$100m + Social Media = Jobcase CEO, Fred Goff

Who just raised $100m, has 100m million members in their social employment network and is targeting 70% of the market?

Jobcase, that's who... When we traveled to Boston we knew we have to get Fred Goff, Jobcase CEO on the mic.


PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by Disability Solutions connects jobseekers with disabilities with employers who value diversity and inclusion.

Announcer: Hide your kids. Lock the doors. You're listening 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 & Cheese Podcast.

Joel: What's up everybody, welcome to the Beantown addition of The Chad & Cheese Podcast, I'm Joel Cheesman.

Chad: And I'm Chad Sowash.

Joel: Today we are lucky enough to be visiting the Headquarters of Jobcase, with CEO Fred Goff. Fred welcome to the podcast, hopefully it won't be the worst decision you've ever made.

Fred: Hopefully not, great to be on The Chad & Cheese Show. Thanks for having me.

Joel: So give us ... Lot of our listeners do not know you, do not know Jobcase, give us the elevator pitch on sort of you and your background as well as the company's.

Fred: Let's do the fun one first, which is the company's. Jobcase is the only social media platform that's just dedicated to empowering people in their work life. We've grown to about 106 million registered members, but probably what's more relevant is 25 million monthly activate uniques. We have about 70 million arrivals a month I think with regard to talent acquisition in Jobcase, so I think Comscore's got us ranked fourth largest in the nation at this point.

Fred: So we're pretty active in that ecosystem, but what this company's about, as you've seen today, is really about empowerment. It's about how we can give people one place to keep all their stuff that they own and control and decide where is goes and how we can connect them with a network of other people, that forms a community and that's really the difference about us and how we position. I think the press like to call us LinkedIn for everyone else and we're not necessarily crazy about that. I have a lot of respect for LinkedIn, but it's different. This is about a community, this is about getting you in touch with people that you might not know and how they support you with empathy and how that can empower you to figure out ... If you lean in and take the reins of control, that all these aspects of future of work that might be daunting, could actually work for you. And that comes from a place of empathy, not just a lot of career pathing.

Fred: And then the last part of us is we talk about tools to make it easy, we talk about community that empowers you. Then what's our responsibility given that we have that community and all these networked people, then it turns to advocacy. And we think that the turn of us is to advocate for workers in this nation and try to have boardrooms pay a little bit more attention to workers and a little less to shareholders.

Joel: And for our international listeners, you are only US based, North American, like give us a idea of your footprint.

Fred: Where are we? As of May 29th, 2019, yes but at the point you might be listening to this podcast, no we might be right around the corner.

Joel: Ah, so you heard it here first. What geographical location will you be opening up first?

Fred: Well that would be premature, but I think that-

Joel: I have to ask the questions.

Fred: Well, you know, Joel, if we look at what we're trying to achieve, we want to get to a billion members globally. And one of the reasons we want to do that is the power of the network effects allows us to advocate for workers more and we've seen that. I'll give quick example, it's a very micro one, we had 400 people that drive for Uber in Houston, as an example, and this was a while ago. They had one person who started complaining, he got kicked off the Uber platform. And this is a fellow who had now made it his full-time job basically and he was kicked off for an old picture, something ridiculous like that. And in these complaints, we took that conversation and we surfaced it to [Solis 00:03:47], City Manager in Houston, and we said, "[Solis 00:03:49], just so you know, 400 of your drivers are watching this conversation."

Joel: Wow.

Fred: And within a day, that person was reinstated, his average daily earnings, gave him eight times that, make him whole and that's the first time we realized, the way we think of ourselves, is it's almost a union, right? It's almost like if we could advocate for people, it's got a very positive effect, but from a place of positivity, right? It's a very positive community, it's not one that's out to rabble-rouse, it's the one that's out here to support people.

Chad: It feels like the very first time social media really works on the employment side of the house. I mean, we're seeing all the social kind of happen and then they're getting into, you know, quote unquote work. Where did you come from, first, to be able to get to where you are today, because that's a very positive story. Most of the stories that we're hearing are incredibly negative on the social media side of the house.

Fred: Yeah, I have a very probably rare story to end up in this space, but I'm thrilled for where I'm at, I mean John Lennon has this saying, "Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans." And I'm thrilled the way life turned out. I actually think I'm fixing my karma for the next life maybe. I was a hedge fund guy. I was a portfolio manager, I managed a billion bucks for BankBoston Robbie Stephens, I got the vision there, the view, that technology should evole asset management as much as other industries. I went back to MIT and tech'd up, got a Masters in the Management of Technology. I studied with my thesis with Clay Christensen, so I'm a big believer in Clay's whole disruptive theory.

