Andrew: Hey, there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew, Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. One of the best lessons that I learned from my interviews, actually from a guy named Noah Kagan, he said, I hire great people because unlike most people, what I do is I get them to do the job.
He said, always ask applicants to do a little bit of your job and a little bit of the job that they’d be doing for you as a way of gauging whether there are any good. And so I do that using forms. And then you have to kind of keep track of all the responses. You have to go through them. It’s, it’s, it’s a process to create it.
It’s processed to manage it, but it works well. Joining me as an entrepreneur, Almer Mo lad, he is the founder of Vervoe. He said, you know what? This is the way to do it. If you want to hire people, don’t just base it on their resumes. Don’t spend endless time trying to figure out if they could do the job, have them do the job, have them do an audition.
And when I first heard this, Omar, I thought this was brilliant, but I missed so much of what you do until you and I, I even use the software until you and I talked. I didn’t realize how much of it you did anyway. Company’s doing well. I invited him here to talk about how he came up with this idea, how he got his first customers, how he coded it up, how he kept growing it, and we could do it.
Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first is HostGator for hosting websites. The second, if you’re sending out email, I want you to know about send in blue, the email marketing company of America to have here.
Omer: Hey, Andrew, excited to be here.
Andrew: What’s your revenue right now? What can you tell me about how big the business is?
Omer: Yeah. So we don’t disclose revenue. That’s not in our inches. What I can tell you that we’re about to rise, um, a fairly big series a and so that should give most people in the tech ecosystem, a fairly good understanding of where we’re up to in our evolution.
Andrew: And the funding now has come from where.
Omer: Findings come from, first angel then venture. And we also have a strategic investor, an Australian talent marketplace called seek.
Andrew: you said there are a variety of influences. One of them on the creation of the company, one of them is an article by Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress. What was the article about, how did it influence you?
Omer: yeah. So there’s a couple things, uh, in addition to our own journey. So David, my co-founder read an article about. How, how they hire it automatic and that they do auditions. And so then that means bringing someone in to spend a week, um, and that’s like a wonderful way to figure out, not just someone going to be competent, but also how, how that person get along with the team.
What impact will they have? We love that. But, um, the other thing is David and I, we, we got involved in a film. We invested in a film and actually came to LA to sit on set. One of the most fascinating experiences out there that had Cloris Leachman, that’s called DCIS happening in Cloris Leachman who died recently, sadly was one of the main stars of the film.
And, um, and what we realized with the movie industry is that like, they’ve really nailed this. I do casting bio audition, so it doesn’t really matter. You know what move you did previously, and maybe you’re great for movie age, but not suitable for, for movie B. And, you know, we took that, we looked at sort of what Automatic’s doing.
And we basically said, okay, well, why not use technology to create that authentical addition process in a really efficient and scalable way for, for every job for hiring, you know, why just the movie industry, why not? And instead of the week long coming to my office, why not do it in 30 minutes online?
Andrew: Did you experience this problem yourself? I was looking at your background, I think just before this, you were working for the national Australia bank. It doesn’t seem like you had this issue personally. Did you?
Omer: Yeah, I Def I definitely. So it’s funny. It’s funny. So I grew up in, I grew up in Tel Aviv and. Um, I came from a middle class, uh, you know, background. I’m not going to sort of claim to be, um, really disadvantaged. Um, and I served in the military and I worked at a couple of cool startups. I went to a really good school.
I had what would be conceited in Israel, a good resume. And then I moved to Melbourne and I applied to a hundred jobs, including get an interview anywhere. Um, and, and it, it wasn’t in my case because of the color of my skin or my agenda, but it was because I didn’t have a degree and no one could pronounce my name.
And I was this guy from the middle East, and people just didn’t know what to do with that. And I kind of went from like good resume to bad resume in an instant overnight. It really frustrated me. Um, and so then I kind of did it like the long way, and I went and got a law degree and. I got myself into the corporate world and it’s just really bird made it, you know, why can’t they just give me a chance?
Why can’t they see my potential more than I’ve got more to offer than sort of just what’s written on paper. Um, and, and so, you know, that sensation, you know, a lot of people have experienced that millions and, and in ways that are harsh. And I have, um, and then later on, um, and this is kind of something that’s common to both David and I, we were running big teams and we saw that, uh, the, the sort of top performers in that teams, you couldn’t pick them necessarily out of a lineup.
They’re not the ones that have the grades you’d expect or work that the companies you’d expect. But they have a lot of common traits. It curious that conscientious, um, they apply them. So, you know, they develop mastering different areas and it just became obvious that, you know, there’s this big disconnect between, uh, how companies make decisions and what people have to all find.
It’s really kind of, the architecture is really, um, it’s five it’s privilege, uh, and we want to do it, something about it. And we drew inspiration from the places that I mentioned earlier on, and that’s sort of the foundation for our company.
Andrew: you know what, it’s not just privilege. It’s also, there are some people who are really good at doing interviews and there’s some people who are great at doing the job. And for some reason, being evaluated, freezes them up and they just can’t perform in that show you how, how great I am, uh, mode. And I’ve noticed that before, and I’ve had these like fantasies that somebody will become an agent for employees, you know, for that period where you’re going in and getting the job, let somebody else represent you because some people could do the job.
Other other people can, can promote it. You mentioned him by the way, the army, speaking of experience that you can’t really put down on paper, you told our producer about some pretty interesting experiences in leadership in the army. Like one time you were up five days in a row, one time you had, as it like a kid in your twenties, you had to manage 40 soldiers.
Can you talk a little bit about what the experience was like and what you learned.
Omer: Sure. So I served, uh, in the, uh, in the military in Israel. Which is mandatory. And, um, and I, I was in an office, so I was the latest ship, uh, took two years to get to that point, a lot of training and development. And, and then I led a platoon in the armed forces, which basically means tanks. Um, and I was 20.
And if you think of most people at the age of 21, what the hell do you know when you’re 20 nothing? Uh, you go through intense training and now you’re responsible for lives and people. And a lot of them are, you know, they don’t really want to be there and they’re exhausted and they’re homesick. Um, and they’re under physical and mental duress, but you’ve got to get them to do stuff and.
