Building a business by leveraging the talents of autistic people

I recently learned about an entrepreneur with a very clever business model: Thorkil Sonne, founder of Danish software testing company Specialisterne.  The 55-person firm’s clients include CSC, Microsoft, and Oracle.

Specialisterne claims to be the world’s first company focused on leveraging the unique talents of people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  Sonne started the company in large part to ensure that people with ASD—including his own son—would have employment opportunities.  ASD, the most common form of autism, affects close to 1% of the population, but only 10% of ASD adults obtain any form of employment.

Software testing is a repetitive role which requires high attention to detail, and is an excellent fit for the typical ASD personality. 75% of Specialisterne’s testers have Asperger syndrome or a form of ASD.  Sonne estimates that 1% of all the tasks executed in a given large company are suitable for autistic workers.

What I particularly like about this is that Sonne identified a community of talent almost unused by the labor market, and has built a successful firm on that insight.  From the point of view of both profit and of social welfare, he has built a powerful model. He is now expanding internationally.