A Nexxt Exclusive in partnership with TAtech.org, the boys are onsite to interview Aman Brar, CEO of Canvas, a text messaging recruiting tool. In addition to covering a wide array of topics, including the power of SMS, the benefits or building a deep data pool powered by communications, and exploring what comes after messaging, the guys have a great time. Enjoy.
Looking to leverage text message marketing to recruit candidates? Checkout Text2Hire from Nexxt and get your first Text2Hire campaign for 25% OFF! Just go to ChadCheese.com and click on the Nexxt logo in the sponsor area or www.nexxt.com/chadandcheese25.
Twitter feed edition: https://twitter.com/joelcheesman/status/956264124757004288
This, The Chad and Cheese Podcast, brought to you in partnership with TAtech. TAtech, the association for talent acquisition solutions. Visit tatech.org.
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Chad: Okay Joel, quick question.
Chad: What happens when your phone vibrates or your texting alert goes off?
Joel: Dude, I pretty much check it immediately, and I bet everyone listening is reaching to check their phones right now.
Chad: Yeah, I know. I call it our Pavlovian dog reflex to text messaging.
Joel: Yeah, that's probably why text messaging has a fricking 97% open rate-
Joel: And a crazy high candidate response rate within the first hour alone.
Chad: Which, are all great reasons why The Chad and Cheese Podcast love Text2Hire from Nexxt.
Joel: Love it!
Chad: Yep, that's right. Nexxt, with the double X, not the triple X.
Joel: Bow chicka bow-wow. So, if you're in talent acquisition, you want true engagement and great ROI, that stands for return on investment folks, and because this is The
Chad and Cheese Podcast, you can try your first Text2Hire campaign for just 25% off. Boom!
Chad: Wow! So, how do you get this discount, you're asking yourself right now.
Joel: Tell them Chad.
Chad: It's very simple. You go to chadcheese.com and you click on the Nexxt logo in the sponsor area.
Chad: No long URL to remember, just go where you know, chadcheese.com and Nexxt with two XS.
Joel: Alright, hey guys. We are here live on site for the first time ever-
Joel: With startup phenom Canvas here in beautiful downtown Indianapolis.
Chad: Woo hoo!
Joel: I think it's 20 degrees and flurries coming down, so wherever you are, it's probably better than where we are, weather-wise. Quick introduction, Aman Brar, if I say that correctly. Say hi Aman.
Aman: Perfect. I am Aman Brar of Canvas.
Joel: Aman Brar, like Almond Joy-
Aman: There it is.
Joel: Aman Brar, and unfortunately with us as always is Chad of The Chad and Cheese Show.
Chad: Ugh, hello! I keep pointing at stuff. If you're on Twitter, you could actually see what I was pointing at, but a beautiful view here downtown Indianapolis.
Joel: We have a total of zero viewers on Twitter, right now.
Chad: That's okay.
Joel: I can see from the little live cast.
Chad: They watch it later. They always do.
Joel: Yeah, we'll share that in the show. So anyway, Nexxt exclusive, two XS, make sure they always remember that.
Chad: Not triple x.
Joel: Not triple x, which we told them would have more traffic, but they failed to listen to us.
Chad: They should've bought it. They should've bought it.
Aman: There is a church right behind you. I love that.
Chad: They should've bought it.
Aman: Which is fantastic.
Chad: It is.
Joel: It looks like a hat.
Joel: Okay, churches and the psychology or psychiatry office is right next to us, so Chad and I will probably be checking into that after the show. But, let's get into it. Love the name, what's up with URL? Could you not get something better than GoCanvas.io?
Aman: Yeah, I would say thus far with our inbound lead traffic, it's working just fine, so ...
Joel: It's working just fine.
Chad: Now is that SEO traffic or are you having a lot of direct people actually-
Aman: We have a lot of direct through the media and so forth.
Aman: Now, I would say ... Look, I think every startup's got trade offs to make, right?