So it kind of forces you to really think about, well, okay. You can’t just like barcode orders, the people that’s going to wear see it after about 30 minutes. So how do you sort of really connect with people and get people to sort of Mo motivate people to go in the same direction and achieve something together and feel like they’re part of something.
So I spent a lot of time sort of thinking about that. Um, I visited most of my soldiers on the weekend at their home, at their family home to learn about their families and their circumstances. Um, and, and so that, that was kind of for me a game changer, because people then realize that, yeah. Okay. Like maybe this is a shitty situation, but this guy cares about me even though he’s a hot ass.
Uh, and, and so that, that was something, um, yeah, I, I did once go through a horrible stretch of. Sleep deprivation, which was just unfortunate circumstance. I wasn’t like this. Wasn’t like some sort of enemy torture. It was just, we were in a training stretch and we were short-staffed and I kind of, you know, I, I, I was very, I took my role seriously, maybe too seriously.
Um, but I sort of started to feel the, the effects of, um, prolonged lack of sleep, um, which is, I, I really try not to do that anymore. Um, more than one
Andrew: to you?
Omer: you start, um, having mood swings, you start, you lose memory, um, and you, you just really like blank out. Um, and, and at one point, like I fell asleep stat laying on a pole in the middle of, uh, someone was giving a talk and it just gets really hard to look, the body starts shutting down on you.
Um, and, and I, I really like to anyone listening out there, who’s a founder. Like, this is not some sort of like. Glorifying. Hostily like, it’s just unhealthy. So I’m not, not trying to recommend this in any way, shape or form, but what, what I took out of the military is the, um, any context that I’m in now, any situation that I’m in now is in comparison, easy and comfortable.
So I have something to draw on where, you know, the, the pressure was more extreme. The people were more diverse and so on rather can always look back and say, okay, well, I’ve been in these situations as late, at least as challenging, um, as the front and I dug deep and I found something. So, so, so let’s put things in, in, in perspective.
Um, and that, and that’s a really helpful and people don’t, I think. In the corporate world companies don’t really know what to do with military experience, but if you’re looking at a job candidate who’s been in the military, well, they’ve been through a lot. Chances are, they’ve been through a lot and they have something to offer.
Um, in, in what’s known unfairly as the kind of soft skills, be it resilience, tenacity, um, coachability, and that’s something that’s really helped me throughout my career. A lot.
Andrew: All right. So you decided there’s an idea here. The audition it’s gotta be faster and it has to be spread out to more industries. What’s the first step you took to build it.
Omer: Funnily enough. Built it. Um, which sounds crazy because in hindsight, we probably should have done a lot more research, but had we done a lot more research and being a lot more sensible, we wouldn’t have, um, maybe we wouldn’t have even, it would have been too sobering and maybe we would never be here. So you have to be a little bit insane and naive.
At the same time we built a prototype, it was crap. And we got a few companies to use it and they used it and they were like, we liked the problem, but it’s crap. Can you make it better? Like literally we kind of stumbled out way through, through
Andrew: the craft version?
Omer: So, so we built something that. Um, it’s solved a part like it actually did testing, which was good.
That part wasn’t crap, but the onboarding was horrible. So you couldn’t understand on your own what you’re supposed to do. And we kind of thought, Oh, there are all these companies like Atlassian where they don’t have a sales team and people just like, get it and use it. And why don’t we do that? But there’s a lot more to it to sort of building something that’s sort of an I and new way of doing things.
And they intuitive to use and understand that is not straightforward. That took us quite a while. So I think we were naive in that respect, in that in the early days.
Andrew: let me pause on that. So I imagine the first version was like a form editor, right? Kind of like, um, uh, survey monkey type of thing
Omer: Yeah. You’re not, you’re not wrong. So, so it was like, there was no machine learning.
Andrew: no machine learning.
Omer: Exactly. So there was no data, no machine. And it was basically like question and answer. It was a little bit more than a form, but basically yes, like it was answer these questions question. Um, and then the, the hire other sort of recruiter or hiring manager on the other side would review the responses and we started adding more formats.
That was it.
Andrew: And some way of keeping track of where someone is in the system. So they filled out this form as a way of testing to see if they know what they’re talking about. Then it.
gets passed onto someone else who then starts to screen. And then the screening process was also built in the first version of Vervoe.
Omer: In fact, you mentioned, uh, Kanban. So as the second iteration, we added Kanban, which. Sounded, we felt like we were geniuses at the time, but in hindsight caused a lot of problems because then people thought we were an applicant tracking system and, um, and sort of created feature crepes. So we needed to build all these other things.
And we, we didn’t want to, we just wanted to focus on testing, which we’ve now gone back to. Um, but, but you’re right. We built essentially kind of like a mini system, a Trello board, um, that allows you to test people at different stages and then move them along the funnel. Um, and then later on what we did was we narrowed the focus and went a lot deeper into testing unless the other stages of hiring for other systems to do, because that’s just not core business.
Andrew: Can you integrate back with like a workable or something?
Omer: Yeah. So now we integrate with most applicant tracking systems and, um, constantly adding new ones, uh, just the question of engineering time, but we’re agnostic about. Exactly. We prefer that customers use an ATS, um, you know, greenhouse or in the enterprise. It will be a, you know, a smart recruiters or a success sexism.
And we prefer that because then they don’t ask us to do those things and they
Andrew: what’s so hard about it? It feels like those things are easy to ski. It’s basically a Kanban board, which multiple people can, um, can, can collaborate on. What’s the problem with that?
Omer: Yeah. So as, as companies get bigger, they have more compliance requirements, more wrinkled keeping requirements. It acts as a system of record. I want to do. Uh, reference checks and background checks and onboarding and eligibility criteria and chat bot and all these kinds of extra things that they seem small.
But trust me, they take a lot of time to develop well. Um, they produce reporting and, and really that’s like kind of it’s coring hiring, but it’s not necessarily core in what we consider to be the hardest problem in selection, which is predicting job performance. Right? And so for us, what we want to focus on these proficiency, can you do the job?
