• Chad and Cheese

Death Match: Aida Fazylova w/ XOR

Welcome to Death Match, North America 2020, GRAND CHAMPION EDITION which took place at TAtech on May 19. For all of you NOOBS who have never experienced Death Match - Death Match is a competition which pits 4 innovative, early-stage companies against one-another, only one can win and emerge with the coveted Death Match Chain of Champions.


This Chad and Cheese Death Match episode features Aida Fazylova founder and CEO at XOR that's X-O-R people. COVID-19 might've locked us all in our homes but never fear! The home bars are always stocked, pints were flowing and Chad and Cheese questions and slurring snark was flying. Luckily Joveo's CEO, KJ, stepped in to provide a smart and sensible judging voice to this TAtech event...


Enjoy while Aida reaches down deep for her inner Ivan Drago pitches XOR, then ducks, bobs, weaves and lands a knock performance during this virtual Death Match event. 


PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by:

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Ashlie Collins: Hi, this is Ashlie Collins, managing director UK for Joveo, the global leader in programmatic recruitment advertising. I want to talk to you about our efforts in helping get the world back to work. We want to help you find the high quality candidates you need both during and after this crisis, to get the workforce back to pre-crisis levels and expedite the economic recovery. This isn't about deploying people, it's about saving lives and families. We're offering our job advertising platform free of charge until the COVID-19 situation is under control. We're also offering additional candidate applications and traffic at zero cost. Join us in getting the world back to work. To learn more, visit joveo.com.

Intro: 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 and Cheese Podcast.

Chad: And we're back people. It's Death Match, North America. Today we have Aida Fazylova.

Joel: Aida.

Chad: CEO, and founder of XOR.ai. You have two minutes to pitch, Aida, are you ready?

Aida Fazylova: I am.

Chad: Let's do it.

Joel: In three, two.

Aida Fazylova: My name is Aida, I'm CEO and founder at XOR. XOR is a AI powered communications platform that let's the recruiting teams, as well as HR team to hire the people and retain the talent much more efficiently. What I mean by this is that on one hand we give them the opportunity to communicate with their candidates over the text, as well as in the messaging apps, to get them to the 46% of the response rate within 15 minutes. And on the other half, we give them the opportunity to utilize artificial intelligence, to automate the most routine repetitive processes in talent acquisition and HR. I'm speaking about the passive candidates reengagement, screening of the inbound candidates, everything around the interview scheduling, referral partnerships, virtual interviews, video interviews, recordings, and so on and so forth.

But also a bunch of the things throughout the employee life cycle, starting from the inbound candidates, from the onboarding and the orientation of the new employees to poll surveys, to also staying engaged with the people that got laid off or to the exit interviews. So yeah, as you know, this is a new reality that we're going through in the last two months. And there are four main categories in the markets, the people that hire talent at higher pace, the companies that are hiring at the same pace that are dealing with the huge amounts of the applicants due to very high unemployment level, as well as the companies that do need to stay engaged with people that they have laid off, just in order to, once the economy start kicking again, to rehire them quickly. We've been around since 2016. We serve nearly 200 customers in 15 countries right now, headquarter here in San Francisco, California. And the company was born out of my personal theme because I used to work as a talent acquisition practitioner, for nearly a decade in my career. And the company itself was born out of my personal theme, that's about it. Yeah, I think that's about it for the pitch. Thank you.

Joel: Tell them where they can find out more.

Aida Fazylova: It's www.X-O-R.ai.

Chad: Excellent.

Joel: All right.

Chad: There you go. All right, KJ, you sir have the first question. How about it?

KJ: Thank you. A simple question. What does XOR stand for? It's a very unique name.

Aida Fazylova: I didn't catch this. Sorry, could you repeat?

Joel: X-O-R, what's it stand for? What's the meaning?

Aida Fazylova: We're saying to everybody that it stands for extraordinary optimized recruitment. But actually also it's a binary operator called exclusive or, so very geeky stuff, but extraordinary optimized recruiting is about right.

Chad: Nice. Okay. Well, we'll go ahead and jump into the hard questions. Are you ready?

Aida Fazylova: Yeah.

Chad: The messaging space is bloated. We have companies like Emissary, TextRecruit, Canvas, TextUs, Talkpush, AllyO, Mya. AMS just came out with their own conversational platform. And Paradox just got $40 million in series B funding. Why should anyone know about XOR? I mean, there's so many that are out there. How can you separate yourself from all of those names and all of that money that's being spent?

