An AI Start-Up Boomed, but Now It Faces a Slowing Economy and New Rules

Cutting costs to shorten the company’s timeline for profitability, he said, was essential to appease investors and possibly sell shares to the public in a few years. “We have to be aligned with what the public markets want,” Mr. Garg said.

Eightfold, Mr. Garg insisted, still has a bright future, with good customers and plenty of money in the bank. By reducing expenses, the payroll cuts, Mr. Garg said, “bought us time and freedom” to build a business that is both sizable and profitable.

Though more slowly, Eightfold is still growing. New customers include Morgan Stanley, Starbucks, Chevron and Bayer, and more than 100 companies use Eightfold’s software. That, Mr. Garg said, “gives me confidence this technology can work and is working.”

Eightfold has set up an ethics council of outside advisers “to make sure we are putting enough safeguards in place in our company,” Mr. Garg said.

Eightfold, he said, supports regulation like the notification and auditing requirements in the New York City law, as long as it is flexible enough to accommodate fast-changing technology. And while his company’s software winnows candidates, Mr. Garg emphasizes that it is meant to be a helper. A human should decide.

Still, doubts persist. More data alone does not guarantee better results, A.I. experts say. Past bias needs to be scrubbed out. There are real challenges with measuring more subjective attributes like “interpersonal skills,” “presentation skills” and “can work under pressure,” or with measuring what skills and past experience actually determine success in a job.

Great care, they say, needs to be taken in the murky detail work of data collection, data cleaning and data curation. If not, the A.I. will founder.


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