And then all these other kind of like, um, additional reference points or kind of like administration of the hiring process that is not, um, you know, that’s another business. That’s not something that we want to focus on and, and it is, it does get, it does become a lot of work to build out those things.
Andrew: okay. So I get what the first version was like, how did you get those first users who told you were confused by this, but We you’re addressing a problem. We care about
Omer: We got them in the way that I imagine a lot of founders, um, get their first users. We sort of like through our network, through begging and scrapping and like calling people, we had a few, we started to get like, we had very bad SEO, but we had, despite not investing in SEO, we actually like people found us on Google, which we thought was magic.
We thought it was sorcery that you can put a website on the internet and just someone in like Texas finds you and registers. So we started like basically asking everyone to have a conversation and understand that 50% of the time they agreed. And I said, let me tell you why this is kind of shit, but actually really interesting.
I’ve been looking for something like this and, and we, and we thought that was. Like every conversation like that blew our minds. Um, and so we, we, so we started to learn really, really quickly from PayPal. So what we realized that gave us a lot of confidence, because we realized we’re solving the right problem.
We’re just like, we have a user experience. Issue is fine, but that you can solve, but we knew there was a market. And, and so that’s like very motivating that you understand you’re on the right track, but you have to make it easier for people
Andrew: Okay. You know what, let me take a moment to talk about my first sponsor and then I want to come back and see, how did you, how did you know what to do to make it easier? But before, you know, before I do both of those verbal, the name where’d that come from,
Omer: It means the real you, we don’t totally, we’ve got it. We hired a new head of sales and he, and he actually said to me, one of the first thing he said to me was, that’s amazing. It’s the really wanting him to talk about that. Um, it, it means the real you it’s in Latin, in Latin. Um, it’s, it’s, uh, we liked the sound of it.
It means something that’s kind of really resonates with us. That’s what we’re doing was showing companies the real you, and it just stuck with us. And, and that’s what we went with.
Andrew: The one I liked the name. I like everything. It means the one problem is like, I can imagine a lot of people would drop the E at the end of the name when they’re typing it in and then end up on, I don’t know what this website is for some other Vervoe.
Omer: Well, I’ll let out performance marketers figure out how to get all that traffic through. Ask that anyway.
Andrew: I’m looking at your face and I feel like, Oh, we’ve got such good will here. And now I just insulted the name with
Omer: No, not at all. Yeah.
Andrew: How does it, um, since we’re, since I didn’t insult you yet, how does a guy from Israel have such an Australian accent?
Omer: So I was fortunate enough. My, my grandmother on my mother’s side grew up, uh, you know, childhood childhood. You spent a childhood easing in Australia, in Melbourne, and then, uh, made Alia, went to Israel, ma ma and, and met my, my, um, like grandfather. Um, and we all grew up in Israel, but we had Australian impossible it’s through inheritance, which is just like, if you’re ever going to sort of get lucky, that’s a really great way to get lucky to get an Australian possible.
Um, and when I was young, When I was four, my parents, we all moved here and leave for what was going to be three years and turned into seven. So I’m what you call elementary school. And in Australia we call primary school, but that’s sort of like two grade six I did in Australia. And so that’s the only English.
I know the, sort of the, uh, the love it, or hate it. The Ozzie, the crocodile Dundee of the accident.
Andrew: I love it when I was in, I went to NYU and then I would see people who came in from the UK and Australia in Manhattan with their fricking accent. Nobody paid attention to me from Queens, with my New York stylist speaking that came from there, anything they said people would stop and pay attention to it.
Boy, did I want one of those accents? All right. But I got mine. I’m going to sell it. Using my accent service called send in blue or Mary I’m guessing you don’t know what they are, right. You don’t, I’m about to introduce you to them. What they do is email marketing. So you might say the same thing that I said when I first heard about them, who needs another email marketing company.
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It’s like, okay. As soon as I talk about how price is too expensive, even if you’re adding email addresses that you’re never mailing because you just need them in the system, right. To keep track of your past customers, business people go, Oh, that is a problem I’ve had. So that’s what I’ve been talking up.
The services send in blue. If, if you’ve never heard of them, go look them up. These guys have raised over $190 million, so they’ve got good backing. They’ve got great reputation and they’re fantastic service. I highly recommend you go to fact, if you want to use it for free go to this URL, send in blue.com/mixergy, send in blue.com/mixergy.
And if you have even the slightest problem with them, my email address is Andrew at Mixergy. Let me know I’m telling you, this is an eye-opener any marketer should know about sending blue. All right, let’s continue. Then. How what’s your, what was your process for understanding where people were confused with the first version of Vervoe and what to do to help them understand and how help them keep using the product?
Omer: So there are a couple of components to that. One is, um, we spent on talking to customers and my co-founder David, if he was here, he tell you that he’s not a fan of asking customers what the answer is. He just wants to understand, like what problem, what their goal is and what problem they’re trying to solve.
But it’s really, the onus is on us to innovate and to figure out a solution. And it’s not about either writing or copying what someone else has done. It’s figuring out what’s the behavior we want to drive. What’s the kind of optimal, w what does the power user look like with our product and how do we create a journey that makes it easy and encourages that that’s the first thing.
The second thing is, um, we realized that. No, because we’re creating a category, we’re doing something that’s new. Uh, maybe we need, you know, maybe we need a sales team. Maybe we need people, um, human beings to go and talk to customers, not just to sell, but to learn, to learn through the buyer journey. What.
What people are looking for. And maybe we haven’t discovered all the use cases of our products. Not maybe that was definitely true. And how do we sort of have those conversations that otherwise people wouldn’t have with us? And so we did both those things. We spend a lot of time on user experience and, and, and a lot of, a lot of it was trial and error.
It was building things really rapidly testing saying what’s not working where the drop-off points are and then fixing. And then we also started, uh, incorporating, we added a sales team and we, it wasn’t about forcing. It was, we still gave people a choice was up to them. Do you want discover the product on your own, through a free trial?