Aman: And Canvas.com was just, at this point, a little ...
Joel: Probably taken. The dot com.
Aman: Well, let's assume it's taken. We own a bunch of iterations of, there's going to be lots, right? And so as we kind of test it and figure things out that's one that we rolled with, so that's where we are right now-
Joel: But you're not changing the name?
Aman: We're not changing the name of the company.
Joel: But if Canvas.com comes up for sale, you might explore ...
Aman: Might throw 5 or 6 dollars.
Joel: If it's reasonable, five or six dollars. Fair enough.
Aman: I think like ultimately, we'd certainly, you know, optimization's always the thing we can look into. We own a lot of variants. This was the one out of the gate. We wanted to build a durable brand for the long term and decided look, if we have to make some short term URL trade offs, we will, and so that's the story. We did get, we own the trademark for Canvas in the HR and recruiting space-
Aman: So, you know look, that's going to be the-
Joel: So now that the hardball question is out of the way-
Chad: Wait a minute, I'm not done.
Joel: Oh, you're not done. We should get an introduction from them at some point about what-
Chad: Well, we'll get it next. We'll get it next.
Joel: Okay, we'll get to that next.
Chad: So, I mean, you guys have to be doing like a shit load of SEO to be able to try to get that, because Canvas is obviously just a regular term, and if you do a search, it's really hard to find, you've got to have like "Canvas text", "recruiting"-
Aman: That's true. You do.
Chad: So I mean, brand means so much, and you've got to spend a lot of money on brand, right? And you guys aren't, and you can't at this point do the Indeed and ZipRecruiter commercials out the ying yang, right? So what do you guys do to actually just embed that brand?
Aman: Yeah, so A, we're not spending a lot on SEO. There's probably lemonade stands and food trucks in town that are spending more than we are. But I do think, you know, two things we've done incredibly well, sharing our story through our media and that's been really, really good for us. And also, word of mouth has been really strong for us. You know, I'd say just people sharing stories about us on Link Din generates traffic. We're certainly, just to be clear, SEO, for sure is part of the story, SEM is not part of the story, right now. I think we're very content conscious. We're writing and distributing materials and happy with where we are on that journey and I think, as we continue to grow, we'll probably spend more there, on the SEO and SEM side. But, right now, the thing about star-ups is it's a world filled with infinite trade- offs, right? We're making them everyday, and we decided to go on all in on a long-term, global brand and we could've called ourselves like, yellow toilet brush-
Joel: Booger text.
Aman: Booger text and-
Aman: Yeah, yeah.
Chad: He always makes fun of jobboard.io. He always calls is job Borodino.
Joel: Yeah, JobBoard.io.
Chad: So, anyway.
Aman: Yeah, totally. Anyhow, in the scheme of things, .io is where we landed.
Chad: Yeah, yeah.
Joel: So, let's back up-
Chad: Yeah so, intro. Let's do an intro
Joel: Agree, so most listeners out there don't know Canvas from carpentry, or whatever-
Chad: And they should-
Joel: So, give us the elevator pitch. What do you do and why should our listeners care?
Aman: Yeah, we launched June 13th as the world's first text-based interviewing platform, so you can screen candidates at the top of the funnel, continue to engage with them, like many other products will allow you to do as well. And then we got some really unique features to de-identify candidates and resumes, et cetera. So, we're really excited about just the power tool that we've built in the platform.
Joel: So, I really enjoy your past because it's steeped in rich tradition of text messaging-
Joel: Give us a little bit about ChaCha and your experience way back with text messaging.
