It’s been a year since Textkernel acquired Sovren, creating a Wonder Twin-style deal that brought the two most well-known resume parsing solutions together. So, what better time to catch-up with Textkernel CEO Gerard Mulder to see how things are going while we were in-person at UNLEASH in Paris in October. Lots going on, a lot of growth globally, and maybe even a scoop or two. Enjoy this frank conversation with a Chad & Cheese longtime sponsor.
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Oh yeah. What's up everybody? We are back at Unleashed World in Paris, France. This is the Chad and Cheese podcast. I'm your co-host Joel Cheesman with me as always, Chad Sowash.
Our buddy, our buddy's back Gerard Mulder, CEO of Textkernel.
I like a little parsing and matching to go parsing
And matching. That's right. That's right. Gerard, how are you?
I'm great guys. I'm great and it's really good to see you. I'm so sorry I missed you guys in Vegas.
Translation: Sorry I couldn't make it to Vegas. Not so much about you guys, but I like the gambling and the food.
Chad (1m 1s):
Sorry I missed the blackjack table.
Gerard (1m 4s):
Joel (1m 5s):
Dutch, doesn't quite have a Vegas alternative, do they? Yeah.
Chad (1m 8s):
Yeah. No, they've got the red light district,
Joel (1m 11s):
Amsterdam. I guess you gamble with other things when you go to, when you go to the Red Light district.
Chad (1m 15s):
You might catch the VONQ.
Gerard (1m 21s):
All of the Netherlands is one big party. You know, it's like we don't need a Vegas, it's nice to go there. Yeah.
Joel (1m 28s):
So when we last spoke on the European show and last saw you guys, the Sovren acquisition had gone down. Obviously, all of our listeners know Sovren and now we're learning about you. Give us an update on the US expansion, the challenges, where we are in the timeline. Just a general overview of what's going on with the American.
Chad (1m 51s):
The Dutch invasion of the US.
Joel (1m 54s):
The Dutch invasion. Yeah.
Gerard (1m 55s):
Well, we were there first, right? New York ones was New Amsterdam. So.
Chad (2m 1s):
That's a very good point. Yes. Okay.
Gerard (2m 4s):
Chad (2m 5s):
What was old is now new.
Gerard (2m 7s):
Joel (2m 8s):
Gerard (2m 9s):
Yeah, full circle. That's right. It's going really well. So yeah, when you look at acquisitions, like the thing is of course, like how our customers reacting to such a change, but also very much the team, right? So the people at Sovren and we haven't lost anybody on the team. They're all really, really great people. And at the same time, you know, we were doing roughly the same thing. So we understand what Sovren was doing.
Chad (2m 39s):
Different business model, like, I mean, the way you were carrying out business entirely different. And, that's to be expected. You've got a US organization, European organization, you guys, I mean, there were huge differences. Were there not?
Joel (2m 52s):
Sovren was not your typical organization.
Chad (2m 54s):
No, that's a good point.
Joel (2m 55s):
Things ran a little loosey goosey. So you can do that when you have a money printing machine in the closet
Chad (2m 59s):
On scale. I guess you could could say, I guess you could say no. Talk about that.
Gerard (3m 3s):
Yeah. So I mean, Sovren I think was really happy with where they were. Yeah. And we're a little bit more ambitious and we want to get closer to the customers.
Chad (3m 12s):
Gerard (3m 13s):
And although I must say Sovren always responded really well and the customers really appreciated to service they were providing. I think they proactively were like, Sovren, it wasn't in their DNA to kinda like go to customers and talk more about like what their plans are, and what they're looking for, and how the product could be expanded into, you know, the strategic directions where all of these customers are going. And remember the customers are customers that are either tech providers. So this is primarily an API business with an OEM strategy.
Chad (3m 47s):
Gerard (3m 47s):
And the really large, large customers like Facebook or Google, Uber and others that are using that technology. So, the great thing about TextKernel is that we're we, even though we also do parsing and searching and matching, we do, you know, a couple of things more than then Sovren, and our approach to customers is different. So we're implementing that and that works really, really well. So we're seeing a lot of growth coming from that. And because the product of Sovren is so well engineered, it's really easy and it's got a great engineering team, it's really easy to add the functionality that Textkernel has around, for instance, skills normalization or professional normalization or more advanced capabilities around matching into the software and mix.