That’s fine. Do you want to talk to someone that’s also fine? We didn’t want to be like a closed shop. Most of our competitors, it’s a demo only you have to talk to sales. And so w we we’ve always had transparent pricing on the website. And we’ve always, we’ve always had sort of an open door in some format, free, free travel, free tier to allow people whether even if they’re a big, for a big company, uh, to discover the product, maybe they’re not ready to have a conversation.
So they’re the two main things that we did.
Andrew: Yeah, in the beginning. And I want to talk to you about the sales part, because I’ve been thinking about that ever since he told our producers just been in my head. But in the beginning before you had salespeople, was it you calling up your customers? Was it doing screen-sharing and saying, show me where you got stuck.
Tell me what you, what you’re trying to do. Was it, was there any kind of process to it?
Omer: Okay. Yeah. So it was myself, David, my co-founder and, um, our first hire Jen, um, who now leads our customer success team and she’s based in Dallas. Um, the three of us basically did all these and had these kinds of conversations. Um, and we did demos. We did kind of like customer development, uh, conversations.
And then when we realized that. It was time to build a sales team. Um, I found a guy who actually heard he mean to you. Don’t assess the podcasts. Um, sorry. I hope that’s not like the wrong thing to say on it,
Andrew: Jason Lemkin staying he’s fantastic. Yep.
Omer: Fantastic. So a guy called Mark Godley and he’s a sales professional. I heard him talk about sales in a way I hadn’t heard before.
Um, and I, I approached him called and I just said, listen, Mark. I like what you had to say. And we’re thinking about building a sales team. Can you help us out, you know, happy to have a conversation. And that’s exactly what, and he agreed and we had a conversation and a bunch of them, and he joined as an advisor and he helped us think through some of the fundamentals of what what’s involved.
How do you even think about building a sales team from, from zero when you don’t have a sales process? When you can’t even, you don’t know how to do sales comp, cause you don’t even know what, how much revenue?
Andrew: you can do for me, what you heard from him in the podcast, because I’m fascinated by this process. I think we all think we’re selling we’re internet first. Let’s sell online. It’s gotta be that, but you’re discovering that talking to customers, selling with a human being helps. How, how much money did you have to invest in this?
I’ve heard it takes a while. It’s a, it’s a process. It’s exciting.
Omer: Yeah, so, so just a few sort of preliminary Philips festival today, more than 50% of, um, the companies that product completely unassisted self service, not through sales. Okay. Now that’s an all 60% of the revenue. It’s often the smaller ones, but so we have kind of achieved that. Um, so it’s not necessarily binary, it’s not styled or not styled it’s it’s it’s you can have some buyers who buy.
Through a sales process, if they were a really big company or that need help, and then soundbites who, um, prefer to buy to buy on their own. So it’s not, it’s not binary. The second thing is an important question to ask is, um, ease value immediately obvious. So if you’re selling toaster ovens, the toaster oven makes bread.
We might make like a better toaster oven that Mike’s warm of bread, or it makes that’s instant value. But if you’re selling like a solution, a like a hovercraft, somebody has complete completely different way of thinking about seeing something that’s new Valley. My naughty instantly, obviously you need to talk through it.
You need to build a solution for people. You need to take them on a journey. And that suggests that you may need a combination of things including a sale. Now it tends of, um, the cost. And so there are two types of sales people. There are sort of. Renaissance salespeople. Very rare. These are people who can come in when there’s nothing and build, figure out what the sales process should look like.
And then there are every other sales person who expects to have a playbook and then can sell very well. Uh, based on that playbook, we needed the first time. And there’s a guy called Peter. Kazanjy used, wrote a book. You wrote a book, founder, founding sales, and he’s a big sort of advocate of, um, the founder has to do sales initially.
And when the founders work, how to sell you, bring on you, bring all the tapes. And there’s a lot of truth in that. And then, so when you hire salespeople, they’re expensive because they want to be paid a lot. They want commission, they also need systems, whether it’s HubSpot or Salesforce, if you you’ve got to figure out if, how you’re getting them leads, is it marketing inbound or is it outbound?
In which case you need to, you do cold calling an email and they, that costs and tools and data so-so. So what we did, we had no idea what is it? Inbound and outbound. So what we did was we ran a bunch of experiments, um, Wait, we basically, we’ve got an appointment setting agency for three or four months to see if that, that can work.
We did cold calling for a while. Um, we hired a rep here and a rep in the us and tried to figure out like, where are we getting better traction? We did. We do like a lot of different things with as much as we can, as much as we could, like the ability to kind of turn them on and off and figure out if they work until we developed a good understanding of who do we sell, what does that sort of sales process look like for Vervoe at the time?
And then build on that. Wasn’t easy, but we got there. Yeah.
Andrew: How far along were you before you started building this? With the product.
Omer: We had a bunch of recurring revenue. I dunno, maybe like 50,000 in ARR. So like, like a little bit something at a bar and a bunch of customers. We didn’t have Walmart at the time, but we had a few logos that we could talk to and we had, and we had, in hindsight, I’d say our positioning was mediocre. So we had like an okay sense of kind of the elevator pitch, but not great.
And, and that’s okay because the sales team helps develop that cause they testings when they talk to people and when they send emails, they test messages. So that’s, that was kind of always a caveat at the time. So we, we were early, but we, but we had enough conviction to know people made this, they’re going to use this now let’s see if we can get a lot of traction
Andrew: And so the book, the, the company that you hired to book meetings, that’s basically an SDR, right? Sales development rep, but outsourced, who are they?
Omer: pretty much.
Andrew: Who are they doing it with? Were they doing it with the people who tried your software and abandoned? Were they doing it with people who filled out a form?
Omer: No. I know what they do. What they do is they will buy a lease from ZoomInfo or in one of those kind of like, and, and, and they will do whatever we tell them. So if we say to them, we want companies with 2000 to 5,000 employees in these geographies, and we want, this is the buyer that we want head of talent acquisition, and we want whatever is it, that’s what they’ll do.
And then they’ll set up a combination of usually email and phone sequence. Um, but they have people who are very, very good at getting someone’s attention in 10 seconds and figuring out and they set appointments. That’s what I do. I it’s exactly. It’s like, it’s like a ramped up SDR as a service, essentially.