Aida Fazylova: Yeah, absolutely. Very good question. There are two components to XOR. On one hand there's the texting, as well as the other hand there's automation and conversational interfaces throughout the recruiting, right? As I understand right now, we're at very new and emerging fields, still the market penetration of any automation or the conversation right now is very well under 4%. The texting is a little bit higher, which is great. A couple of things that really distinguishes XOR from everybody else. First one, we support 103 languages on very, very great level. So that the companies can actually use this globally. Second one, we are actually the great of the older messaging platforms like WhatsApp. It's not only the texting, it's not only the widget on top of the company career sites. It's also the things like WeChat, the Line, the WhatsApp, the Viber, Telegram, Facebook, WeChat, you name it.

Third one, very important one for XOR is the scheduling functionality that we have. We actually handle very complex scheduling scenarios starting with basic one on one meetings with the recruiter, with integration to all the calendar systems out there. But also more complex scheduling scenarios, like many on ones, one on manys, panel interviews, sequential interviews with automated updates of everybody's calendars and management on this. Third one is very easy to manage, the third or fourth one, very easy to manage the chatbot workflow that can be done pretty much [inaudible 00:07:42.22]. But also an ability to utilize either fully manual texting, fully automated texting or something in between like hybrids. When the recruiter can actually carry on the conversation with the candidates, from our interface, which looks like a Gmail for texting or to the messaging has changed in any of the messaging apps, but also let the chatbot take over some of the repetitive processes such as scheduling, screening, answering the frequently asked questions and then orientation of the candidates picking themselves the job.

Chad: Who's your target market? Is it enterprise or is it SMB?

Aida Fazylova: Actually companies as small as 300 employees are using XOR. It can be used by staffing agencies and it can be used by enterprise as well as the SMBs right now. We give the functionalities to everybody. And it's also very industry agnostic because obviously we started with a high volume type of recruiting in retail, hospitality, fast food chains, because this is where we saw the majority, the most of the value. But as we're moving through our company life cycle, we're becoming more and more of the industry agnostic. It's not necessarily only high volume or blue collar types of hourly workers, but it's also engineers. It's also healthcare employees as well as the white collar type of jobs.

Joel: Chad was quick to point out the funding that some of your competitors have gotten. And I want to give you an opportunity to talk about the funding that you've gotten, but more importantly, what are you doing with that funding? Particularly with marketing, it is very crowded space. How are you cutting through the clutter and getting through? Are you guys integrating with ATSs and other platforms? And what has it meant for your talent in terms of who you've been able to bring on to the company?

Aida Fazylova: Absolutely. That's very good question. I'm dying to tell you about us. We as a company have been very much grown organically for the first two years, because we started from Eastern European market. Obviously with the venture capital market there is very

immature. We actually got funded last year. It was seed round of $8.4 million in total, led by a San Francisco based venture fund called SignalFire. SignalFire was a lead investor in TextRecruit before. TextRecruit as you know got acquired beginning of 2018. By the time we met them, they actually exited from the TextRecruit already, which was really great. But they were actually really, really aware of the space. They did know the space very good. We are headquartered here in San Francisco, although we keep the back office and the development elsewhere, namely in Eastern Europe, which allows us to be very cost efficient and lean.

But what we've done with the funding as well, we have been using this for them, sending up the executive team here in San Francisco. From them we actually hired the VP of marketing as well as the VP of sales of TextRecruit, which is really great, that are leading right now our sales and marketing efforts. Yeah. So in terms of the integration within ATSs, I've already mentioned that XOR ... I didn't mention this. But XOR is not a replacement within ATS. It sits on top of the existing technical stack, whether it's an ATS or CRM, as well as the calendar system, as an AI powered communication layer, if you please. You can use it without XOR's interface at all, or you can use XOR's interface for the communication with your candidates. We have prebuilt integration with nearly 30 applicant tracking systems, job boards, as well as the CRMs at this point, as well as the integration with all the calendar systems out there like Google Chrome, Microsoft Office 365, Outlook, as well as the on-premise exchange service.

Chad: KJ.

KJ: Sure. Aida, .ai means that you have artificial intelligence in that. And what it means is that when you interview a person through a chatbot, you are not working off predesigned flows or the flow chart for that matter. That question leads to this question and so on and so forth. But the system is smart enough to understand what those questions are. And so it's not only you know right question. First, how do you do that? And second is, what's your feedback loop that goes back into designing another question that's better.

