Canvas CEO, Aman Brar talks Acquisition, Messaging, and...


You've just been acquired after being in business for a few short years.

What are ya' going to do now?

Go on The Chad & Cheese Podcast, of course! Or at least that's what Canvas' CEO and founder Aman Brar decided to do recently. In addition to discussing the Jobvite acquisition, Brar delves into a variety of topic, especially about how starting a recruiting technology wasn't the smartest thing ever.

Enjoy.

PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by:

Disability Solutions helps businesses find qualified candidates with disabilities for their job postings.

Announcer: Hide your kids, lock the doors, you're listing to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts, complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls it's time for the Chad and Cheese Podcast.

Joel: Alls I knows you win death match, next thing you know you get acquired. I mean, it's yeah, yeah. Are we rolling?

Chad: Yeah.

Joel: All right, cool. What's up guys? This is Joel Cheesman of the Chad and Cheese Podcast, here with Chad. Welcome to the post St. Patrick's Day edition of the Chad and Cheese Podcast. We are ironically in an English pub having beers, hair of the dog if you will. But we have a great guest today here in Indianapolis, Aman Brar from Canvas. Aman, welcome to the show.

Aman: What's up? Really glad to be here and excited to be hanging at Chatham.

Joel: You look excited. So, for those who don't know, one of our first face-to-face interviews was with your company. You were the winner of our first ever death match.

Aman: It's true.

Joel: And yeah, I think a thank you is maybe in store from you at this point.

Aman: You guys got the equity agreements right, before we got acquired, did you guys get those?

Joel: Yeah we're still waiting on that check, but that's okay.

Aman: Oh okay man. I thought it was in the mail.

Joel: By the way, full disclosure, you are a sponsor of the show.

Aman: Indeed.

Joel: Which I guess is a little bone here or there is nice. He does get the hometown discount, but that's neither here nor there.

Aman: It's true.

Joel: I'll start with the first question. Jobvite acquisition, how did you and

Dan Finnigan, the CEO get together? How did this whole deal go down?

Aman: The narrative, we had a lot of interest in the channel. The last company that me and many of the Canvas team members had scaled, we're very channel focused. So we worked well with the ecosystem, we drove deals and drove integration so we ran that same playbook which is a necessary playbook in the HR tech space.

Joel: Oh yeah.

Aman: So when we were putting the pieces for Canvas together, laying the groundwork, obviously we had a targeted list of partners that we wanted to work with, Jobvite was one of those. So we've been working on cultivating a relationship there which then led to basically them being our first official reseller. So versus just a market place partner, or a referral partner. They launched had product called Jobvite Text powered by Canvas and the negotiating of that agreement, and then the really exciting execution of that. So look, if that wasn't successful we're probably not part of the sports team today.

Aman: But it was very successful. The product really took off and made a lot of sense for us to continue. So it was really just through ... Like in most cases I always tell folks I'm talking to, likely you're already doing business with your future acquirer and I think that largely played out in this case as well.

Chad: Yeah, so big high five by the way.

Aman: Yeah thanks man, appreciate it. It's fun.

Chad: Awesome. We love hearing and seeing Indie business just fucking kick ass.

Chad: So you said Jobvite Text.

Aman: Yeah.

Chad: Right? And that's the product. So we talked about this a little over a year ago. If you remember, we were kind of drunk, I think. But are you looking to prospectively change names and roll up under Jobvite and become Jobvite Text?

Aman: Well I like my t-shirt a lot with Canvas.

Joel: I like them too.

Aman: No, in all seriousness it's a complex roll up. So you've got four brands, four companies. I think right now, and I think largely even for their conceivable future, these independent brands make sense and mean different things to different parts of the market. One of the advantages that we have with Canvas brand, or RolePoint might have, or Talemetry might have is we can go through our sales processes without complicating or hitting the trip wires of, "Oh my gosh are we changing our ATS?"

Aman: And so I think there's some advantage to just continuing to be who we are, represent what we represent in the market place, knowing that there's certainly going to be those very consultant like synergies that will come into play. But at the end of the day, it's been of great benefit, I think to us, to Text Group, to AllyO, to you name it, to not have to get in the middle of an ATS switch over conversation as part of the sales process. And I think why anybody would want to jump into that really quickly, I don't know, you'd be confusing to me. So I think there's some advantages to continuing to operate how we've been.

Chad: Yeah, I mean having a separate product, brand, being able to go after anybody with any applicant tracking system is awesome. Just looking at long term, from a Jobvite standpoint, being able to say, "Look, we have this, you don't." Whatever that applicant tracking system is, it seems like a huge market differentiator. And to be able to bring Canvas into that ... From our standpoint we've talked about this before, it's like you want to use that hammer. How long do you think it's going to take for Jobvite to actually bring Canvas in and say, "Okay this is our hammer?"

Aman: I would argue these don't have to be separate things, actually. The second you can run a new playbook that's no longer having the leverage, just your publicly available APIs, you could drive a lot of strategic advantage through an integrated experience, but still go do a lot for the ecosystem. And I think you're also seeing other companies continue down that playbook, so I think the onus on Jobvite, Talemetry, RolePoint, Canvas is to go create a highly differentiated unique experience that delivers a lot to the enterprise.