Andrew: it. Okay. And then you bring in salespeople, how’d you find the first salespeople?
Omer: We hired somebody in Australia who we advertised, like in the, in the normal way. And I applied, um, Mok, who I mentioned before, who came on a dare advisor, introduced us to some people he’d worked with. Um, and so, so that was another. So having like a really good kind of advisor in the tabs, we noted sale is a good way to avoid really expensive mistakes when you’re building a sales team.
I mean, now that I’ve done it and we’ve done it, I can do it again, but having never done it in enterprise sales for software, it’s good to have someone help you. Um, and then, and then that person it’s sort of just like rolled it snowballed from there. Okay.
Andrew: And the process I imagine a first is here’s a script that we think is going to work. Here’s an understanding of the software. Spend some time with each customer by researching them before you get on a call with them and then get on a call and go through this process and help us iterate the process. Is that essentially it?
Omer: Spot on that’s exactly right. So we had a hypothesis around the script. Um, we then started improving that and there were multiple scripts, depending on, is it a company that may has an efficiency problem where they’re trying to fill the thousands of people? Or is it someone, a company that has a low volume of highly skilled applicants, but wants to really predict performance?
Um, we then had sort of, so that we then learned how to do discovery. What, what is this? What’s like really good discovery and what do we need to learn? Um, once you’ve done discovery, who do you disqualify? Who do you qualify then? The next step is what’s a good demo. What’s a good product. Walk through at demo was like, Terrible and too much focus on features, not on benefits, all these kinds of things.
Like we said, we made all the kind of, you know, mistakes. And so we really good demo where people where their eyes light up and then pricing. So pricing is a whole other, that’s a sign. So, you know, what’s pro how do we price a line price to value. So, um, how do we price in a way that people feel like, you know, that when they pay more, they’re getting more value and what’s the market doing around us and do we want to be same or different?
Um, and then, and then the next kind of bit after that, as companies get bigger, you have the sort of post value styles, components like procurement, like getting through, which can be 75% of the work in a really big company. So once you’ve seen people have seen value, you have to get through legal InfoSec, you know, procurement, and that can be not to be underestimated.
Andrew: Wow. What’s the, what’s the feedback loop. How do you create a feedback loop? Where when someone finishes a call, someone finishes a demo, finishes any part of their process. They come back and help improve the process for next time.
Omer: Yeah. So what we did and do till this very day, and it’s kind of, I don’t know how efficient it is at scale, but it’s like really efficient in terms of speed. Um, we, we, we use Slack and in Slack, the sales team will post kind of a synopsis similar to what they put in the CRM, but they will put like a summary of, I just had this call.
This is what I learned. Um, these were the objections. This is what went well, what didn’t, um, and tag people from the product team and say, I got these things. I didn’t know the answer to, or here’s some feedback that of things that customers want. Um, and, and, and good sales reps. They don’t just like throw the ball kind of into the core of the product team and say, give me these things.
They know that constantly to everyone that they’ll go there might say this customer wanted these things, but that’s not core. They’ll sort of filter that and they’ll handle objections really well, but they’ll know which feedback is really valuable to give back to the product team. And our product team will that same day, like instantly digest that feedback.
That doesn’t mean they’re going to act on it, but they will, they will digest that feedback instantly and that all gets cataloged and captured. And so then we have a really strong and immediate understanding of what is the market saying. And then we have to decide, is that a product problem or is it a sales problem?
So like other sales reps making excuses, does I need to handle objections better? Or have we got a product gap and the senior people in the company get together and discuss those issues? Yeah.
Andrew: And then what’s, what’s the process for taking that and then feeding it back in, is it one person at the end of the day goes through the Slack or end of the week and then starts to organize the common findings and then brings it back? It is
Omer: So that, that is the role of the product manager. The product manager is responsible for the interface between the go to market side of the business, not just sales, by the way, customer success, as well as all the people who are talking to customers and product development, including product marketing, engineering, design, everything.
So the product manager is kind of the glue in the company that, uh, you know, he or she needs to digest all that feedback and then decide what to prioritize, what to ignore and so on.
Andrew: I’m assuming at the point that you started to do this, you’d already raised money. I’m looking at Crunchbase news. It says May, 2018, you raised 3.5 million. Is it
Omer: Yeah. We, we, we, we raised that round after that round. That’s when we, um, built the sales team, expanded product, hire data science and built our machine learning. That’s exactly right. That’s what gave us, you can’t really it’s. Well, I don’t want to say it’s impossible because startups do all sorts of crazy things, but like, um, it’s difficult.
To hire a sales, same without having capital. Maybe that capital can come from customers. If you’re like, you have really, really good traction, very early, and you’ve been able to do it without styles, but you know, you want yeah. Runway and you want capital. Do we have the harvest style thing? Because it takes time for them to the process to ramp.
You know, you’ve got to allow six months for an early sales team to really hit its stride. Um, and so for us, we were able to do that when we had some seed capital.
Andrew: Look at this. So some of the money came from Jessie. Hertzberg previous CEO of Etsy, Squarespace. How do you know
Omer: he was COO of SCN squares by a love Jessie’s great guy, new Yorker, like you, um, just one of those kind of like operators who just understands, found those and understands like, you know, um, I think he was the first person who used, who I heard use the term, found a therapy. Um, and we met Jesse through an introduction and actually it was unrelated to capital.
Um, it was just, uh, an introduction more about, can you get us into one of those companies? And then he just said, Hey, I really like what you’re doing. Can I, can I jump in on the rounds? And we were delighted to have to have him.
Andrew: Looks like one of the first things he did was he created a site called big soccer back in 2000. I had no idea.
Omer: I didn’t know
Andrew: them up just to get a sense of, yeah. Right. Um, all right. Let me talk about my second sponsor. And then I want to understand once you figured this out, what happened to the product to get it to where it is today?
