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Disability Solutions

EUROPE: M&A Royalty

Investment dollars are flowing into workforce tech globally, and Europe is no stranger to big deals. You're going to need a bigger boat though, because we have a giant shark on the show to dig into M&A strategy in the space. How big? How about $400 for starters. House of HR CEO Rika Coppens joins the boys to talk acquisition strategy, as well as dig into some numbers behind programmatic solutions and Google for Jobs.


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Chad and Cheese Does Europe Intro (5s):

Some podcasts, do it for the fun. Some do it for the fame, Chad and Cheese they do it for global effin domination. That's why bringing America to its knees was just the beginning. Now they have their eyes set on conquering Europe and they've drafted industry veteran Lieven Van Nieuwenhuyze of Belgium to help them navigate the old country and bring HR's most dangerous podcast across the pond to trash-talk like never before. Not safe for work in any language. The Chad and Cheese podcast does Europe.

Joel (38s):

Oh yeah. I had a dream that France beat the U S in basketball. How ridiculous is that? Right?

Chad (45s):


Joel (45s):

You're listening to the Chad and Cheese podcast does Europe. I'm your cohost Joel "fromage" Cheeseman.

Chad (53s):

And this is Chad "I told you so" Sowash

Lieven (56s):

And I'm still just Lieven Van Nieuwenhuyze, and you keep trying to pronounce my name correctly.

Joel (60s):

On this episode, MNA, Programmatic landscape and Google for Jobs strictly from a European perspective, buckle up everybody.

SFX (1m 10s):

Europe has a bunch of countries in it.

Chad (1m 13s):

We've got European royalty as a guest host is what I hear.

Joel (1m 18s):

What? Royalty.

Chad (1m 19s):

This is what I hear. It does sound fairly sexy for the Chad and Cheese podcast to have royalty on the show. So Lieven, you have a surprise guest. Who did you bring on the show?

Lieven (1m 31s):

I know you are Americans. You love royalty.

Chad (1m 33s):


Lieven (1m 34s):

We have in the studio here, someone uncrowned but royalty altogether, and she could be called the Empress of MNA. So then HR tech, I feel it is Rica Coppens, who happens to be my CEO, my boss. So behave and be even more quietm otherwise

Joel (1m 51s):

Rica, welcome to the show.

Chad (1m 53s):

Tell us a little bit more about you Rica. Tell us, tell us a little bit about you. You, what you currently do, what you've done in the industry. I hear about this royalty part.

Joel (2m 4s):

And more, more importantly, your management style for Lieven.

Rika (2m 10s):

Well, I like bossing around Lieven because that's what he needs, so let's start with that one. Apart from that, I think, yeah, I don't have a big history actually in the industry. I only started four years ago in House of HR and started also as a CEO of Accent one of the main subsidiaries of a House of HR, the best one I do need to say in staffing. Everyone is trying to copy Accent, everyone is taking Accent as a benchmark, so I think that speaks for itself, but yeah, also House of HR CEO since 2017 and very proud to be. We're a bunch of happy rebels in House of HR.

Rika (2m 51s):

And we also say HR stands for human resourcefulness. So the type of person I am.

Joel (2m 56s):

Speaking of happy, what's your favorite Belgian beer?

Rika (2m 59s):

Oh, now it's the Duvel, which means devil six, six, which has the number of these limits. So

Chad (3m 12s):

That just makes it better. That just makes it better. So what makes Accent so much different? Everybody's trying to copy you, love that. You're the rebels. You like the Duvel, everybody likes, loves a good Duvel. Tell us about Accent though, what makes that different? Why is everybody trying to copy?

Rika (3m 28s):

Because we put human first. I think we always believe in, in putting the human first. So there's a very good delivery model towards the candidate, but also towards the customer. So we're very close to them. We mainly also focus on the SME market, Small Medium-sized Enterprises, which is a very good model. And of course, when everyone goes left, we want to go, right? And that's, what's making us a happy rebel. We've always questioned what the industry is doing by actually trying to do exactly the opposite.

Joel (3m 60s):

I love that.

Chad (4m 0s):

Joel and I embraced that in every beer we drink.

