Work of the Future

Ultranauts

Unlocking the potential of autistic talent by proving the value of neurodiversity

Team Lead

Rajesh Anandan

Basic Information

Our Solution

Ultranauts

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Our tagline:

ULTRA Testing is an IT startup unlocking the potential of autistic talent by proving that neurodiversity is a competitive advantage.

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Our pitch:

There are 4M American adults on the autism spectrum today and another 50K young autistic adults reach working age every year, many of whom have abilities that are in need across a wide range of industries. And yet, 85% of this talent pool are unemployed or underemployed due to workplace norms that prevent autistic talent from getting and keeping a job.

Founded in 2013 by two MIT engineers, ULTRA Testing is an onshore software & data quality assurance (QA) startup on a mission to prove that neurodiversity, including autism, can be a competitive advantage in business.

To date, we’ve successfully built a fully remote, neurodiverse team with colleagues in 19 states across the U.S., 75% of whom are on the autism spectrum. We’ve grown revenue by over 50% annually and maintained a Net Promoter Score of over 90%, with clients representing a wide range of F500 enterprises, cutting-edge media and technology companies, and top-tier digital agencies and consulting firms. When benchmarked, we have delivered increases in quality of over 50% vs other QA vendors.

To get here, we’ve redesigned every aspect of the modern workplace and developed a suite of tools and processes that can serve as a replicable and scalable blueprint for any team. This blueprint leverages readily available technologies and includes targeted applicant sourcing modelled after community outreach, data-driven candidate screening that doesn’t rely on resumes or interviews, transparent management practices that promote continuous learning and feedback, and universal workplace norms that democratize knowledge and embrace diversity in all its forms.

During our first five years, we successfully built a competitive, high-growth business by recruiting, training and managing a neurodiverse team with no previous quality assurance (QA) experience, capable of outperforming established competitors with seasoned QA teams.

We also effectively addressed many of the workplace norms that prevent autistic talent (and many other types of diverse talent) from getting and keeping a job.

To do so, we developed a blueprint for building neurodiverse teams which includes targeted outreach on social media to source applicants not actively seeking employment, remote skills assessments and job simulations for screening candidates who are geographically dispersed, online polling and customizable bots for measuring wellbeing of a team susceptible to multiple stress triggers, and a digital repository of all the company’s processes and norms accessible to everyone including those unlikely to use informal channels to seek answers. These are not meant to be “accommodations” for individuals on the spectrum. Instead, they aim to eliminate the need for individual accommodations through new, universal workplace norms that work for every type of individual.

Over the next five years, we hope to become widely regarded as the best quality services company in the U.S. and the largest employer of autistic individuals nationwide. More importantly, we aim to leverage our commercial success to refine and open-source our blueprint, and to compel and equip employers inside and outside our industry to embrace neurodiversity (and diversity in all its forms) as a critical component of their business strategy.


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Watch our elevator pitch:

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Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

New York, NY, USA
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The dimensions of the Challenge our solution addresses:

  • Upskilling, Reskilling, and Job Matching
  • Human + Machine
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If you selected other, please explain the dimension of the Challenge your solution addresses here:

N/A

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About Your Solution

What makes our solution innovative:

There are many fantastic initiatives focused on employing autistic individuals. ULTRA’s approach is distinct in two ways:

1. No other initiative allows remote work due to misperceptions that autistic talent can only be managed onsite. ULTRA is a fully remote company, allowing us to employ a large segment of the population who are unable to commute or uncomfortable working in an office.

2. Many other initiatives have focused on creating “accommodations” for autistic individuals which reinforce negative perceptions and limit widespread adoption. ULTRA is redesigning the workplace to remove the need for individual accommodations while improving overall team performance.

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How technology is integral to our solution:

As a remote company employing a diverse team, we have leveraged technology to create a highly engaged virtual community (less than 15% of staff report that they feel lonely at work, vs 40% for US workers), and develop tools and norms to ensure colleagues get to know each other and work effectively together - e.g. the BioDex, a “user manual” for each colleague on how to best work with them, Smilecorp.bot, a daily poll that measures team wellbeing; a Cafeteria channel where colleagues can take a break from work and hangout virtually.

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Our solution goals over the next 12 months:

At ULTRA, we measure the company’s success using a Dashboard which is updated monthly and quarterly and shared with the full team. The Dashboard consists of 34 KPIs, which include performance/skills development metrics such as # of colleagues trained in a specialized service (# of team members upskilled) and engagement & wellbeing metrics such as team strengths score (% of team who feel their strengths are understood and valued).