Um, second sponsors, HostGator. What I like to ask Homer, my guests in the HostGator ad is if you had nothing, you’re just like, say straight out of the army, can’t get a job. But someone says here, here’s a website it’s hosted on HostGator. So, you know, it’s going to be hosted, well, create an idea, start a business.
What’s the business that.
you would create today. If you had nothing but a website, how would you get started? I’m really asking. Do you have like, let’s brainstorm here, what you would do? What would Omar, you have your intelligence, you have nothing but a website. What would you create to get yourself started? I have a few ideas of what I would do today, but what would you do.
Omer: aside from that.
Omer: My wife has this great idea where she wants to do science experiments with kids and basically help kids kind of get excited about science, about chemistry, about physics. Um, and, and, you know, her idea of that is like physically going around and like going into people’s houses. And, but I’m, as soon as I heard that, I thought, Oh, no, it’s gotta to be subscription is going to be an app is going to be like, it’s going to be global.
People are going to be able to do it online and, and you know, all over the world. So like, I dunno if you put me on the spot, right. The second, maybe I’d do that. And I’d love to do a business with my wife, for example.
Andrew: and what would it be? It would be to do testing, to do what with people to
Omer: Well, it would basically, it would teach kids science, but you know why that’s really fun and not, it doesn’t feel like, um, the traditional kind of learning, it feels more like they’re having a potty and doing experiments and blowing shit up and whatever.
Andrew: Great fricking idea. Now I would do exactly what you’re doing. Do it remote. Here’s why dude, my wife just signed up for Hulu. I’m looking. We should cancel HBO. Max, why do we need Hulu? HBO, max, Netflix and Amazon prime. Got an extra one. Let’s cancel One My kid signed up for, I forget which, which latest, Oh, it’s Epic signing up another 10 bucks, ABC mouse, another 10 bucks who cares.
I’m comparing it to what it costs to send, to get the private school. Right. And I’m comparing it to his intelligence is nothing to one, one session with a teacher would cost 10 times that, right? So of course you do it. What I’m trying to say is when it comes to subscriptions, when it comes to education, we have an open wallet, right?
Fairly open wallet. This is why it’s brilliant. And we all have had those teachers who could make the topic fun. Really interesting. I bet if you look around the country around the world and you say, you know what, every first grader should learn this science, these science lessons, let’s go find the best teacher at it.
Create video and create like these little things that the parents need to give the kids with the video. I let the kids go crazy with it. That’s the answer. That’s Oh, that’s freaking brilliant. I hope I hope no one steals that idea. Cause that’s such a good idea. You and your wife should cry. You’re going to ask me to edit that out.
Aren’t you? Cause such a good idea. It’s great. Science video, 10
Omer: thing I’ve
Andrew: a month.
Omer: One thing I’ve learned through company building is that we have no fear of people stealing ideas. Um, if, if more people do it, that’s great because that’ll prove that there’s a market. And there’s there cases where there’s like, first mover advantage is a big thing, but usually it’s not the first mover who wins.
It’s the best execution on who wins, execute out, whatever the right word is. You know what I mean? So like my, my fear is like, not executing. Well, my fear is not about being first or last, so, you know, definitely don’t edit it out, you know, I think that’s like, and you know what else? I think if you have a mission of, you know, every kid learning science, let’s say that that’s the mission.
Well then that’s your mission. You want every kid to learn science mission is not sell more software about science. So, so that
Andrew: like my mission to be both. Can it be both like every kid learns science from me. That’s not
Omer: I think, I think the sort of the vision can be like, we want to make these mainstream and we want to be the market leader, but I think, you know, monopolies at the end of the day, if they’re achieved, they end badly usually. So, so I would look at it and say, it’s a really big world, and I want everyone to learn science.
And if we can play a massive role in that, that’s already a 1,000 billion dollar company right there.
Andrew: all right. I love this fricking idea. There is a site, there’s a site that does something kind of like it. It’s called three to wonder, I think it costs 10 bucks a month and here’s why I bring this up. Basically they’re using Wistia videos to price gate. The videos show you a little bit the video then, then, because Wistia has the features built in.
They could charge after you watch a little bit of the videos, they have these PDFs that they attach. But what they’re doing is putting on a TV show. It’s a great TV show it’s definitely worth paying for, but it’s not what you’re talking about. The experience Mo I’m going a little too far into this ad for HostGator HostGator to not pay for this kind of talk.
But here Mo Williams, when the, when the Corona virus lockdowns first happened, he’s a writer, kids writer. He said every day, and I think one o’clock Pacific. Have your kids come with a piece of paper and these types of markers, and I will teach them how to draw something. So one day my kid do drew another day.
My kid made a, um, a board game. Uh, so on every day with household items, he was teaching my kid to create same thing with the science. All right, listen up people, whether it’s that idea or any other idea that you’ve got, you need a website to, you need to host your website. Right? The reason I recommend you go to HostGator is frankly, because they’re paying me, they’re a sponsor, but.
They’re also hosting my site and I’ve not had a single freaking problem with them. Have you been on my site in the last, what? Three, four. I don’t know how long they’ve been there. Let’s say in the last year and seen an error, has it taken too long? No, just fricking works. I’m not getting special treatment.
I’m paying for it, not paying as much as I did when I paid for their competitors. so here’s what you get liable service inexpensive, and it just fricking works. And lets you build your idea. Take your ideas over to HostGator. And if you use hostgator.com/mixergy as your onboarding URL, they will give you the lowest possible price they have for our already low prices.
The lowered even further and give you excellent service. hostgator.com/mixergy. All right, let’s talk about expanding now. You’ve got your sales people on, on there. The thing that blew my mind was. I went through Vervoe. I thought I understood what Vervoe did. I said, it’s basically a form. And you said, well, yeah, you can ask people, um, um, multiple choice questions.
You could have free form, text boxes for them to answer. You could add, have them do video, to respond to, to your aunt, to your question, you can have audio. And then you said you could do Excel. And I said, you mean like go to an Excel spreadsheet, type out the answer and upload, no, you said, no, we embed the spreadsheet in.