Joel (4m 4s):

She's on the right show for sure.

Rika (4m 8s):

Definitely. We're all happy rebels. Excellent. And for example, one of our applications, because this is about HR tech, right? So one of the apps that we developed was originating from a brainstorm session, which we called "Kill Accent." And now it's one of our most successful applications that is on the market. And we're conquering Europe with that. We started in Belgium. We now launched in, as we already previously announced in the previous shows, in the Netherlands and France and Germany is next on the list. So here we come, Europe.

Chad (4m 42s):

Very nice. Very nice. Yeah.

Joel (4m 43s):

Be afraid Europe.

Chad (4m 44s):

Cheeseman. You wanna start out with shout outs or you want?

Joel (4m 47s):

Sure, shout outs man. I mean, I touched on it in the opening, but shout out to the France basketball team. I'm not sure how this happened, but they defeated the not so dream team, I guess, from the U S and I was trying to think of a good analogy of what it would, what would equate that? And I thought, well, maybe if the US beat the France soccer team, that might be a good analogy. So here in the U S that was a total shock. It wasn't like the gold medal game or anything. And there's still a good chance that the US will be in that golden medal running. But holy shit, France beats the US in basketball. I got to give a shout out to them.

Chad (5m 24s):

On Friday's show, you might want to replay it. I told you that the US basketball team was in trouble. They got smacked in their exhibition, prior to. They look like shit. And then they come out against France and dude, they're in trouble.

Joel (5m 42s):

I literally feel like if you rolled out the 92 team with Jordan, Magic, Larry and everybody at their current age, they could have beat France. So the fact that the fact that these bums couldn't be France in basketball is pretty embarrassing. I got to say, it's almost as well. Yeah, no, it's not as bad as Sweden, Sweden beating in the US women's team. But it's awful.

Chad (6m 6s):

Unfortunately, Lieven doesn't like football anymore so we should probably start talking about that. I want to give a shout out to Pink. We talked about on the Friday show that the Norwegian handball team, they opted not to wear those slinky panty looking bikinis.

Joel (6m 24s):

Yeah, lingerie.

Chad (6m 25s):

Right? Yeah. And so they were fined by the IOC, and Pink, said, guess what? The singer Pink said, I'll pay all your fines, you wear what you want. I love this. What now, now I gotta, we got to ask the Europeans in the house. Rica, what do you think about this?

Rika (6m 43s):

Obviously, I support Pink and I do support your shout out. I think indeed, it's all about to diversity and inclusion. And I think the way the women were dressed was almost a disgrace. So I would say if they want to wear it fine, if they don't want to wear it fine, as well. So I'm all up for a free choice.

Chad (7m 2s):

Lieven likes, he likes uniforms though.

Lieven (7m 5s):

Yeah. I'm more of a traditionalist. So I like

Rika (7m 9s):

The shorter the better.

Lieven (7m 11s):

The good old days when they were just nice. I think it's a tradition on, it's kind of egoistic of them not to do it anymore.

Rika (7m 20s):

This is the point where I need to say, as Lievens, both shut up right.

Lieven (7m 24s):

Once in a week, she tells me, listen, when you're in the hole digging, and then I know Lieven shut-up.

Joel (7m 32s):

I have to add, this is like the easiest layup in PR history, because the fine was $1,765 US. Yeah. And Pink makes that before she wakes up in the morning from residuals on. So like this was the easiest PR layup in the history of PR and the fact that not more people were able to grab that opportunity is pretty amazing. So shout out to Pink's I dunno, agent who saw this opportunity for a whopping $1,700 to get on the front page of every news site in the world, Jesus.

Lieven (8m 11s):

It's about not showing bank.

Joel (8m 13s):

I guess I'm like suspending $1,700 for 1.7 million in advertising and marketing. That was a pretty good investment.

Lieven (8m 21s):

You could have paid that.

Joel (8m 23s):

Next time, next time.

Chad (8m 24s):

Lieven. You have a shout out, hit us.

Lieven (8m 26s):

Oh, that's right. Shout out to LinkedIn for creating LinkedIn Creator, which I kind of like, because now everyone can see the big amount of followers I have. Shout out to LinkedIn.

