How Empatico helps managers make smarter, more compatible hires

Like online dating for business, this small Stratford, Ont., software company helps match employees and teams based on personality traits

Startups to Watch: Stratford

The staff of Empatico.

The staff of Empatico. (Empatico)

There must be something in the water in Stratford that makes people want to get along. In our previous profile on the startups of Stratford, we looked at Powernoodle, a software developer that seeks to help organizations collaborate better.

Today’s spotlight falls on Empatico, also a software company that is focusing on improving compatibility between individuals in enterprises and organizations.

The company is the brainchild of Bob Telfer, a serial entrepreneur who previously co-founded Conceptual Pathways, another software developer in Stratford.

Telfer has seen the problems that can arise for a business when personalities clash, especially at early-stage companies with few employees. More so than funding issues or other operational obstacles, such disputes can sometimes break a company.

“The interactions between co-founders in the early stages of the businesses are pretty critical to their success,” he says.

It was that thinking that led him to Don Wright, who holds doctorates in theology and ministry. Wright had 25 years of research in team compatibility under his belt. Along with Anne Dixon, a consultant who had most recently worked with non-profit Open Knowledge, the trio started Empatico in 2013.

Businesses use the subscription software to analyze the personalities of employees, with the data allowing managers to spot individuals who might be highly compatible with each other – as well as those who might clash.

Each employee takes a 30-minute assessment, which then generates a personality profile that describes their traits, vulnerabilities and styles. The profiles are then compared against other workers, with the system finding compatibilities in individuals and also teams.

It sounds a bit like online dating, a description Telfer doesn’t shy away from. Dating website E-Harmony has indeed experimented with similar enterprise applications.

“We can make predictions on whether these are going to be constructive relationships,” he says.

Empatico currently has four employees and a few paid clients, including U.K.-based New Level Results, a business consultancy that is reselling the software.

Up With Women, a Toronto-based non-profit that helps homeless women rebuild their careers, has also piloted Empatico’s platform, with a plan for a deeper rollout over the next year.

Telfer has never contemplated opening a business outside of Stratford or even moving it – he enjoys the quality of small-town life too much. He does concede, however, that sticking to his home brings challenges, not the least of which is a lack of investment funding.

“It’s on us to get out there and network ourselves and integrate ourselves within those support systems,” he says.