Gerard (4m 36s):
So customers can just keep using what they were using. Keep using the same great, by the way, because like Textkernel's also learning from Sovren.
Chad (4m 45s):
Gerard (4m 45s):
So we're gonna stay with their API structure, which honestly was better than ours. And we're gonna actually adopt that.
Chad (4m 52s):
Gerard (4m 53s):
Put that as a layer over the Textkernel technology. And so we got a great product on parsing, on searching, on matching on data enrichment APIs and jobs data and sourcing that we can actually start servicing for this really, really easy to integrate software API ware.
Joel (5m 9s):
Speaking of gambling, I'm gonna guess you haven't had a lot of attrition. I'm guessing most people stuck around after the acquisition. Right?
Gerard (5m 17s):
All. Literally all.
Joel (5m 21s):
Gerard (5m 22s):
Chad (5m 22s):
Gerard (5m 22s):
And we're expanding that team. So, that's so great.
Chad (5m 24s):
I'd love to hear like the meshing, because one of the things that you can see for a lot of M and A that happens.
Gerard (5m 31s):
Chad (5m 31s):
Is the company comes in and they like exact their will on the company that they actually just bought and all the like really cool features and benefits of that culture.
Joel (5m 41s):
The culture and... Yeah...
Chad (5m 43s):
It is fucking gone. And you guys have, like, you've like dovetailed this and said, "Look, we do some things really well. You guys do some things really well. Let's see what we can do to round this out."
Gerard (5m 54s):
Chad (5m 54s):
And teams respond to that instead of seeing their baby get smothered in the crib, which is what a lot of companies do when they come in, you guys are like, no, love the baby, let's go ahead and feed it. Let's see, you know, let's grow.
Joel (6m 6s):
Let's grow that bad boy.
Gerard (6m 8s):
Yeah, that's exactly right. The good thing about it is that the model Sovren uses also in terms of like go to market and delivery model, actually I should say it's not so much you go to market by market delivery model, honestly, to an extent was really better than what we were doing. I think it was, you could say like the best kept secret in the HR tech, in my opinion.
Chad (6m 30s):
Gerard (6m 30s):
So, if you see something which is better, then you know, why not adopt, even though you might be four times the size, you know?
Joel (6m 38s):
So we have a little bit of insight as a sponsor of the show that most interviewers might not have. How is the transition to one brand? Are we gonna keep two brands separate? I know that you're hiring resources and people in the US. Talk about that transition of brand and where that is right now.
Gerard (6m 57s):
Yeah. So we, were not in a rush because both businesses are good and I honestly believe that by providing value to the customers in terms of functionality and you know, we did introduce things like a very clear roadmap for our partners and customers so that they can actually see and comments and give feedback on where we think we should be heading. And of course for the Sovren customers, that meant a lot of quick progression because there is a lot of functionality Textkernel could add on to the value proposition of Sovren. So we kind of thought like, hey, let's, you know, focus on that first because then we know exactly where we're heading as a company.
Chad (7m 40s):
Gerard (7m 40s):
And it becomes a lot easier to, to then actually start giving a meaning behind the brand that you actually want to become because the value proposition is clearer. So, that's been our goal. Now, we're ready and we're saying, okay, next year we're gonna go into one brand.
Chad (7m 59s):
Gerard (7m 59s):
Because actually Textkernel has four brands right now that we're operating, and that's way too much for a company our size.
Joel (8m 7s):
What are the other two?
Gerard (8m 8s):
So it's ela, so that's the staffing mid office application that we acquired.
Joel (8m 8s):
Gerard (8m 10s):
And job feed, which is our labor market data product.
Joel (8m 12s):
Gerard (8m 13s):
So, so those four brands.
Joel (8m 17s):
Under one brand Textkernel that we can expect that in 2023.
Gerard (8m 22s):
Joel (8m 23s):
We won't hold you to it, but that's the direction.
Gerard (8m 26s):
Putting this out there is kind like, but
Joel (8m 28s):
It's there now. You need to do it.
Gerard (8m 30s):
Need to do it. I actually need to, we're we're hoping June next year that it's all kinda like
Chad (8m 37s):
Unleash. We've seen a lot of skills talk.
Gerard (8m 40s):
Chad (8m 40s):
You have the parsing, you have the matching, but I mean all pretty much predicated on skill, right? And being able to line out taxonomies, ontologies, all that other fun stuff. What are you guys doing to be able to amp that up? Because you've been doing this forever. Now that everybody else is talking about it, it's like.
