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NH Startup Profile: Awato
Published Tuesday, August 30, 2016

From left: Eben Palazzolo, lead front end developer; co-founders Tyler C. Hurst and Matthew Guruge; and Jeremie Clark, lead back end developer.

Comedian Paula Poundstone joked there’s a reason adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up. They’re looking for ideas.

Figuring out the next career move can be daunting whether you’re graduating from college or looking to move on after years with the same company.

Matthew Guruge quickly figured out what he wanted to be: an entrepreneur. Only two years out of college, Guruge co-founded Awato, a software startup aimed at helping others figure out what they want to do for a living.

Awato uses a relational database that asks users contextual questions related to their interests and hobbies, personality and mental inclinations.

The system then breaks down users’ answers and asks about the motivations and value sets behind their responses. Users can select from thousands of choices for each category, which leads to a “more complex match,” according to Guruge, who co-founded the Manchester company with Tyler Hurst.

Think about it as Match.com for your career but without the awkward messages. “Standard tests typically assume that ‘if X, then Y.’ But people aren’t that simple,” says Guruge. “Our ultimate goal is to connect people with the market. We find out what people love, what they’re good at and what people will pay them to do – and then help land them in the middle.”   

Awato raised $50,000 prior to launch, both from personal and outside investment. Earlier this year, it placed second in the Tory C. Marrandos Entrepreneurial Challenge held by the Center for Women’s Business Advancement at Southern NH University in Manchester.

After developing its platform, Awato enlisted companies and recruiting firms to beta test the model, with a goal to test with 2,000 people. Guruge says the benefit of the beta test is seeing how well Awato’s questions match real employees’ actual careers.

“We want to drill down our analytics and test different questions to see which work best,” says Guruge. “We want to learn about people’s answers so we can ask the perfect questions.”

Awato, which has four employees, plans to partner with career service departments at colleges to provide data-driven career advisement that will allow college advisors to spend more time with students on resume development. Guruge adds that since Awato includes assessment of tangential skills, it can help create customized development paths for liberal arts students, who often have less directly applicable majors.

The company is negotiating contracts with several NH schools to implement its platform. Colleges pay an initial cost of $5 per student annually, with a lesser fee for online students.

Guruge says that Awato’s beta test will run through January 2017, with “intense tweaking of the system” occurring until then.

By next summer, Guruge aims to raise between $75,000 and $150,000 and hire an additional developer and content coordinator.

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