Texas Startup Builds Software To Track Workplace Diversity

BOSTON — A Texas startup has developed software designed to enable greater inclusiveness in the employee recruiting and hiring process.

Austin-based Cambio LLC, a job-matching platform maker, plans to solve the diversity problem with technology. The nascent company is marketing software to enable users to shorten the hiring process and eliminate the “deep systemic rot” of discrimination.

“Diversity and inclusion have been talked to death for 20-plus years,” CEO Neil Patwardhan said. “Humans are biased in general and for a long time bias in hiring has gone virtually unchecked since there isn’t a clear way to measure it. Until now.”

Cambio built a diversity-sourcing engine combined with deep bias analytics for recruiting teams. Patwardhan considers the software to be a hybrid tool that operates between job boards and HR application technology systems.

Notably, the company’s origin was sparked by the 2019 acquisition of Dun & Bradstreet Corp. by a group of private equity firms. Dun & Bradstreet subsequently downsized its Austin operations, and that left marketing exec Patwardhan and veteran technologist Bob Richards — both D&B employees — considering their options.

They created Cambio but repeatedly heard in HR focus groups that diversity remained a persistent problem for recruiters. So Patwardhan and Richards refined and pivoted their business model by focusing on a viable solution to combat discrimination in recruiting.

Cambio, which now employs six workers, has raised an undisclosed amount in a seed round of financing from an undisclosed group of angel investors, Patwardhan said.

The tiny startup is going after a sizable market.

Globally, the recruiting software space is projected to generate revenue of more than $3 billion by 2025, according to Fortune Business Insights Pvt. Ltd.

Meanwhile, the broader human resource management industry is projected to generate in the United States revenue of more than $10.8 billion in 2020. Globally, it reached nearly $15 billion in 2018, San Francisco-based Grand View Research Inc. found.

The HR tech space is dominated by well-established players such as Accenture PLC, Automatic Data Processing Inc., Cezanne HR Ltd., IBM Corp. and Oracle Corp., Grand View reports.

It’s not unusual for a full-service legacy tech company to acquire pure-play startups focused on specialized and niche-based tools.

Early users of Cambio’s software have largely operated in three specific spaces: hospitality, events, and service businesses in the retail and food industries, Patwardhan said.

In September 2019, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) dropped the word “diversity” from its long-running conference to reflect the importance of more inclusive workplaces.

“For years, our profession and society have focused on differences. But we’ve all seen the news, and we know: The world is as divided as it’s ever been,” President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor Jr. said at the time. “We need a new way, and it starts with inclusion. By finding what unites us, rather than divides us, we can make workplaces where employees — of every kind — can come together and thrive.”

Father of Cheerleader Sues Organization Over Daughter’s Concussion

An Illinois father is suing a cheerleading school that allegedly forced his daughter to practice with a concussion. The complaint mirrors the national trend of cheerleading-related injuries.

Kevin Beck filed the complaint for his middle school daughter who suffered a concussion in February 2016 while a member of the Cheer Alliance Inc. in St. Charles, Illinois, the Daily Herald newspaper reported.

The complaint was filed Feb. 14 in the 16th Judicial Circuit Court. A case management conference is scheduled for May 2, according to a court filing. The lawsuit is among a rising number related to cheerleading injuries that are more frequent as the sport seeks to be viewed as more athletic than traditional cheerleading, experts say.

Football coach claims he was fired for taking paternity leave


A former Ohio college football coach claimed in a lawsuit recently that he was fired for taking paternity leave.

Paul Harker, former strength and conditioning coach for Miami University, alleges in the suit that officials told him after his twins were born in January 2017 his contract wouldn’t be renewed. It also alleges that after he took unpaid leave following the births, head coach Chuck Martin told Harker he needed to be either a coach or a “family man,” according to the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for South district of Ohio.

The university and Martin allegedly violated the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, a federal law that guarantees certain workers up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave without any threat of job loss. The law, which was enacted in 1993, also requires employers to maintain health benefits for eligible workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Study Highlights Health Risks of Playing on Synthetic Turf

A Connecticut public health advocacy group is urging localities to spend money on athletic fields of real grass instead of synthetic turf until high quality studies can be completed.

The Environment and Human Health Inc. is reporting that 22 studies cited by the synthetic turf industry are scientifically inconsistent yet reveal that playing on the fields embedded with shredded tires increase exposure to toxic chemicals and metals.

“Although industry admits that many studies find numerous toxic compounds, they claim that the levels are too low to be dangerous to human health,” the report indicates. “Yet the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reports that even when there is low-level exposure to an individual chemical that might not cause cancer, when many low-level chemicals act together they can indeed cause cancer.”

Maryland-based Synthetic Turf Council Inc. President and CEO Dan Bond, said the EHHI has a history of “cherry-picking half-truths” that mislead the public.

“The fact is EHHI completely ignores multiple recent research reports and statements from Washington State, the European Chemicals Agency, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, and FIFA that support the safety of synthetic turf fields,” he said in a news release. “This is in addition to the more than 90 peer-reviewed academic studies, third-party reports and federal and state government analyses that have not found public health concerns from playing on synthetic turf fields with recycled rubber infill.”