Aman: So, one of the secrets to Canvas is that many people here on the team were part of a text-based start-up darling 10 years ago, called ChaCha. We became one of the prominent text entities in the US. We're right up there in traffic with the Twitters of the world, et cetera and had our 15 minutes of fame, if you will but we launched as an "ask anything" service to 2422242 and the game plan there, which we did largely succeed on many elements of this, was while it started off being completely human-powered, so, you'd ask, "who won the '84 world series?" And we'd serve up that answer. We were able to layer in natural image processing and some other interesting things, so we could re-serve those answers. So, over time, a bigger percentage everyday, of those answers we were gonna serve, were not being researched again, right? And so, you can certainly see parallels in our strategy when it comes to recommended questions and answers, and so forth, in the recruiting game.
Aman: So, that's a bit of our story. The company launched out of Sundance, had an incredible amount of success, structured some deals with AT&T and ultimately, macro-economics kind of shifted ... Moved into more of an app economy and the company kind of fizzled and didn't quite get over the hump. But, you know, I'd do it all over again, if I could-
Joel: What percentage of phones were feature phones, back in '07?
Aman: Huge percent-
Joel: Over 80%?
Aman: Yeah, and there was a lot of demographic learnings we had and why we thought the time was right. As you're seeing four companies to be launching in the text space or have launched already-
Aman: But, you had teens and tweens that were really latching onto text but, one of the things that people don't get is that, the second faster adopter of texting 10 years ago, were moms, right? So, you had a pretty decent population of people who've grown up with texting and engaged with the children through texting and now, certainly, it's everywhere.
Aman: But, you know the story of ChaCha was, how do you re-serve these answers that we had researched? And we were able to cook up some interesting deals in that space and the ultimately, you know ... I really think it probably more of a timing issue than anything-
Joel: Pretty sure Chad's mom got upset about the number of text voting that he did back in the American Idol days.
Chad: Exactly right.
Joel: His Motorola Razor, back in the day.
Aman: So exactly. John build a lot of the core application and Zach, he built the ad engine and ran out of analytics there-
Joel: He's pointing at the crack-pot tech team here at Canvas.
Chad: Boom! You'll see us pointing on Twitter-
Joel: But we're surfing domain names on GoDaddy, right now, as we speak.
Aman: Gocanvas.io, we're sticking to it.
Chad: gocanvas.io. Dot dot. IO, yeah, that's it.
Chad: So, talk about the transition. What you learned from ChaCha and bringing it over to Canvas because it seems like there's a ton of, not just technology, but experience that you could port over into talent acquisition because ChaCha had nothing to do with talent acquisition.
Aman: Yeah, true. Zero percent.
Aman: I would say this has been a thread through many parts of my career, including ChaCha but I was up at the country's first DSL broadband company in the Silicone Valley. To be successful, you had to play within the ecosystem, right? You know, at ChaCha to be successful ... Back then, we were out there negotiation relationships with carriers directly, right? And so, you had to figure out how to be successful in the ecosystem. Then much of the team here, we built and scaled the management company, Apparatus from a local company.
National, we were acquired by a global company. So, we all of a sudden were managing 1500 people and again, that was enterprise IT integration. Again, an ecosystem play.
Aman: So, I think the common thread to have the ability to have the fast start that we've had in the HR ecosystem, is that we've always understood that ecosystems are important.
Aman: And I think what we did right, even in our softwares engineers ... you know, our interaction layer has sat outside of our core platform since before we had a product or a partner. So, we just designed it the right way from the beginning. It's making our ability to play with others real easy.
Aman: So, I think if there's anything that's been a common thread through the success this team's had, it's understanding that more often than not, you're going to be successful because you were part of an ecosystem that was having success, right? And that's the approach that we took. Now, there's no doubt we understanding texting, we understand a lot of the new technologies. You know, John understands scale in a way that very few people who are gonna understand, who's experience at ChaCha then been with email at Salesforce. I think all those things serve us well because we get high input-output situations from the get-go and we have a deep understanding of data through the many parts of our careers.
Joel: You mentioned when we were talking, before the show, about the sort of resources and money it would have taken to build ... And you just sort of mentioned it briefly, building actual relationships with the carriers and what not before Toleo came along. Some would view that as a threat. Is Canvas' business, is this easy to re-create? And I guess, a deeper question is, is text messaging a feature or is it really a stand-alone product?