Fred: And I came out and started a machine learning based hedge fund. And that worked really well until it didn't, so we didn't really see the Lehman bust, we went the cash a few weeks before and so people that were invested in that fund were very happy because we weren't a blow up scenario. But on the other side of that, it was pretty clear that the future was not going to rhyme with the past when you're at the end of 2008. And so we had an existential question with regard to the asset management. Do we do R&D and hunker down for a year until this mother of all black swans blows over, do we split the cash and go home?

Fred: And what we did was a third road, we forked the technology, and we took the team and technology that was proficient in high dimension optimization, and in predictive modeling, and machine learning, and we brought it over into the online media space. Instead of constructing portfolios of securities we constructed portfolios of Google, Yahoo, Bing keywords and set up predicting markets, predicting certain behavior and I probably would have thought, if the Chad & Cheese Show could invent podcast first and then be around in 2008, or maybe they were around then, I was ignorant of them, I think back then I probably would've thought I'd do that for a few


Fred: When we first came out, our first iteration was a little bit more of an Ad Tech play because we were very focused on paying the bills and we moved forward and then we got successful enough that in around 2014, we were able to pause and we were able to say, "Okay, what do we want to do when we grow up?" We had had enough success as a self-funded firm, we had never had a lot of capital raise, it was just what's left in the coffers in 2009, and we grew completely organically, and that's when we really focused in on what today is surfaced as the future of work issues. That wasn't really talked about back in 2014 but that's what we built Jobcase for.

Fred: And then we went through a transition of moving from a, what John Doerr might call, a mercenary culture to a missionary culture. Before it was very math-based what we were doing, and in 2014 all the [knock walls 00:07:29] came down of charts and numbers and they all went up about the people that we were serving and we really focused in on how we could help evolve the ecosystem to help individual people. And hopefully that's what you're hearing and seeing today because that's certainly what motivates me and I think our whole team coming into work everyday.

Joel: You've been labeled LinkedIn for everyone else, which I think is a little bit short sighted. To me what's interesting about your platform is, you've almost given the keys to the inmates. In other words, your users have this self growing, user generated community where content is put out there for users to help each other with all things job related, right? Like getting work, how to deal with certain issues in the work place, was that on purpose or was that kind of a happy accident as you were building the company?

Fred: No, it's very on purpose to have a platform where people help people. At the end of the day, if there's one thing you know about us, it's not what the press wants to call us, we're building a platform where people help people, that's what we're doing. You're going to talk to my CTO after this chat, he's trying to leverage machine learning to help people. Everything is about helping people, right? That's the core north star and from the regard, I think we've always had some humility. When we first were launching Jobcase, even before that, if you were to say, right downstairs, the paradox is what we're building is, in order to build a platform that serves up to a billion people, and really empowers them and then advocates for them, the skillset that requires is extremely advanced. We hire machine learning scientists out of MIT, software engineers, Carnegie Mellon, extreme quantitative skillsets from places that have backgrounds like Princeton and Cornell and all this stuff and we're serving people that have a different level of skillset, 67% of the country with high school degrees and all of that.

Fred: And so we have to have the humility that does my team know how to get a job at Walmart? No, you know who the expert in the whole fricking country is at getting a job at Walmart? The lady who got a job there this morning. She knows how, she just did it. So if we could take a digital marketing platform and instead of worry about what ad to serve somebody, worry how can I surface a conversation to the right relevant subgroup of my 25 million active members this month, when someone says, "How do I get a job at Walmart?" If I can surface that on the right channel, to the right person, who's the expert, the one who just got that job, that's how we help.

Fred: And that conversation transcends to an acquisition. How do I deal with ageism? How do I ask for a promotion? Am I getting paid enough as a nurse in Cincinnati? There's all sorts of questions on the arc of your work life that we shouldn't presume that I have a blog or I'm going to tell you what to do, I don't know the answer. What I'm going to try to do is hire really brilliant people to write code and put in algorithms to help you get in touch with whoever it is in the country that's the best. And then what's really cool that happens, is communities are forming around this and they don't just get the answer but you get the follow on emotional support and "You can do it," and "I believe in you," and "Don't give up." And that's really the killer app.

Chad: What do you do ... That is the killer app, but what do you do to harness that so it doesn't turn into this Facebook thing that you're seeing nothing but Trump stories-

Joel: It's anarchy.

