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How We Became Newton Software: The Genesis

Newton circa 2005
Newton circa 2005

Recently, I received a request from an industry analyst to outline our history. Unknowingly, she made a joke about how it shouldn’t take too long to put something together because we just started the company in January 2009. Little did she know. But, how would she know? No one here has really sat down and tried to chronicle the genesis of Newton. Frankly, we have been a little busy. There is, in fact, quite a bit of history though – almost 5 years. So, over the past week or so, I have been bugging our product managers, Steve and John, for their best recollections and even found some old screen shots. I tried to turn nearly 5 years of history into less than 2 pages of text – a long blog post. So, here it goes.

Newton is the brainchild of former recruitment outsourcers (that’s us) that began developing the product in 2004 after becoming frustrated with existing commercial recruiting technology. Having run corporate recruiting programs for nearly 10 years prior with paper resumes, email, spreadsheets and legacy software, we wanted to leverage the benefits of internet technology to help us provide a better service to our clients: we wanted something that would make rolling out, ramping up, managing, and improving hiring programs easier for us; we wanted something that offered a more collaborative recruiting experience for all users; and we needed something that was simple and easy-to-use for all users. After demoing a lot of recruiting products and even trying some, they all fell short in at least one area or another and ultimately didn’t meet our needs. We realized that they would have to build this system if we were truly serious about providing better recruiting services.

So, we designed Newton to address two areas where we thought the existing recruiting technology in the marketplace fell short. One, it needed to help people make hires so easily that our client users would actually want to use our recruiting system. We wanted to give our customers a login, conduct a short walk-through and have the user start contributing to the process immediately – no hassles.

Secondly, like many other recruiting systems, Newton also needed robust reporting capabilities, but we wanted it to be able to surface and report information in real time, so we could help companies continuously improve hiring programs on the fly. We knew if we solved the first major problem of most recruiting systems, user adoption, we could build a real-time reporting platform at some point that would actually have useful data in it (since most users preferred Newton over traditional resources, like email). Over the years, we focused on refining Newton’s usability and workflow to address ease of use eventually deploying it to users in mid-2005.

By early 2006, Newton was the recruiting platform for one of the country’s largest recruiting programs with hundreds of concurrent jobs, thousands of users and tens of thousands of active applicants. Newton had quickly become mission critical to dozens of companies, which gave our product team the unique advantage of being able to test and tune our application in complex, high-volume, and demanding commercial environments. With the addition of a full-time development team and a couple of product managers, Newton evolved even faster and became even more popular.

In 2007, still coupled with services offered by our parent company’s recruitment outsourcing division, we moved Newton to the Adobe Flex platform – making Newton the first rich internet application for recruiting. This move accelerated development cycles and improved performance and usability. By the end of the year, Newton was deployed to users at some of the largest technology companies in the world, like Dell and Microsoft, often supplementing legacy applicant tracking systems.

Formal inquiries to buy Newton as a standalone product started to increase in by early 2008. Many companies began to feel the pinch of the retracting economy and were seeking ways to bring recruiting in-house. As the year wore on, more and more companies were asking to use Newton to run their recruiting programs. With the writing on the wall, Newton’s parent company, prepared to launch Newton Software, despite the already crowded applicant tracking marketplace, creating a separate company to manage the day-today business operations and to take the product to new markets.

Newton Software was officially launched on January 5th 2009. As the first product offered by this newly formed, autonomous company, Newton, our first product, had the advantage of having been tested, and refined in real-world recruiting situations since late 2004. Unlike most start-ups, we had a mature product to start with, something customers could buy, and a product that was proven. We will be the first to admit that starting a company that offers hiring software during a recession was at first daunting. But, Newton was greeted kindly by industry analysts and customers alike because of its innovative, process driven, easy-to-use approach to an old problem. And we have been steadily growing our customer base since our inception.

This is nowhere close to the end.

Check out our background page to see more screenshots of the evolution of Newton.

About Andy Chan