Aman: So, I think the secret to Canvas, is we're out to capture the world's interviewing information. That's what we're doing. The first logical place to extend into that was text messaging. So, we think, if you look at how do most people communicate today, and it's really text-centric. Wouldn't that support the thesis that you could be a stand-alone product in that space. I think, Exact Target proved that with email to the tune of a $2.5 billion exit, right? So I think there's-
Chad: Not bad.
Aman: So, I think there's some legs there. And one of the things, if you think about the data story, you look at a Salesforce and an Exact Target that's near and dear to here. Really, Exact Target is the company that brought rich data to the table about customers. And if you think about how much data we're probably collecting per day about Canada, versus let's take an HES provider. I think there's a really rich compelling data story that shouldn't be overlooked. I would think about the work that Canvas, and other companies, are doing.
Chad: Well, that being said ... So, TA today and with all these system and ... Talent acquisition, they have so many gaps. So many systems gaps. So many process gaps. They have issues all over the place. Why is this one of the most important issues that they should really focus on? And how do you actually get their attention? Because their hair's on fire with all the issues they have, that they're dealing with.
Aman: You know, it's been surprising, I'm actually encourage by the adoption I'm seeing by, what I call, the not traditional early adopters.
Aman: When we fist launched ... And there's no doubt we still see this, that kind of traditional, cross-the-chasm adopter, arriving early. And I thought, that's probably the part of the market we're playing in for a few years. Then, I'd say, what we have are these traditional businesses that are out of answers, right? And they're just searching a seeking ... And you're seeing this, I bet, as you're talking about this. And so, we've been quite surprised at, I think, the willingness of companies, who might be considered more traditional companies, but they've just been bumping their head in the wall for so long, that something fresh, or interesting, or new comes along and they're wiling to go say, "hey, let's go give this a shot".
Aman: We were with a client yesterday and she said, "of our recruiters using this, there's one over here that told me, there's just no way I'm going to text my candidates" and she begrudgingly got on it and she said, "Look, Aman it's amazing. I got an email today from X recruiter saying, you know, this is amazing and the response rates I get are amazing." And so, I think it's about getting it into people's hands and I've actually found there to be a fair amount of open-mindedness.
Aman: More so than not. Now, let's be honest, it's not so different than what we just lived through with Clock Routinizing in our last company. I think where we've got work to do is in middle management and we kind of look at that as our opportunity to help educate middle management at these companies. Because, companies who made progress getting more innovative VPs of talent, right? We're seeing new people in that realm, they're rising to the top. They're innovative. They're getting a seat at the table. We're seeing talent professionals coming out of college understanding this way that they might want to communicate or engage and there's this maybe middle management who still trying to figure out how to make sense of this world.
Aman: Let me walk through this analogy with you. It's no different than when we were selling cloud technologies and seeing CTO going, "wanna be in the cloud". Seeing a developer, coming out of college, saying, "I wanna use the cloud" and seeing a developer of infrastructure, "I'm not so sure about the cloud".
Aman: And, it's the same story, all over again. And disruption oftentimes looks like a barbell. You get more interest at the top and bottom and it's this middle part that you have to work through and I think that's where we spend a lot of time educating and working through folks. So, it's not just, is a company interested, it's really inside that company, there are just people. And these people have different levels of either fear or excitement when it comes to technology.
Joel: But you think that they text every day. So, how do you not put together the pieces to say, "why aren't I texting candidate in the same way that I'm texting my wife about what's for dinner?"
Joel: Does it surprise you that it's taking this long for-
Aman: A little bit, but I also would say that when we work through these moment and you see the light bulbs go off, and so ... I mean, yeah, you're right, it is surprising that sometimes you can't make the leap, but I think as you work through tying those things together, there tends to be some open-mindedness there.