We embed all these other tools in, and then you said you don’t have to go through all this stuff. We have artificial intelligence, we have software that will go through the first pass of your, your candidates and then screen them out. And I said, that’s great for tax write for multiple choice. You said, no, even in the video, we will screen them out.
So to get from where you were before, which is basically, as you said earlier to me, a form to where you are today, which is the embeddable part, I get. But the computer analyzing and improving that’s that’s quite a road. Walk me through how you got there, how you improve the product.
Omer: so there’s two, two kind of dimensions. One is the. The format or the functionality that’s used to test people, which, um, influences how well you’re predicting job performance. And then the second is the kind of scalability, um, the automation. So how you do it for Watson, lots of people really quickly. And usually they’re at odds with each other, because if you want scalability through, like you mentioned, like a survey monkey, like a four multiple choice right or wrong, and you can get 10 million people to do that, but then you’re compromising on predictability because it’s very rudimentary, multiple choice.
Doesn’t tell you a lot about a person. And we wanted to, um, you know, allow our customers to have their cake and eat it too. That has the best of both worlds. So what we did was we collected a ton of data. Why we did that was we made it really, really easy and cheap, close to free, but not free for businesses to use our product.
And we got thousands of them. And basically what they did was they, um, they paid like a one-off price. And they could use the product up to a certain usage page. And we got thousands of companies and tens of thousands of hiring managers and recruiters to test people and grow responses. And that gave us a dataset and we learned, and we were able to understand what they were able to understand sort of the correlation between how candidates are doing things in the school, the digital equivalent of kind of one-sided sided mirror, um, people interacting in a room.
So you’re seeing how. So, and then we use that to develop machine learning models set up that go well beyond that, but that was the starting point. So the way that we automatically grade and it’s obviously evolved and improved over time, we have a data science team now, and we’ve been doing this role for a while.
Essentially what we do is there’s that the sort of ever-growing dataset at the macro level, um, then there is, um, a comparison of a candidate answer to a series of expected or suggested answers. Then the third thing is there is the preferences of each company. So we teach each client how to try and the models.
And when I say we teach the software, does all these, and it’s, it’s very quick, um, how to try and the models based on their preferences. So let’s take an example. Let’s say that Oracle. And snowflake are both hiring an enterprise sales person to big software companies and that, and there are a hundred applicants and they all do the same test.
Those hundred applicants will be ranked slightly differently for each of those companies. Why? Because they have different cultures, different operating rhythms. They care about different things. They’re not going to be ranked in reverse order. They’re still going to be like really good software salespeople, but Oracle might care more about diligence and snowflake might care more about spade or tenacity or, or, you know, snowflake has an outbound model.
So they value like outbound email writing ability and Oracle mind value, commercial negotiation, more,
Andrew: Can you walk me through how you built the system that does that. I see the end result and I’m in. Awe, can you walk me through it the way that you walked us through how you figured out the sales process in the early days, how do you get to this?
Omer: Yes. Well, I’m lucky to have it like a smart co-founder who spends all day and night on this. Um, so that I don’t have to, but essentially like a bunch of smart people analyze data, find patterns, and then they’d build models and they build models that learn. And that’s the key. And just putting put to one side, like the user experience of this and the ability to explain it in the way that I am now, uh, that took time that came later.
But the initial kind of the first, the first huge leap was understanding the data, understanding what is the significance of candidate behavior versus. How recruiters are grinding. So, so for example, looking at that, there are many, many, many data points, but I’ll just give you a few as an example, like typing speed, the order in which candidates are doing questions, how long they spend per question typos, all these kinds of things.
They’re not good or bad on their own, but all together. Plus many other factors that correlate to directionally a high or low score. And we were able to get that within a very small variance, so automatically to what a person would grade on their own. And then the rest of the Gabby’s bridge by the sort of training the model specifically for each company.
I mean, it’s that, that’s how data science works essentially.
Andrew: Is this something that you have to create from scratch for yourself? Or is there some external solution that allows you to add this? In the reason I ask is I keep hearing Mark Cuban talk about how this is the future, but he also says, whenever a company pitches him on it, he says, they’re going to spend so much money.
I don’t see how they’re going to succeed, because this is really hard. It’s the future. And it’s really hard. And most people will fail at it.
Omer: it is hard, but we did it. We did it ourselves. We did it all in house. We didn’t outsource any of it. Not in terms of systems, not in terms of people, we built it. It was hard. It costs money. We have a very serious, very credible product and a very serious team. And that is what, uh, one of the main things that differentiates us, um, I can’t really comment on sort of like.
Is this, you know, thinking of like the no code or low code world, is this something that’s eventually going to be productized or commoditized? I don’t know. Not, not easily, but possibly to some extent we did it ourselves and we really had to, because it’s proprietary. It’s, it’s like, it’s our IP. It’s what makes us special.
This isn’t something you want to get off the shelf.
Andrew: I couldn’t find David, your co-founder David Weinberg, the CTO. He’s a guy who you said is responsible for this. I couldn’t find his LinkedIn profile. I believe He doesn’t even have a LinkedIn profile.
Omer: He does, but he won’t, but he’ll tell you that he, that he he’ll he’ll tell you, he never goes on LinkedIn, but, but he does
Andrew: I’m not surprised. There’s very little about him online. Here’s what I was able to find in an old PR thing on him. I saw that he was the principal architect for Australia’s department of defense. That’s the caliber of person that we’re talking about,
Omer: Yeah. So he I’ll, I’ll tell you a bit about David and I’ll tell you something unexpected. So he worked in, in the Valley since seventies at Juniper networks in their Corp dev team. He’s a cyber security architect. He was the principal architect for the department of defense. And he’s like, you know, very technical, but that’s not, what’s special about him.
He’s what’s special about me. So in between all of that, he bought and ran a cake business, um, that made like pastries and cupcakes and deliver it to all the airlines. And he did that because he loves cupcakes and he wanted an unlimited free supply of muffins and cupcakes, but jokes aside, like he he’s actually like.
Andrew: but no, he literally did this. It was a, I remember writing this down in my notes, but he, wasn’t doing it in a small bakery. Like you said, he went big, supplying it to airlines, to hospitals, really?