During the next year, our top two goals are:

1. Equip and empower the team to learn and excel

2. Position the company for scale-up.

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Our vision over the next three to five years to grow and scale our solution to affect the lives of more people:

Over the next five years, we hope to become widely regarded as the best quality services company in the U.S. and the largest employer of autistic individuals nationwide. More importantly, we aim to leverage our commercial success to refine and open-source our blueprint, and to compel and equip employers inside and outside our industry to embrace neurodiversity (and diversity in all its forms) as a critical component of their business strategy.

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http://ultratesting.us/

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http://differentbetter.us/

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Our promotional video:

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https://www.inc.com/kimberly-weisul/this-company-invented-genius-hr-hack-remote-workers-anyone.html

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The key characteristics of the populations who will benefit from our solution in the next 12 months:

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Lower
  • Middle
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The regions where we will be operating in the next 12 months:

  • US and Canada
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The countries where we currently operate:

  • United States
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Where we plan to expand in the next 12 months:

  • United States
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How we will reach and retain our customers or beneficiaries:

We do not view autistic individuals as “beneficiaries”, rather as highly capable talent. Our talent strategy includes targeted outreach on social media to source applicants not actively seeking employment, remote skills assessments and job simulations for screening candidates who are geographically dispersed, and online polling and customizable bots for measuring wellbeing of a team susceptible to multiple stress triggers. These are not meant to be “accommodations” for individuals on the spectrum. Instead, they aim to eliminate the need for individual accommodations through new, universal workplace norms that work for every type of individual.

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How many people we are currently serving with our solution:

ULTRA currently employs over 50 professionals, 75% of whom are on the autism spectrum. We do not view autistic individuals as “beneficiaries”, rather as highly capable talent.

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How many people we will be serving with our solution in the 12 months and the next 3 years:

In 12 months, we expect to be employing 80 people, with 75% on the autism spectrum. In 3 years, we expect to be employing 250 people, with 75% on the autism spectrum. The majority of our employees will join the company without previous work experience in quality assurance, but within two years, they will have gained the skills and competencies needed to be employable in other firms. The majority of our clients, including a wide range of Fortune 500 enterprises, will have adopted some of the tools we’ve developed (e.g. BioDex), potentially impacting hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide.

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About Your Team

How our solution team is organized:

For-Profit

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Explaining our organization:

N/A

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How many people work on our solution team:

20+

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How many years we have been working on our solution:

5-10 years

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The skills our solution team has that will enable us to attract the different resources needed to succeed and make an impact:

ULTRA was founded by two engineers who were roommates at MIT and had pursued very different paths - one as a growth strategist and social entrepreneur having worked at Bain and UNICEF, the other as a serial entrepreneur and technologist having worked in several startups. The other members of ULTRA’s leadership team include a veteran quality engineer who has led world-class QA teams and a seasoned team builder who has scaled up geographically distributed teams.

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Our revenue model:

ULTRA is a private for-benefit company that generates revenue by providing quality services to enterprise clients.

The company is currently profitability, and are on track to grow revenues by over 50% for the 3rd consecutive year this year.

Our future success depends on competing and winning in the $50 billion quality services industry (spanning quality assurance of software, data and digital experiences), which we are already doing - e.g. ULTRA is already competing and winning against established competitors - e.g. we outperformed an incumbent IBM team performing accessibility testing for a Fortune 100 client and replaced IBM as the client’s accessibility partner;  we beat out a CapGemini team to win an API testing automation engagement for a commercial insurance client despite CapGemini’s extensive industry experience.

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Partnership Potential

Why we are applying to Solve:

In order to achieve ULTRA’s mission, we will need to not only compete and win in our industry, but also convince and equip other employers inside and outside our industry, especially startups, SMEs and any company without deep pockets, that neurodiversity is a competitive advantage (which they can leverage to strengthen their own teams).

To do so, we’ll need to open source our tools and processes to any company can embrace neurodiversity without requiring significant upfront investments. Solve could help us partner with researchers to refine and publish our tools, and create visibility among employers to drive adoption.

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The key barriers for our solution:

We have developed a blueprint for building neurodiverse teams which effectively addresses many of the workplace norms that prevent autistic talent (and many other types of diverse talent) from getting and keeping a job. As a lean startup, we don’t have the resources to conduct in-depth research to refine and publish our tools and learnings (which Solve partners could help with) or to promote and market our approach (which a Solve award could help with).

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The types of connections and partnerships we would be most interested in if we became Solvers:

  • Technology Mentorship
  • Connections to the MIT campus
  • Impact Measurement Validation and Support
  • Media Visibility and Exposure
  • Debt/Equity Funding
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Solution Team

 
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