Chad (8m 39s):

Okay. So the Creator mode in itself, LinkedIn gets all of this original content from creators on a daily basis. Right? Do we believe LinkedIn will ever pay for content? Maybe. I don't know. Facebook starts paying creators and then LinkedIn has to follow. Do you think one of them is going to force the other or are they just going to both stay back and hope to get this free content forever.

Lieven (9m 3s):

They kind of pay already for LinkedIn learning platform. If you have a very good catalog of lessons, you can put them on LinkedIn learning and they will pay you for it. And that's the best content LinkedIn has, in my opinion. And the other content on LinkedIn basically sucks. I mean, if you go to LinkedIn and you scroll through all those posts, nine out of 10 will say something silly about being a good leader, being on front of the troops, blah, blah, blah, but really good content, you hardly see it. Facebook from time to time, you can find some funny content and that's the best content Facebook has to offer.

Joel (9m 36s):

Well, you remember, we talked about Bulletin a few weeks ago, Facebook's a medium slash sub stack competitor there they're paying an undisclosed amount of money, which I'm sure is quite a bit when you're talking about Malcolm Gladwell being on the roster, but they added a few more authors, but the Bulletin buzz is pretty much died down. I guess. We'll see what happens, but yeah, you gotta pay for quality and somebody forgot to tell LinkedIn, I think.

Chad (10m 4s):

Yeah. Rica Where do you go for your quality content?

Rika (10m 7s):

Well, we try, of course internally we have quite some powerhouses inside House of HR. So the good things is that we always have someone who has had a great idea because we are so many to do different things. We promote entrepreneurship within House of HR so they can all do their own stuff. And then we exchanged best practices. So I do feel that a lot of the best content is coming from the people that are in the field, day-to-day that do their stuff on a daily basis. So looking internally for best practices is where I really enjoyed the most looking for good content.

Joel (10m 43s):

She also has us on autoplay. She forgot to mention.

Chad (10m 46s):

Yeah, yeah.

Lieven (10m 47s):

Can ask something?

Chad (10m 48s):

Yeah, bring it.

Lieven (10m 49s):

It's the best content we have our vacancies. And we really try to write our vacancies in the best possible way, taking into account search engine marketing, of course, but also one out of eight by now of our vacancies already has a video added to it. So we use video mind shopper tool, which allows all our consultants to regards some kind of a movie about the vacancy. And we have 8,000 token vacancies for Accents in Belgium today. Something like that, maybe 9,000 over 1000 of them have a video next to it. So I'm not sure how this is in the US but in Europe this is.

Rika (11m 25s):

Yeah. And we see indeed that 40 seconds, there is a more play or watch time on those vacancies when there's a video added to the vacancy.

Chad (11m 35s):

I love that. I love that you guys are thinking of your job postings, your descriptions, or what have you as content where on our side, they're more formulized compliance mechanisms.

Joel (11m 51s):


Lieven (11m 52s):

The problem is I always notice people, young marketers putting their agenda from 9:00 to 9:30 I'm going to do my social half hour. And I'm going to try to find something I can share on social media. And the first three days, it works out perfectly. After three days, you have to look for something. What could I share? And I feel the best content we have are the vacancies. That's what we do. We don't need to go look for something to share.

Joel (12m 17s):

Let's dig into this for a second cause I think a lot of people have questions around what's the best practices for video. So just tell us a little bit quickly, are these homemade videos, do you just turn on the iPhone and record? Is there a crew that comes in and does these videos, how do you guys what's the strategy?

Rika (12m 34s):

Well, we actually went looking for a tool. We, we had an innovation contest two years ago and out of the innovation contest, the video posting came out. We start, we thought about developing the tool ourselves, but we ended up in Australia of all places with a tool called VideoMyJob. It's a great tool. It's fully on your phone. It has an autocue in it. So you can actually, you look very fluent, but actually you're just typing the words into the app. And it's just your iPhone filming you. And it's working really, really nicely. Yeah. You can add text to it. You can add movies to it. You can add additional graphics to it.