Omer: and the thing about diabetes, he’s an entrepreneur. And what he said to me, once he said, he’s a better strategist than he’s a technologist, and he’s a very good technologist. So he’s not sort of like a boffin in a dark room. He’s actually a strategist. And that’s what kind of makes it work that he can see the market unfolding.
Um, he can, you know, he, he’s always sort of advocating for true innovation and even though that’s harder or it’s easier to just give people what they want today. Um, and so he sort of played a massive role in all the, the questions you’ve been asking me now, like, how did we do this and all of that, you know?
And so, um, you know, the two of us together, he’s sort of what made this, made this work. Um, and he’s
Andrew: did you become friends?
Omer: yeah. W
Andrew: for like 15 years.
Omer: yes, 20 plus. So, um, when I. In 2000, the year, 2000, I moved from Israel to Melbourne and I caught up with an old friend who I went to primary elementary school with, for the Americans. And, um, he was, uh, leaving at the time we David.
And so I just met him through a friend and we were friends for years. And then I rang him one day and said out, but this idea about hiring, I want to do something. And he said, well, first of all, your idea is stupid. And second, how can you have an idea about starting a company and not call me first? Like that was the conversation, but he’s a way that your idea could work.
And that’s like how we started. So I said, okay, okay. Well tell me, and that’s how we started talking about these.
Andrew: Uh, just like as a brainstorming session, what did he see in you? What do you, if you were to look through his eyes, why do you think he wanted to get married to you
Omer: I have no idea. No, I look, I think so we compliment each other. Like he doesn’t want to be doing this. He doesn’t wanna be like hiring, hiring and firing people. He doesn’t want to be like talking to investors all day. He doesn’t want to have to manage, like, there are just like, you know, there is kind of when you’re a founder, you take all sorts of pine and you’ve got to choose which pine you take.
And, you know, we, we kind of have a, uh, almost an intuitive and seamless kind of like understanding of how to apply to, uh, to each other’s strengths and, and sort of like all the traditional things you’d expect of a CEO, like kind of, um, You know, building a team, rising money evangelizing in the market.
They’re the things that I kind of naturally do. And he would rather like scratch his eyes out. But what he wants to do is like Ida innovate, build, change the world and, and, and, but do that like on a whiteboard, um, but still be recognized for that and play a part in that. And so that, that’s kind of like the kind of, um, the dynamic between us that, that works.
Andrew: right. That makes sense. All right. Let me close out with this, that same PR piece that I see from 2017 calls you a hiring assistant online hiring, assistant verbal launches in the us with a million dollars in funding. You stopped using the name hiring assistant. Why? I kinda like it.
Omer: Yeah. Remember I told you earlier that our positioning was mediocre. Um, so I think like hiring the system. He’s good in that. Okay. It’s clear that we solve a problem in hiring, but it did make people, it wasn’t clear that we solve a problem around proficiency and that we do skill testing and it made people think that maybe where that can Ben ball that you mentioned earlier.
And, and, and, uh, there’s a woman called April Dunford. She wrote a book called obviously awesome about positioning and positioning is, is like an underwrited area. And when you’re positioned incorrectly, people can pay you to the wrong things. They then have the wrong expectations around your product and pricing.
And it’s like really hard to fix that kind of once that impressions formed. So that was not great positioning for us. The better positioning for us was. Skill testing, you know, predicting job performance, see people do the job before they get the job that, that sort of positioning. So it wasn’t that hiring assistant was bad.
It was a step in the right direction. Um, and then we took further steps.
Andrew: I’m looking at her. I’ve seen her. I’ve seen her book recommended so much on Twitter. I don’t know. I haven’t read it. Give me one, one. I keep wanting more from you. We got to end this, but how about one more? You’ve you’ve talked to me already about a few different books, both before and during the interview.
Give me one more. That’s been that you recommend her has big influence.
Omer: Yeah. Um, so there’s a book by David Epstein called range. How generalists triumph in a specialized world. Um, it’s had a massive influence on me because I kind of until re until I read that book, I thought I’m just disliked, lost soul. I’ve done all these different things in life, and none of it makes sense, scattered resume.
And what eight talks about this thing called analogous thinking. And he says that the people who are sort of the captains of the industry, the high performance, um, usually people who actually generalist. And then what they’ve done is that they’ve been like ballet dancers and then doctors or they’re being carpenters, and then they’ve gone today, something else.
And the reason is that your frame of reference expands and you learn how to think about things differently and see them from a lands. And then you come to a different field where everyone’s one dimensional. They like brainwashed to do things. So wait, but you see it through a different lens. And I had that in nightly through like the military.
I worked at the red cross. I worked in corporate. I worked some people look at that and say, you’re all over the place. But these, we understand that actually all these things are apprenticeships. And when I’m doing what I’m doing now, I can use my learnings and thinking at different. Perspectives from each of those experiences to say things in a more expansive and creative way.
And that’s actually like a really good thing. So for me, that book was really selfish, affirming.
Andrew: There is now this understanding that that having that diversity is helpful, where in the past it was be the best at this one thing. And that’s the answer. All right. Range and look at the fricking reviews on this, both from named people. Um, and also just from people on, on, uh, Amazon. All right, dude. I wish you talk more.
I wish you would be out of conferences more. I freaking love listening to you,
Omer: Thank you so much.
Andrew: in work.
Omer: soon as the world becomes healthy and safe to travel, I’ve got to get back to, you know, I used to be like five, six times a year in the U S and it’s killing me. I’ve got to get out of the house more so as soon as we can do it on there, including New York city.
Andrew: I’m so ready. So ready, so close. All right, Omar. Oh, and I am in San Francisco now, but, um, I think I’m making the move over to Austin. We already got our kids in school there. Come see me. There
Omer: second here in the Bay area.
Andrew: are in the Bay area or I’ll come to Melbourne. Thank you. The website is Vervoe, V E R V O e.com. I’m grateful to the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first, if you need email marketing done right. Go to send in blue.com/mixergy. And if you need a website hosted, go to hostgator.com/mixergy.
Thank you. Bye everyone.