about what we can do to help more people get jobs and more companies grow their business. This is an exciting cap to a rewarding seven years."
Besomebody has experienced an eventful journey of its own over the past eight years. Beginning as Shaikh's personal blog and growing to a global, social media-driven community, the company officially formed in July of 2014 as an Austin-based Experiences app. The mobile platform connected passionate learners with expert instructors for in-person learning experiences. Users could choose from over 400 passion areas, from pottery and piano, to snowboarding and skydiving. After 18 months of rapid growth, the company started to experience what Shaikh describes as "mission drift."
"We started becoming less about learning, and more about 'hey, what's something fun we can try out this weekend,'" said Shaikh. "There's nothing wrong with just-for-fun experiences, it's just a different market and mission. Besomebody has always been about helping people do what they love by connecting them with the people, opportunities, and experiences that ignite them. So, when things started to move in another direction, I knew it was time to pivot back to something with more meaning."
So, in 2016, Shaikh moved to Boston to learn from some of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world, spending time at Harvard, MIT and the Ben Franklin Institute. He uncovered an opportunity to solve two converging crises – the student debt crisis and the skills crisis. College tuition has never been more expensive, rising over 500% in the last 30 years, and student debt is at record highs. At the same time, while job openings are more plentiful than ever – over seven million as of last month – only 20% of applicants have the skills they need to get those jobs. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 90% of Fortune 500 CEO's say that college grads and new hires are not ready for the workforce.
Shaikh set out to create a new path that worked backwards, starting with employers and focusing on the skills needed for all their open jobs. Soon, Shaikh was piloting "Besomebody Paths" across the country.
After aligning on the type, quantity and scope of the jobs, Besomebody builds the curriculum, markets the program, and handles all recruitment at no cost to the employer. The team then shepherds well-vetted candidates – only about 15% of candidates are accepted - through their highly customized, job-specific training programs.
"We reverse-engineer traditional education," Shaikh said. "We start with the business objectives, the success criteria, the job description – even the company culture. Then, we create hands-on training programs in partnership with industry experts and outstanding instructors. And when everything is set, we open up those 'Paths' to people passionate about the industry, job, and employer."
Besomebody's Path program has enabled hundreds of people to get jobs in Ohio, Kentucky, Texas, and Tennessee. Besomebody Paths are currently available for jobs in Healthcare, Hospitality, Animal Care, Graphic Design, and Sales, with more Paths opening soon. Candidates must pass multiple screenings to get into the Besomebody Paths program, including AI-driven assessments and evaluations. Candidates pay tuition that is typically less than 10% of their upcoming starting salary, and more than 10x less expensive than traditional alternatives. Besomebody has a 99% graduation rate and 100% job placement rate.
"It's been amazing to see what Kash and the Besomebody team has created in such a short period of time," said El Eid. "It took a lot of courage and foresight to pivot from their original model to something that was new, different, and unproven. They saw a big problem, and invented a powerful solution. And, now, they are building something even bigger."
In addition to the Paths program, Besomebody offers its employer partners an array of services to help build their brand, business, and culture. Shaikh says that their entry point as recruiters and trainers uniquely positions them to add incremental value as strategic partners.
"We start at the ground level," said Shaikh. "We have to learn everything about the company in order to tell interested candidates and recruits all they want to know. When they are paying tuition for a training to work at a company, they have a ton of questions. We have to learn the business model, the competitive landscape, the brand identity, the strategic priorities, and, of course, the day-to-day job requirements to develop training programs and attract top candidates. We have to identify gaps in company culture to help drive retention and employee satisfaction. We have to know the company story so we can share it with the world. All of that equips us with an immense amount of actionable insights and institutional knowledge that we can then put to work on other areas of the business."
Besomebody partner services include business strategy, brand identity, content creation, software development, marketing and design. AR and AI services will begin being offered to partners in early spring.