What STEM talent shortage?

When Thor and Alan first met at the Canterbury Innovation Incubator in 2009, they had no idea they were soon to be co-founders in a tech venture that would disrupt the billion dollar English testing industry. Six years later, however, their common network in the Canterbury Tech cluster brought them back together again and – after some matchmaking (and funding) by powerHouse Ventures, – Fluent Scientific was born.

Immediately, they spotted a gaping hole in the English language testing industry. There are many products focused on English language testing for academic purposes but no proven product suited for the career market. This means that, with over 2 billion people in the world learning English by 2018, there is no way for recruiter to efficiently select candidates with competent English communication skills. Enter FluentIQ Test Center – the world’s first completely automated, cost efficient, and accurate English assessment product built especially for global job seekers and their recruitment and hiring professionals.

Many recruiters will get as many as 60% of their job applicants from applicants who are non-native English speakers. But very few of these applicants are ever seriously considered despite their impressive experience and skills. This results in vast amounts of global talent and experience wasted and Fluent aims to change this. As Jessica Lin, Fluent’s Chief Scientist, says “A name and an accent are part of a person’s unique identity, they don’t impact ability or performance. FluentIQ removes fear of communication barriers thereby promoting a more efficient and transparent selection process.” Since teaming up in 2015, the three founders have encountered their own share of twists and pivots. The first version of the test platform was packaged up as a diagnostic tool for international students entering NZ tertiary programmes. Despite encouraging early traction, it quickly became apparent that – unless students were “forced” to use the product, only the rare A+ student would bother. Then came that “Aha!” moment when – after a sleepless weekend in mid-December 2016 – Alan and the team put the whole diagnostic project on ice and refocused.

Their mission: deliver the best automated testing platform for English language communication and leave all the frills behind. That refocus has paid off well and FluentIQ Test Center went live in February 2017. Immediately came the industry early adopters who demonstrated that Fluent had found its sweet spot with global recruiters. Integrations with well known recruitment tools such as Job Adder – an innovator in the applicant tracking system (ATS) space are currently in the works. The integration with JobAdder means that 2,000 global recruiters will be able to seamlessly request that applicants supply FluentIQ Test Center scores. Hard to find technology talent and their recruiters are the initial customer focus for Fluent Scientific with the initial focus for traction is Australia and New Zealand and then on to the APAC region. In the meantime, you can find the Fluent team happily ensconced in their Central City premises in the Ministry of Awesome + building on Madras in the heart of the newly bustling innovation precinct. All three founders see Christchurch as their short, medium, and long term home. As Alan Cox, Fluent’s CEO, puts it: “There’s an amazing tech community here and Christchurch is becoming even more attractive to top quality global talent. I have every belief that Fluent can grow into a major global business with operations right here in Christchurch. That would be a dream come true for me.”

As a member of the Canterbury Tech community, we encourage you to trial FluentIQ Test Center as part of your essential recruitment tool kit. For a demo and some free test keys, get in touch with andy@fluentscientific.com and he’ll sort you out.