Rika (13m 16s):

So it's a, it's a very easy tool. You can learn it in half an hour, 45 minutes. And it looks really professional as well.

Joel (13m 24s):

And everyone records their own.

Rika (13m 25s):

Everyone records their own. We have had trainings, we've done internal, so now in December, we will do internal Oscar rewards for the best movies as well. So, and we have some lessons with professional video makers on how to make your video look even more professional. But of course there are a couple of hints and tips that we share with everyone, like put your phone in a horizontal mode, don't put it vertically, make sure that your background actually is not boring white, but that you put some nice flowers behind you or a professional backgrounds. So there's a lot of tips and tricks that we're sharing with everyone on how to make the video look more professional.

Joel (14m 4s):

All right.

Chad (14m 5s):

VideoMyJob, everybody. We've heard VideoMyJob, they've been around for a while. And it's interesting. And it's awesome to hear that you guys there in Belgium actually found another product, but it wasn't even in your country or in Europe. So that's pretty awesome. The US companies need to start doing the same thing.

Rika (14m 27s):

Well we're just looking for the best tool. And this was the one where we found had all the features that we needed. It's quite complex to develop something such as a video tool yourself. So yeah, we don't have the not invented here syndrome in House of HR.

Joel (14m 43s):

Nice. I got one more shout out before we move on. Ted Lasso is back everybody, if you're not watching Ted Lasso it's, I dunno is calling it the best show currently on TV hyperbole I don't know, but it's a great

Chad (15m 1s):

Dr. Death is a good show on is probably really good too.

Joel (15m 3s):

You're going to get into Dr. Death with me again, you fucker Doctor Death. Death to peacock, I say. So, yeah. It's called Ted Lasso. It's a story about an American football coach that goes and coaches football in the UK, England specifically, and hi-jinks commence. It's great comedy.

Chad (15m 25s):


Joel (15m 26s):

It's uplifting inspirational. It's a great show. You gotta, you gotta buy Apple plus to get it. But if Chad can buy Apple plus the number one Apple hater in the world, anyone can buy it to watch this show. It's worth it. We'll do it.

Lieven (15m 42s):

Ted Lasso.

Joel (15m 43s):

Ted lasso. And with that Topics!

Chad (15m 47s):


Joel (15m 48s):

All right let's talk a little mergers and acquisitions European style. Listeners will remember we talked about the low rock numbers a few weeks ago.

Chad (15m 58s):


Joel (15m 59s):

So money is flowing into this space, Q2 of 21 set new records for global work tech. $4.9 billion across 91 deals in quarter two, making it the biggest quarter ever in this space. 2021 is already the biggest year for the global work tech and VC investment with H with the first half of 21 totals amounting to $7.62 billion. Just a little over 20 of these deals come out of Europe, seven in the UK, although Lieven is quick to point out that the UK is not Europe anymore, someone needs to tell the Americans. Five of the deals came out of France, a few of the notable ones were Beamery, <inaudible> and Malt.

Joel (16m 40s):

So what's going on here, guys, let's hear from the Europeans, why so much money? What the hell is going on?

Rika (16m 47s):

I think HR tech or HR sector has always been defined as the sector, which is the last one to be dis-intermediated. So I think this is what's happening for the moment. Everyone has a little bit of FOMO, fear of missing out, and there's so much money going around that yeah, people really want to be in this space and they just don't want to actually miss out on everything that's happening in this area. And yeah, I think there's very interesting deals out there. There's very interesting applications out there, but there are also things that have not generated one euro of cash and me having a financial background to I've always learned in the end, it's only the cash that counts.

Rika (17m 28s):

So yeah, I do also like to follow where the cash is coming from in the end.

Chad (17m 33s):

Right? You were a CFO before you became CEO, right?

Rika (17m 37s):

Yeah. Long time ago. Yeah.

Chad (17m 38s):

So right now, take a look at the market. Everybody's looking at the rush back to work and whether it's in remote form or in the office, or what have you, it shouldn't be surprising that so much money is being dumped into the space, right?