Aman: And you're not going to win them all. There's still people right who say, "There's no way we're going to us the cloud for our whatever". That's still going to happen, right? But one by one, we'll continue to get them all.
Joel: That's the general market downtown, yeah.
Aman: And back to the ecosystem. I think part of it is ... We're talking, is there anything that'd off limits. I was like, no because it does take the ecosystem to lift all the boats ... For the tide to lift all the boats. So, I actually think that competition and interest and companies doing really new things in the space is good for everybody, quite frankly. It's a big market out there. Big, massive market-
Chad: Few phones out there-
Joel: It is, but as you talk about all this, what is the main, pinpoint problem when you're trying to help talent acquisition really get bought. The solution and really how's the going to impact down from a dollars and cents standpoint.
Aman: I think the piece, that's from the beginning, is that, let's just think of the notion of inventory for a recruiter, right? It's time. That's what your inventory is. And you can live in a world, today, where you're going to schedule your four to six photo screens, and those are going to be the meaningful moments with another human you've had today, or you can get on a platform, like Canvas, and do it with 40 to 60 people a day.
Aman: And here's an interesting thing, when you put it in like, betting is always kinda fun. So, if you were to say to anybody ... They were hesitate about leveraging texting and you say, "Cool, don't buy the product but here's what we're going to do. The goal is you're going to go have a meaningful conversation with 100 candidates today. You need to use your black Sysco telephone with the red button on it, on the table. And I'm going to use Canvas. Who do you want, to take the bet?"
Aman: No one will take that bet because when they really stare at it, they go, "There's no way I can win that race". It's impossible. It's not even fair to try that race, right? And so-
Chad: So, you're empowering, really, recruiters to be more efficient... And this is very focus on the tactical play of day-to-day recruiters, right? When it comes down to just that conversation, we see it's obviously text and it's also chat. Facebook Messenger, those types of things. So, why Canvas versus some of the other products that are out there that are not just ... I mean, are you more than text-based? And why put it in the hands of a recruiter, when I can have AI do it?
Aman: But you can't have AI do it. You can't go to that grocery store across the street, right now, and buy a can of Campbell's soup without somebody staring at the four cashiers ... Look, you cannot buy Campbell's soup with 100% accuracy-
Chad: Amazon Go! What a minute-
Aman: Amazon Go, right? So, the problem is ... What we believe ... And you'll see us not market AI and ML much, but that is what is doing the magical stuff, behind the scenes. So, when you're a recruiter and someone asks a question and the system presents you the answer to that question, you're like, "That's cool." It says, "Suggested response. Do you want to send that?". Actually, I do want to send that. Click. I'll do that, right? So, we believe in it, but we believe in it side-by-side, enabling recruiters to be like symphony conductors, right?
Aman: You can do our machine learning based screen process ... It's completely automated. Delivers a prospect to the recruiter. The prospect looks at that, decides if they want to continue the conversation as a human. That stuff's in the software but you're very confused-
Joel: So Canvas today will say, okay, grocery store across the street, are you 18 or older?
Aman: Can do right now.
Joel: Are you a US citizen-
Aman: Not even as you can say, "Yup, yeah". It'll understand and assign probabilities to it.
Joel: So, there is somewhat of an automation-
Aman: Oh yeah, 100%-
Joel: Portion of the product.
Aman: Yeah, 100%. Both for a truly automated experience, as well as what I call, this machine-assisted experience. Both are in the product today.
Joel: So, what's your option of the Mias, the Olivias, the Hellos. The companies that are touting like, human-free, we'll do the whole thing. Are you skeptical of those solutions or do you think-
Aman: Look, these are smart people in good companies working on interesting products-
Chad: Some of them.