Aida Fazylova: Absolutely. That's very good question. We are using AI in a way of natural language processing as well as for the analytics, so they're strategically. It's still more about the robotic process automation as you know, augmented with AI, right? So that we understand what is there. If the candidate is asking the chatbot a question, in the FAQ section, for example, it actually recognizes the intents and gives them the best response from the knowledge base of the chatbot. Or when the candidate types in the response to the chatbot question actually recognize what was the response and also assigns them, let's say through the screening process, it assigns them a certain score as they're moving through the screening process, right?

KJ: No, if you're deploying an LP and there's a bit of a deep learning into that, then it's very difficult to do that in multiple languages. I was kind of intrigued in how you really truly are global in that sense.

Aida Fazylova: Absolutely. It's actually very good. My CTO is a former rocket scientist turned to be AI developer, really, really smart guy. What they did with the team, we're not using any of the existing chatbot engines, let's say Microsoft LUIS or I google something. We actually built out the language agnostic system, the engine itself. They train it with 37 datasets in different languages. So in a way it actually vectorizes the meeting, and all this kind of ... it's very complex math stuff. I'm really not technical, but this is the way preliminary it works. AI should be used very strategically. We're not trying to make an impression that the chatbot is so smart, it can replace a human, because it's not going to happen because there's not enough of the science base for now, right? In the next 10 years. But what it can do though, although there are some things going on right now with Facebook that they released the API, but it doesn't really matter. We're using every single chatbot, every single workflow automation, is they're designed to do certain jobs, for example, reactivate the passive candidates, to deliver the announcement of the job opportunity in the personalized manner and alter this, screen them and connect them to the recruiter. Or screen the candidates that applied through from the job boards and schedule them for a meeting. We designed the conversation on all the workforce in the most efficient way. It's extremely streamlined, it's very driven by chatbots, is designed in a way so that the conversion rate is a maximum amount. It's not just some abstract AI, it's the workflow automation augmented with conversational interfaces in some certain parts of the NLP.

Chad: Okay Aida. You were on Firing Squad in late 2018. Back then you talked about three things that was a really pain in your ass when you were a recruiter. Number one, you hated prescreen resumes. Number two, scheduling and rescheduling interviews. And number three, answering the same questions over and over and over. That was really the foundation of why you built XOR. But since then, and we're talking about 18 months ago, you have text to apply, live chat, candidate screening, employee onboarding, new hire check-in, HR inbox, poll surveys, exit interviews, and you have so many more things that you're doing today. My question is, you were so focused right out of the gate, and we loved that because you knew what you wanted to do and how you needed to get it done, but it's exploded since then. How can you keep focus and ensure that all of these features and benefits actually get out there in a pointed manner, instead of having feature bloat, you have something that is really genuine and authentic and necessary.

Aida Fazylova: Very good question. Our kind of roadmap is both customer driven, because there are requests from the customers just to add some more features. But it's also vision driven in a way, right? For us right now, you are right, we don't only focus on the talent acquisition anymore. We do all the things in talent acquisition really, really good, because this is something that we started with originally, working with inbound candidates remaining sources, working on reactivation of the passive candidates, so-called outbound, everything around the referral partnerships, as well as the scheduling. But also as time went by, we actually have added the internally chat functionality. Everything started with the remote or the adaptation and the orientation of the new employees. And everything up until the moment of the exit interviews and staying in touch with the laid off employees. This was all actually driven by the customer requests. And we do see that there is a value, of course there is a different buyer in the company, so it's not anymore the talent acquisition leader, it's more of HR leader, so it does give us ... But if there is a customer that we're working with successful in talent acquisition side, it's much easier to upsell them on the HR side of the business as well, so yeah.

Joel: All right. We're running out of time, so I'll keep this one simple. Why is there no chatbot on your website?

Aida Fazylova: Our marketing department actually designed it. It's like extremely, the conversion rate there is extremely high, and the main purpose of the chat of the website is just not only information, but also generate the leads. So we just decided not to do this. We do do-

Joel: It wouldn't make sense to highlight your product on your own website.

Chad: Eat your own dog food.

Aida Fazylova: We do a lot of demos. We don't do this on the website. Just not to distract them from we're making this. They request the demo, go ahead and do this and we'll show you everything, like very tailored to your specific needs based on the things that you're dealing with, so yeah.

Chad: Aida Fazylova people.

Joel: Aida.

Chad: XOR.ai. Aida, thank you so much for joining us. Look for more episodes of Death Match. This Chad and Cheese podcast series devoted to lifting up startups in the recruitment technology space. Subscribe on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Pandora, or wherever you get your podcasts, so you don't miss a single show. For more, visit chadcheese.com.


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