Rika (17m 56s):

No. It's not surprising because of course I think we all appreciate work in a way in the last couple of months, because it was in a way, the only thing that kept on going, and that was more or less normal. So I believe that we rediscovered the value of work. We rediscovered also the value of colleagues, being able to go to the office from time to time was all of a sudden a perk as so yeah, workspace is an important part of our life. And now I think a lot of companies are wondering how will this new environment of work and private actually work? How do we find an answer to keep employees motivated?

Rika (18m 37s):

How do we onboard employees? Which is a point also where a lot of applications focus in to onboard employees from a distance. Learning and development tools that are being developed to do more and more learning and development offline or digitally. So, yeah, there's a lot of things going on to really help employers and employees find the perfect balance. So, which I think, yeah, for everyone is still a big question mark.

Chad (19m 5s):

We talk a lot about female funding and female founders on this show and we don't see a very large percentage of it happening in the US. What are you seeing in Europe with regard to female funding, female founders, actual female leadership in the HR tech space?

Rika (19m 28s):

Well, there isn't that much around either, unfortunately. So I think, yeah, sometimes maybe we're too afraid as women to come out. I do have to say our founder, our one of our founders Conny Vandendriessche, she started with a fund called We Are Jane, which is actually a fund supporting only companies that are either founded by a women or aware that have women leaders. And she has started that fund. And there's another fund like that in the Netherlands. So those are two funds that are existing today in this space to really support female founders, because it's true that women are more reluctant to actually go out there and get funding for their enterprises that they are starting up.

Joel (20m 18s):

You guys have a, I don't know, let's call it a Howitzer that you're bringing to the MNA fight. You guys are pretty public with the $400 million account that you have to go make acquisitions in this space.

Lieven (20m 32s):

The whole space battalion it's not just a howitzer.

Joel (20m 33s):

It's not just a, you know, a whole damn army to go in and take over the world. So what are you guys looking for? What's the strategy? Are there particular countries, particular technologies, are you looking to make more acquihires hires to bring more talent into the organization? A big focus? Do you have an eye towards North America and the US talk about your strategy and where you hope to put that 400 million?

Rika (20m 59s):

Well we already did five acquisitions actually, because here's the scoop. Our fifth acquisition is Effect. This will be announced later this week publicly. So.

Chad (21m 9s):


Rika (21m 10s):

Yeah, indeed so it's our new powerhouse <inaudible>, which is an acquisition we closed in or we signed at the end of June with that acquisition we already did one more, <inaudible> acquisition in the Netherlands to further deepen our offering in the public sector. So here, I already mentioned one of the sectors that we're particularly interested in, that's the public sector for House of HR, which is a really interesting one in which is further developing in Europe. Netherlands being one of the first countries really to have opened up for staffing solutions and HR solutions in the public sector. Now we see that other countries are also following and opening up in that area.

Rika (21m 54s):

So that's an interesting developing space. Apart from that, for us, a good acquisition is an acquisition that is really specialized. So they are focusing on a specific sector because we do believe that the knowledge of a specific sector of the candidates of the profiles that you are looking for is giving a tremendous added value, not only for the candidates, but also for the customers. So that's definitely the first point being a specialized company. We're not looking for loss-making companies or restructuring stories. We want to have successful stories that we add on to House of HR.

Chad (22m 33s):

There does need to be a cultural fit. That's a really important one. People always say, oh yeah, right, once you see a good company, you'll definitely go for it and culture is not important, but I can assure you that we have declined companies, because we didn't feel they had the same entrepreneurial drive and spirit as the rest of House of HR. So that one is also really important. So yeah, a lot of criteria actually that we try to adhere to and they need to be specialized in different areas in different sectors.

Joel (23m 3s):

I think there's an old adage in the US, a journalist asked a bank robber, why they robbed banks. And he said, that's where the money is. So, so when you say we're going after companies with a sort of public public market, is that because that's where the money is? Are these companies with existing clients? Cause that what surprised me was I didn't hear a lot of sort of new technologies or things to add from a tech perspective. It sounds like the strategy is getting in as many countries as possible with companies that have a target of the public markets. Is that correct?