Aman: But if you pay attention, I think it's like HBO ... HBO's trying to become Netflix. Netflix is trying to become HBO. If you think about it, right? If you look at some of those technologies that you mentioned, they can go take a very narrow cast of the candidate type and they're going to automate the heck out of that one type of candidate, right? Whereas today, seven months after launch, we've got everything from machinist, welders, process engineers, sales professionals, mortgage analysts, pilots, physicians, aircrew, nurses, physical therapists. The breadth of conversational data that we have, you cannot touch it. You cannot touch what we're capturing when it comes to insights around questions and answers from a wide array ... When it comes to breadth, right? I think it's a question of a narrow focused AI or a more, maybe harmonious machine and human type of enabled system that we're building.
Aman: And I think both have a need in the market place. And I think it's no surprise that we're dealing with a lot of companies that hire not just retail and not just light industrial but professional staff out there. I think it's just, what's the right tool for the job? And I think there's more than enough room for all those companies. So, their goal, for those companies, would be, how do I become wider over time. My goal is, we've got all this data, how do we start automating slices of it, over time.
Aman: If you really think about it, we're just approaching a similar problem from two different angles. And I think the ecosystems require all of the above to really solve the problem, at the end of the day.
Chad: So, you talk about that data and you guys have transcripts.
Chad: Which is I think amazing from the standpoint of ... And we talked about this, I think, on the hone it firing squad-
Joel: Oh yeah.
Chad: So, that information is amazing because there's always this "he said, she said" thing that's happening and you have al that information. Is that something you port over into ... You just an API, pop it into the ATS so they have that system.
Aman: Yeah, we're super supportive of the ATS as the system of record. That's exactly how it works today. And even if you're on some on antiquated ATS, let's just say that it has a monochromatic green screen, we'd probably still find a way to get in there. You can download it, export and put it in.
Aman: That's exactly right, so the problem we were trying to solve there ... And all this just learnings from our past when we were scaling the last company. We had so many conversations where a wonderful recruiter ... "They're busy. Talk to Sally today. It was a great conversation, you really ought to interview her." And that's what you get, right? And in our world, it's like, talk to Sally today, check out this amazing transcript. And you're like, well, I actually do want to interview Sally, that sounds amazing. Or, you know what? Could you dig in here a bit before I go spend an hour of very valuable hiring manager time before you dig in. And that was really the premise there and let me tell you, I've said this since pre-launch. I said it at the launch. We have 50 more features now ... My favorite feature is still transcripts. When I demo now, I say, by the way, my favorite feature is transcripts. All this other and all the bells and whistles and all the machine learning and all that stuff ... Transcripts in an of itself is really where....
Chad: What are you doing with that data, though? Because that's all data and if you take a look and swaths of it ... So, let's say for instance, you're looking for engineers ... Developers, doesn't matter. You're having specific types of conversations with that community. Can you pretty much take that from a machine learning standpoint and start to actually create better processes for the interview?
Aman: Yeah, you nailed it. You have a few different things that feed into this. You have, understanding what the role is that they're being recruited for, that kind of space. You have the transcript. You have decisions that might have been made. So, imagine an expression of this technology where ... Cause you're realtime scoring the questions and answers. You get the thumbs up and the thumbs down. And now, you can start to generate based off your scoring of Lisa, you might also think about Sally. So, that's exactly the type of opportunity that we have and that we're really excited about right now. When you look at that ...
Aman: Now, let's take it a step further. Now imagine you're tied into the HRS of a system and now you can actually look at the efficacy of a question with regard to people's first year performance reviews. If you have enough data on this side and enough data on this side. So, that's where things get really, really interesting. And the things that ... Let's call it text-chat. Any vehicle that's not the traditional phone call. For 104 years we've been having phone calls and losing every bit of data to the ether, right? I mean, literally. Just think about it. It'd be sad to think about the trillions of bits of data that have just been turned into, "Hey Sally's great, you really ought to interview her". We got an entire 30 minute phone call. Sally's great and you really gotta interview her. And the world, when you think about platforms, is very, very different.