About 12,000 athletic fields in the United States are using synthetic turf, according to published reports.

Legal Infighting Marks Hearing on NFL Concussion Litigation in Philly

Allegations of greedy law firms and finance businesses related to settlement payments to former National Football League players are taking on a greater sense of urgency as the claims start to be paid despite more-frequently-than-expected claim audits.

Concerns about deceptive practices amid slow payments to former players and their families prompted a hearing in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Some companies are attempting to charge players contingency fees for guiding them through the claims process. Also, some lawyers allegedly stand to receive contingency fees as high as 40 percent in addition to payments from a $112.5 million legal fund set up by the NFL.

It’s notable that the players’ co-lead attorney, Christopher Seeger, founding partner of New York-based Seeger Weiss, is the only attorney allowed to present evidence of alleged deceptive practices during Tuesday’s hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Anita B. Brody. Seeger is seeking $51 million for his firm’s work on the $1 billion class-action case, ESPN reported in March.

Based on more than 21,000 hours over four years, Seeger’s firm is citing $18.1 million in fees. He’s also seeking $6.8 million for himself coupled with a multiplier of 2.6 to fees and expenses.

MLB teams increase park netting to mitigate risk

A longstanding law has protected professional baseball from litigious injured fans, but teams are increasingly taking measures to guard against the unsavory optics produced by errant balls and bats.

The so-called Baseball Rule shields teams and puts the onus on baseball fans to take responsibility for their safety while attending games. Yet changes to ballparks have narrowed the distance between players and spectators so risk-conscious teams are installing additional protective netting.

From a legal standpoint, the courts generally rule in favor of the park owners. In November 2016, a U.S. District Court judge of the Northern District of California dismissed a class action lawsuit involving Major League Baseball seeking additional safety netting at ballparks.

The complaint was prompted by two MLB fans injured in separate incidents at both the Oakland Coliseum and Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium. Judge Gonzalez Rogers ruled that MLB’s evidence produced no “credible or immediate threat” that the Oakland A’s fan would be hit by a foul ball or bat and she failed to show that a legal standing was independently established due to “deprivation of her ability to enjoy the game.”


Sexism charges prompts startup to change online ads

The experience of a new Austin-based online art dealer demonstrates the dangers of advertising campaigns that rely on sex appeal.

Twyla Inc. has pulled a Facebook ad after receiving negative reviews; experts disagree on whether the dustup will affect the startup’s business.

The company, with former HomeAway Inc. CEO Brian Sharples as chairman, posted ads under the heading “Get some” that featured a photo of a young woman removing or putting on a white top. The photo was overwritten with the words “Recently single. Buy art.”

On Oct. 13, Art F City, a New York-based art news website, referred to Twyla’s advertisement as “the most offensive art ad on the Internet.”

Cirrus Logic move to open coveted downtown office space

Cirrus Logic Inc.’s plan to relocate next year as many as 250 of its workers from a Sixth Street office tower popular with tech companies would leave vacant some highly sought downtown office space.

Cirrus Logic (Nasdaq: CRUS), a fast-growing Austin semiconductor maker, plans to move the workers from two floors of 300 W. Sixth St. into five floors of the Shoal Creek Walk tower under construction at West Sixth and Bowie streets, one block from Cirrus Logic’s headquarters at the corner of Sixth Street and West Avenue and across the street from Whole Foods Market Inc.’s headquarters. Cirrus Logic, which generates a large amount of business from Apple Inc. devices, has filled up its entire headquarters building since it was finished in 2012, spokesman Bill Schnell said.

British fintech company opens U.S. HQ in downtown Austin

The British keep coming — to Austin.

Another England-based financial technology company is opening its U.S. headquarters in downtown Austin. Big data analytics firm Hello Soda, operated by Soda Software Labs Ltd., is taking an office at the WeWork co-working space on Congress Avenue.

Hello Soda, which was founded in 2013 by three former executives of credit rating service CallCredit Ltd., developed an analytics platform called Profile designed to extract credit risk information from unstructured data. Its purpose is to verify identifications and detect fraud, assess risk and increase financial inclusion.

U.S. Secretary of State cites U of Texas role in clean energy

Austin’s clean technology industry got some national recognition Wednesday with a visit by Secretary of State John Kerry who said improved energy technology is lowering the price of alternative energy and increasing infrastructure investments.

Kerry spent about 90 minutes at the University of Texas’ J.J. Pickle Research Campus where he met with energy industry executives and researchers after touring the laboratories in the Microelectronics Research Center. Several UT officials, including President Gregory Fenves, also attended.

The meeting was largely a briefing of Texas experts’ views on the grid and energy infrastructure, said Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy Partners LLC, a Houston-based company that develops long-haul transmission lines to connect renewable energy sources.

The clean technology industry has grown significantly in the Austin area and it’s expected to continue expanding in coming years. The industry employs nearly 20,000 workers and contributes an estimated $2.5 billion to the Central Texas economy, according to an Austin Technology Incubator report released in mid-2015.