Gerard (8m 55s):
Now it's cool.
Chad (8m 56s):
Yeah. Now you guys, you guys should be up on the stump, right? Saying that yeah, this is,
Gerard (8m 60s):
No, it feels like we need to dust that thing up that we like did like 15 years ago and, but the market wasn't ready yet. Yeah, no.
Joel (9m 8s):
Dust off the leisure suit. It's back. The parachute pants are back.
Gerard (9m 12s):
Yeah, no, we're full force on it. So, so it's basically a new, and we kind of came up with a new product line that we've introduced this year. We're calling it data enrichment APIs.
Chad (9m 23s):
Gerard (9m 23s):
And these data enrichment APIs are about, you can send any piece of text to it, so it's not just a resume or a job. It can be like a year review or, or a mid-year review of a person. And we can conceptually recognize in any kind of text the skills that are mentioned and then normalize that against our skills structure. And this skills structure relates also to our profession structure. So we know for every job what are the typical skills that are being expected for a given job.
Chad (9m 53s):
Gerard (9m 53s):
And so, you know, like, so you have this structure and then you can start building an ontology. And the ontology is, is really great because that tells you like, Hey, today I might be this, tomorrow I want to become that.
Chad (10m 6s):
Gerard (10m 7s):
Which skills are transferable? Which skills are not transferable? Which ones do I miss? And, then the next step is kind of like 40 skills that I miss. What do I need to learn and where can I learn that to acquire those skills? Is that in house or do I need to actually go outhouse? Now we're not a learning platform and we're not a talent management system.
Joel (10m 27s):
Gerard (10m 27s):
So, so what we really want to do as a company, and this is kind of like our parsing and matching OEM strategy.
Chad (10m 35s):
Gerard (10m 35s):
We want to kind like create a common understanding of this language of skills for the industry. And it's starting to work because quite a few systems are starting to adopt this. And the more that adopt it, the easier it becomes to talk to each other and to actually create network.
Chad (10m 52s):
Are these L and D systems, these are learning and development systems.
Gerard (10m 59s):
So learning and development systems are starting to adopt it. Tele-management systems are starting ATSs.
Chad (11m 5s):
Gerard (11m 5s):
So and that's really great because, so just a really practical example, say your tele-management system or learning and development system and you talk to a large corporate, they might have their own skill structure. Adopting that into your own system is really hard if you can't, if your technology is not able to automatically turn their data into a structure that is in terms of concepts the same as what your system is using.
Chad (11m 31s):
Gerard (11m 31s):
And adopting to all different kinds of skill sets is really hard to maintain and customers are not maintaining it. Yeah. But, but in fact it's actually the foundation on which many of these applications are built and decisions are made. So that's what we're trying to accomplish.
Chad (11m 49s):
Applicant tracking systems and some of these systems are already your clients. Yes. So therefore this is, this is expanding the capabilities with clients that you already have for needs, which is obviously also increasing wallet share for you guys.
Gerard (12m 3s):
We're not, you know, like we do wanna make money. I mean we definitely do.
Joel (12m 8s):
Chad (12m 9s):
Joel (12m 9s):
So I'm hearing, I'm hearing a lot of focus, a lot of, you know, consolidate brands and really focus on that. But I we're also seeing a lot of companies on sale.
Chad (12m 18s):
Joel (12m 18s):
We're seeing the economy, you know, take a dip.
Chad (12m 19s):
M and A.
Joel (12m 20s):
Yeah. Let's talk M and A for a second. Is that on the radar? Are you always looking at opportunities? Maybe what kind of categories are hot right now that's on your radar? Talk about M and A for 2023.
Gerard (12m 33s):
Yeah. So for us, yeah. As we are kind of like, we have a component strategy, right? So, so we offer our components and of course these components all work together. There's a great story I can tell you about a recent deal we did with Telephonica in Germany. It's, I love that example, but I'm going into that now. So what we're trying to look at are companies like Aquila, who is a best of breed mid office solution where we could add a lot of value with our AI technology and capabilities to kinda like expound our offering for certain market segments. And so mid office in staffing was an interesting one for us to enter into.
Joel (13m 14s):
Gerard (13m 14s):
And, but another one where I'm looking at right now are topics like conversational ai, things where we believe we can actually really.