Aman: But it doesn't mean that we need to trade off everything that we're doing today across the ecosystem. And this is largely in the press release. At the end of the day, these roll ups happen largely to go attack the enterprise space, not to go track the SMB space. So again, you might be driving a lot of value and a lot of focus and a lot of sales place to go win that Fortune 500, Fortune 1000 market, but there's still a really big mid market out there where we don't need to be everything to everybody in that mid market, and so I think we're going to continue to see that.

Joel: So for the foreseeable future Text recruit will be able to integrate with Jobvite, you'll be integrating with iCIMS, there won't be any sort of friction there.

Aman: We've added additional partners conversations since the acquisition, so our integration playbook's still running, we've got two additional integrations that are in process right now. We've done 16 in the last 12 months and we got two more on deck as we speak.

Joel: Great. So talk about your growth here in Indianapolis, what you're looking to either from a real estate standpoint or a ramping up employee standpoint. What will it mean for the local economy?

Aman: Yeah, this was a really important part of the story for us. Thinking about Indie largely as being one of a small handful of employment centers for the overall entity. So likely by the end of the year, if you think about the combination of current Jobvite plus Canvas, plus Growth, and I think we're easily in the 50+ employees territory, which is becoming significant tech employment headcount.

Aman: More importantly, though, I think that's just the 2019 story. I think what's most important is attitudinally, you talk to Dan, you talk to K1, obviously you're talking to me, Indianapolis, as far as leveraging the SAS strength here, is absolutely part of the thesis, and I would say part of why we're part of the story as well.

Chad: So was Dan all in with Indianapolis knowing Salesforce is here, TechPoint, there's a lot of growth in the tech sector. Was that hard to sell him on or was it really easy?

Aman: I wouldn't say it was a sales process so much as beyond Jobvite. And there's just a tremendous amount of interest in the Midwest right to have a non coastal employment center. And so, I think you saw, Greenhouse make investments in Denver, you're saying lots of companies with additional footprint in India, whether it's Infosys, whether it's Superior, whether my last company Apparatus a acquired by Virtusa. So I think you're just seeing that trend and I think Indie is riding that wave, and then we're fighting for owned it differentiation as a city across a lot of cities that are doing pretty well in tech. But we're doing very, very well.

Aman: So I think it was not a sales process, the indie part, I think it just made a lot of sense and was part of the very, very early conversations. And to give Jobvite credit where credit's due, they'd already started investing in Indie prior to the Canvas acquisition as well, because they saw the talent pool here.

Aman: So I think what you find is that, okay, you got Canvas, you got the team that's already here, that's probably going to lead to even bigger and better things. So, we're looking forward to that. And I think that's a fun part. It's a fun part of the gig now for us to go from a seed stage company where, as you know we got a lot done across the six of us, seven of us, we just hired-

Chad: Dude, lean and mean.

Aman: Yeah, lean and mean.

Chad: Lean and mean.

Aman: So we brought on seven and eight as we were closing the deal. I mean, we got a lot done for such a small team. But we're also very excited for the help, we're looking forward to just going out.

Chad: Yeah, just double up on the Jergens and the tissue.

Aman: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. There's a lot we'll be doubling up on like more coffee, Chad. Exactly.

Chad: So from a reseller standpoint, is everything business as usual or have things changed? I mean, this is a big roll up, man.

Aman: It is a big roll up.

Chad: This isn't just Jobvite coming in and say, "Canvas, you're my boy, boo. This is Canvas, Talemetry. I mean this is RolePoint. This is big. So from your standpoint, being a part of this big roll up, what's the big priority for you right now?

Aman: This sounds cliche, but it's like the most important thing. It's like don't get distracted at the end of the day. I think folks can get distracted, you can start honestly doing too much, too fast without there being an understanding of what really matters to the client, so I think what K1's done a nice job of Jobvite, RolePoint, Talemetry is we kind of operate with this do no harm philosophy. Like, we all have great things going. The goal is to have something great going together. Let's not screw things up in the, in the interim of that step.

Aman: So I think it's been a focus on the client experience, like I'm building out the team here, I don't know folks in California needing to interview the folks that I'm hiring. I mean, we're running our playbooks. There are times where I call because I want to get, "Hey, what do you think about this kind of role?" But like it's a very supportive environment across the four companies right now. The CEOs of the four companies, we chat once or twice a week formally and then a lot of a one-off conversation. But it's a lot of just seeking to understand, I would say, like making sure that we're being really thoughtful. I think the part that's been exciting is seeing a Jobvite customer that didn't have Canvas before, Canvas customer that didn't have Jobvite before or even we've got inquiries coming in from even Talemetry folks now saying, "Hey, we're interested in Canvas."

Aman: So I think that whole technology integration, conversation is really, really exciting. But I think just start screwing up a really great thing that all of these companies had going is the really important part, on day 1 through 15.

Joel: A little bit of a macro question. In your history, you started with Chacha, which for those who don't know was basically you used to be able to text a question into the short code Chacha. I don't know what numbers those were, I'm sure you do.

Aman: 242242.

Joel: Yeah. And you would actually get a text answer back, sometimes manually. That business is no more, the smartphone killed that business. Do you stay awake at night ever thinking about messaging, texting, losing, or if fatigue setting in because it used to just be, I'd get text messages now I get text messages, I get Facebook messages, LinkedIn messages, Twitter direct messages. I get so many messages that I fear that for businesses that make their living on messaging, maybe there's some fatigue, maybe something else will replace that. Does that keep you up at night, or wha