Chad: I mean, it just yeah, I mean there's so much ... So many of my friends are taking social kind of vacations because it's just too much for them, and it might just be Facebook or who knows what it is, but how do you build this to be able to keep it positive? There's this AI slash human-blend behind it, which is really cool, but how does the policing happen?

Fred: That's a great question. I use the metaphor of that Indiana Jones movie, where in the very beginning, you got the big boulder running, he's just barely in front of it, he falls on his knees and he gets up, and he runs through the spiderweb, and he gets ... I think that's kind of where we're at. So we've got a complete control based on the kind of volume that we have and if we slip up, if the vine gets ahead of us, it'd be a problem. One of the first deployments of specific machine learning, that's pretty advanced that we did, had to go to the spammers and scammers. We've got a lot of volume. The first people who figure out where volume is on the internet is not the likely consumer, right? It's not people looking to hire people, it's not that, it's somebody who's trying to trick people. And so we had to do a lot of investment to get those tricksters off and that's a continual battle.

Chad: Are you watching Facebook and these other like bigger platforms to see where they're tripping over themselves and say, "Okay, early warning system?"

Fred: Yeah, we are, with great humility and appreciation for the difficulty of what they're trying to do. And I think that we have so far succeeded. There's no bullying on our platform, and there's no adjudication. If we see it, we're going to pull it off. And who's deciding that? We have algorithms or we have people that are making judgment calls and right now that's keeping pace. We run a risk that as we break out more and more, we fall behind, but so far, I mean, I think we've got some plans for that, but I don't know I guess all of this is to say, Chad, it's a great question. It's a huge concern, I think we're on top of it for the volume we have today and that we anticipate for the next quarter, it's probably not on top of it for the volume we expect one year from now, so that's what we have to [crosstalk 00:12:53]-

Chad: All about scaling.

Fred: Yeah.

Joel: I want to talk about the war for talent for a second in your own organization. You mentioned your CTO, you mentioned machine learning professionals. We're sitting here at sort of the epicenter of brainiac, you know, east coast, right?

Chad: I can see MIT, what is that computer lab-

Joel: [crosstalk 00:13:11] MIT, cancer [crosstalk 00:13:12]-

Fred: Computer Science Artificial Intelligence Lab, so we're an affiliate of the,

it's called CSAIL, but this is where their ... I'll tell you, they'll ask, you know, so there's ... Like two years ago, they have this new thing that came out of one of our, the lady that runs it is Daniela Rus, just brilliant and a friend of ours and she's in the news and you read this and they have like you swallow a pill and this little robot opens up origami style in your stomach and repair a rip in the lining and then of course you excrete out the rest of that little when it folds back up.

Joel: The robot, yeah.

Fred: So now, you don't have to have any incision at all, you're just swallowing, you got a robot in your belly, I mean the amazing things that are coming out of there is just unreal. And we do collaborative projects with their big data area on things with regard to talent and things with regard to employment and it's also a great place to hire from. So yeah, that's right outside the door.

Joel: So the question is, how do you get someone with the opportunity of building robots, nano robots that go into people's stomachs and curing cancer and creating invisible fish and everything else that we've talked about going on here?

Fred: Well, Facebook and Google's here too-

Joel: And get them to come work for this itty bitty job board company?

Fred: Itty bitty job board, you're killing me-

Joel: I'm simplifying it.

Fred: So allow me to correct. One, we are absolutely not a job board company and with no disrespect to job board companies who offer a great value or social media platform, but-

Joel: Forget that part of the question, I was being sarcastic, we do that really well on this show. My point is, they can work on some really interesting problems, how do you get them to take on the problems that are going on here?

Fred: Yeah, this is what they care about. I think that we have a very compelling opportunity here. Yes, we pay competitive wages, yes they work with smart people, yes we have a creative environment that has a pretty cool culture I think, but at the end of the day, when you go home as a software engineer or a machine learning person or some version of a quant for lack of better word, data scientist, data analyst, when you leave Jobcase, you know you help people in their normal daily lives. You don't have to guess. They're telling us on the platform. And so I have this little mechanism I do to build empathy when I speak at MIT in front of crowds that I haven't talked to before. There's a lot that know us, and we'll in crowds that don't. And I'll say, "Okay, can you raise your hand if you've gotten a Starbucks," and we're in Boston so the Dunkin', yeah, it's really Dunkin' here, "in the last week? And of course everyone's hand goes up. And say, "Now keep your hand up if you know how that barista or cashier got their job or what they're doing next," and of course all the hands go down and we say, "Well, that's why you don't know us."