Joel (13m 24s):
Gerard (13m 24s):
Really make a difference.
Chad (13m 25s):
Joel (13m 25s):
Chad (13m 26s):
Because we can make those chatbots much smarter than they are today. We did some like, in the past with Mya, you remember Mya, by Stepstone, so we did some tests with them at some customers where we were feeding Mya with kind of like, you know, say compare like a hundred profiles to a job. Right? And then so what are these profiles missing? So these are rich data sets that you're providing them that they have no clue of what's even happening and then therefore they can fill the gaps.
Gerard (13m 60s):
Yes. Through the questions. Yes. Yeah. And initiate the conversation. Yeah. So that's what I that's like the new out I'm looking for.
Joel (14m 8s):
You have a red phone that in the main castle, don't you? Just, a direct line into the sugar Daddy. That's exciting. That's exciting. We're gonna be watching that in 2023 for sure. That'll be really cool. Really cool.
Chad (14m 18s):
Amen. So, when you take a look at the landscape today, other than what you guys are doing, cause that's exciting. I love how you're looking at different ways to inject the technology data sets, I mean, into all these different areas. But beyond that, what do you think is exciting out there that's not just noise. Cause there's a shit ton of noise. What is not noise? What is real? I mean you've, there's so many things that are happening.
Joel (14m 43s):
As he looks out over the expo for it.
Gerard (14m 45s):
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Joel (14m 46s):
It's most the who's who is here I would say. But yeah, if there's anyone outside of the conference.
Gerard (14m 53s):
Well, apart from you guys, of course always right?
Joel (14m 55s):
We're a rocket ship.
Chad (14m 55s):
Gerard (14m 56s):
Yeah, I'm not gonna call out one particular one, cuz you know, I work with all of them. That's so hard for me guys. So hard for me. It's a bit preaching for my own choir, but I really think that today what's happening around skills and making, so I think a lot of companies are touching upon a really important topic around how can we make the economy better able to kinda like respond to talent shortages in the future, right? Especially like in the US it's a little, I mean there's huge talent shortage and there's also skills gap, but in Europe it's even worse and it's gonna become much worse because our kind like build buildup of the population is just the vertical, right?
Gerard (15m 42s):
There is no pyramid there at all. So we're going to have to be extremely efficient in developing people and using people's capabilities to the fullest. And I think that's actually, I see that trend happening here.
Chad (15m 54s):
Gerard (15m 54s):
And I and that's also why we're into this topic very much because I think it's going to be so important and so needed to kinda like solve this huge gap. And you know, it used to used to always be kinda like when we were talking about us ourselves as an AI company and I think we're gonna change that a little bit into a company that's creates this common understanding and connect people in jobs better. But because it's ai but it's not only ai, right? But when we were talking about AI in the past, we were always a little bit careful like, we're the AI that's not stealing your job, we're actually helping you find the job. You know what I mean? But nowadays, I actually think we're gonna really need a lot of AI and robots to get the work done because otherwise we're all going be like waiting forever.
Joel (16m 44s):
Supply chain supply chain failures and that kinda shit. Oh my god. Robots conversational ai. I love talking to Gerard. Always a pleasure. Gerard fur listeners that wanna know more about Textkernel, where would you send them?
Gerard (16m 55s):
I would send them to Textkernel.com and they can connect with me on LinkedIn. Anybody in the team? We have a team in the US. We have a team in Europe. Other spoiler probably next year will be have a team in APEC.
Joel (17m 11s):
Chad (17m 11s):
That's expansion kids. I feel M and A happening there too.
Joel (17m 18s):
Remember Chad, if it ain't Dutch it ain't much.
Chad and Cheese (17m 23s):
OUTRO (18m 9s):
Thank you for listening to, what's it called? The podcast with Chad, the Cheese. Brilliant. They talk about recruiting. They talk about technology, but most of all, they talk about nothing. Just a lot of Shout Outs of people, you don't even know and yet you're listening. It's incredible. And not one word about cheese, not one cheddar, blue, nacho, pepper jack, Swiss. So many cheeses and not one word. So weird. Any hoo be sure to subscribe today on iTunes, Spotify, Google play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts, that way you won't miss an episode. And while you're at it, visit www.chadcheese.com just don't expect to find any recipes for grilled cheese. Is so weird. We out.