The Company

Unlearn.AI is a physicists-founded tech startup that’s using AI to reinvent clinical trials. Unlearn.AI partners with biopharma companies to accelerate the development of new therapies for complex diseases, by leveraging AI models of disease progression. Unlearn.AI is on an mission to reduce therapy development time, allowing faster patient access to new life-saving therapies.

Unlearn.AI is 9 people and headquartered in San Francisco. After closing a new round from investors including DCVC, Unlearn is looking to expand their data science and statistics team.

The Challenge

The Biostatistician role has been open for 4 months, without many candidates moving through the pipeline. The Data Scientist role was getting candidates through traditional channels like Linkedin, Indeed and personal network, but most of them are not high-quality enough.

Part of the challenge was just the fact that Unlearn was looking for very specific kinds of people with exceptional qualifications. For example, the Biostatistician role requires someone who can independently develop new statistical models, fluent in python, and has worked with clinical data. There are only a handful of people who meet those criteria, and they usually work in university research labs or big pharma companies. They are usually very conservative, and it’s hard to peak their interest in talking to a startup.

Another challenge was bay area’s intense competition for top talent, heightened by a startup’s limited bandwidth. Getting the attention of top candidates takes a lot of work. At Unlearn, Jon and Aaron who are the founders were doing most of the recruiting, and they simply don’t have enough time to spend on sourcing and pitching candidates.

The Relationship

Graham, who’s COO at Unlearn, first got in touch with Nettrons and heard about fireside-chat based recruiting. After discussing with Jon and Aaron, they decided to partner with Nettrons to address their hiring challenges. Part of the initial appeal was the efficiency of meeting and pitching a lot of high-quality candidates in one evening, and in a casual setting so it doesn’t come off as recruiting.

Nettrons started the relationship by working closely with Jon, Aaron and Graham to understand the kinds of candidates they want to meet. In the first week, Nettrons did one meeting with Graham and one phone call with Jon and Aaron to calibrate their ideal candidates profile, as well as pulling all their existing team members’ online profiles to benchmark for background fit.

Afterwards, Nettrons distilled those learnings into an ideal candidate model and started the search. Nettrons identified highly qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds including academia, startups and big companies, then peaked their interest in meeting Unlearn founders at the fireside chat by sending thoughtfully crafted invites that highlighted the fascinating technical topics to be discussed, Jon and Aaron’s backgrounds, synergies with the invitee, and an offer to introduce them at the event.

The Result

Of the 142 highly qualified candidates Nettrons invited, 36 responded that they were interested. A 25% response rate that’s much higher than the 5 - 10% which is industry average for traditional outreach.

On the day of the event, Jon, Aaron and Graham were able to pitch their work to a small audience of high quality candidates, and further engage them through an informal round-table discussion and free mingling session. For the candidates who couldn’t make it on the day of the event, Nettrons introduced them to Jon and Aaron right afterwards.

After the event, Unlearn continued conversations with one Biostatistician and several Data Scientists, and decided to double down on targeted events as a recruiting channel. Other than meeting high quality potential candidates, Jon and Aaron feel that the fireside chat gave them an opportunity to build stronger employer brand among the right audience, as well as quickly refining their pitches to different target candidate groups. Unlearn and Nettrons will continue working together as Unlearn grows its team.

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