Rika (23m 39s):

No. So actually public sector is one of the segments that we're serving as House of HR, but we want to be in construction. We also are in the banking sector, so we try to have as many sectors as possible. So that will add to our, let's say internal leverage in terms of sectors, because when one sector is not doing great, the other one will be stable or even growing. And that's also why we like public sector because it's contra-cyclical. So we try to be in as many sectors as possible, indeed in as many countries as possible, stable countries in Europe. So we're for the moment targeting Western Europe. So sorry guys, not yet going to the US or Canada.

Rika (24m 21s):

So that's a, maybe for our next life, but not in the next couple of years. So focusing on Europe, indeed.

Joel (24m 28s):

So, House of HR, are you a house of brands? So when you buy companies, do you roll them up into the mother brand? Do you let them keep autonomy and stay the brand they are? What is typically your strategy around, around that?

Rika (24m 44s):

It's a very good question. Indeed, we look at keeping the own brands. I always say when I would have married, my husband, if my husband would have asked me to marry him and take his name, I probably would have said no. So that's why we also are. So that's why we, we also say when we acquire companies, we let you keep your name. It's an identity in a lot of cases, the founders are still there. So it means that the brand is our baby. And you don't take the away. The human part again, in our business remains very important. And I heard you say, there's not a lot of tech in your acquisitions, and that's true in one side, but we do believe that the future of the HR business is phygital so the mix between physical and digital.

Rika (25m 33s):

And the HR tech, we develop in a lot of cases ourselves, or we acquire sub-solutions, which, which we integrate into our solutions. So that's the way how we approach it. I do feel that a lot of the tech solutions, they only approach one small part or one small segment of the whole HR cycle. And it's very difficult if you acquire all of these small ones to integrate them into one big solution. So, and that's where a lot of these solutions fail is that they really try to offer a solution or a kind of a simplification of one particular part of a full process and companies, they are not open to acquire or to buy 50 apps to manage their HR process.

Chad (26m 17s):

Joel, did you write that down? Phygital fidget toll. Write that down. When we're talking about tech, it's a hard discussion to have in many cases of whether an organization builds or buys. So when you're talking about innovation and there's so many different platforms that are out there: Point Solutions, Grander Platforms, when you start to look at the gaps that you have within House of HR, how do you, how do you actually distinguish whether you are going to build or buy?

Rika (26m 52s):

It's a good question and maybe the honest answer would be, we don't have the answer yet on that one. So part of it is that we look at the maturity of the application that's already there because there's a lot of things out there that are not mature yet, that have very few customers, and that are not yet built to grow massively. Secondly is also their ability of the applications or the technology to link into other software platforms or other solutions. Because a lot of these HR companies or HR tech companies, as I said, they are only looking for a small part of the HR process or simplification.

Rika (27m 35s):

And they haven't thought about what are the typical applications that I should look into, should link into. So having the APIs ready, understanding already, which other programs and software there is out there with, which they should actually leverage their market position. I think those are important questions to answer for a lot of these HR tech companies.

Chad (27m 60s):

So talk a little bit more about the future of HR. We talk about phygital. Is this the time where you focus on the other side? Is that what you see the future is where it's not pure digital, it's not pure physical, but there's this hybrid of both. How does a company, or how does HR look in 10 years from now?

Rika (28m 20s):

We have a vision where we say, ah, we have still quite some offices and branch offices where we interview candidates. Of course, inviting a candidate more and more we see video popping up, but in the end also, and we have done some questionnaires about that. The higher skilled candidates are the more, they are still wanting to have interviews physically, and they want to see a real person. So, but one of our dreams is to have a computer-less office almost. So obviously there will be computers, but we do believe that asking questions, asking the right questions, immediately, having your matching engine put at work to see where would this candidate fit into?

Rika (29m 4s):

What are the questions that you still need to ask? What is the cultural fit in with which companies? So that you can really give good advice to your candidates and as a company, you then become a job coach for life. So that's, that's our dream as a company that we can become a job coach for life, for our candidates. Thanks to the advice that we are able to give them with all the technology that's behind it, AI, soft skill testing, but also emotion recognition, facial recognition, these kinds of features.

Joel (29m 36s):