Firing Squad: Pearl's Tim Connors


The business of bringing old resumes in your ATS back to life was pretty hot a few years ago. The trend, however, has faded a bit in light of all the other shiny things out there, but Pearl is hoping to bring sexy back. Do they have what it takes, or will they be another victim of the Firing Squad. Gotta listen to find out, as the boys put founder and CEO Tim Connors to the test.


Firing Squad powered by the programmatic experts at Pandologic.


PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by:

Disability Solutions helps forward thinking employers create world class hiring and retention programs for people with disabilities.


Chad (0s):

Damn programmatic is hot!


Joel (2s):

Yeah, it is hot Dude, pass me a cold PBR. Would ya?


Chad (7s):

Okay. Number one, I wasn't talking about the temperature and number two PBR is a shitty beer time to upgrade to an IPA.


Joel (16s):

Okay. My bad. Guessing you were talking about Programmatic Job advertising being hot. Yeah. That shit is everywhere and all the kids are doing.


Chad (25s):

I know man, but there's only one company that's been doing it since 2007.


Joel (30s):

Damn 2007. Hey man, what wife were you on? In 2007? I was on number one.


Chad (37s):

Focus, dude. I'm talking about pandoIQ from our friends at PandoLogic. PandoIQs, Programmatic recruitment advertising platform helps employers source talent faster and more efficiently than ever thanks to predictive algorithms, machine learning and AI.


Joel (58s):

Buzzword, overdose alert. Yeah. Pando was on the cutting edge of Programmatic, while being deeply rooted in the recruitment industry. pandoIQ provides an end to end Programmatic job advertising platform that delivers a significant increase in job ad performance without any waste spending to maximize the ROI on your recruitment spend. And their AI enabled algorithms use over 48 job attributes and more than 200 billion historical job performance data points to predict the optimal job advertising campaign. The machine does all that shit. That shit sounds expensive!


Chad (1m 38s):

Think again Cheesman. PandoIQ provides an end to end job advertising solution that delivers a significant increase in job ad performance without any wasteful spending.


Joel (1m 50s):

Sold! How do I get started?


Chad (1m 54s):

Go to Pandologic.com to request a demo and tell him Chad and Cheese sent you.


Joel (1m 56s):

Ohh... They have a chat bot too, that we can talk to.


Chad (2m 0s):

Oh, kill me now.


Firing Squad INTRO (2m 3s):

Like Shark Tank? Then you'll love Firing Squad! CHAD SOWASH & JOEL CHEESEMAN are here to put the recruiting industry's bravest, ballsiest, baddest startups through the gauntlet to see if they got what it takes to make it out alive? Dig a fox hole and duck for cover kids the Chad and Cheese Podcast is taking it to a whole other level.


Joel (2m 24s):

Oh, shit, this election has gotten me all agitated. This is a bad time to be on Firing Squad. But anyway, here we are everybody. This is Joel Cheesman of the Chad and Cheese podcast joined as always by Chad Sowash. And this is firing squad, Chad, what's up?


Chad (2m 40s):

It's another day in. I'd like to say paradise. If I wasn't in the fucking COVID craziness that we're in right now. Not. Yeah. Yeah. And just so that everybody knows wear a fucking mask. Okay?


Joel (2m 54s):

Good advice. Good advice. And with that said Tim Connors, founder, Pearl, Tim, how are you? Welcome.


Tim Connors (3m 3s):

Hey, Hey, what's up guys? Hey!


Chad (3m 6s):

Let's get this out real quick. Pearl, try parole. Try parole.io. I mean, what's the, what's the brand here,


Joel (3m 16s):

Quick Q and A, Q&A. No pitch for you. We're just going right.


Chad (3m 22s):

Trying to find information on you for Pearl was a bitch, just so that, you know, because that's, that's probably the most used word on the fucking internet for God's sake. So, so what is it? Give me the brand real quick and give me a quick Twitter intro of yourself.


Tim Connors (3m 41s):

Yeah, sure. So we'll probably decide to invest in a different URL at some point, but it's very difficult to get something simple in 2020. So I there's tons. There's actually tons of like websites. You probably don't even realize, start with, go or try or what or high or something. And you just start to realize anyway.


Joel (4m 3s):

Those are usually dot cons at least was, was trypearl.com taken?


Tim Connors (4m 12s):

Yes, yes. Yeah, we'll get there. We'll get there. My last business, I eventually invested $750 to get gradstreet.com. But for the first year it was something really crappy. And that was totally fine. You got to work your up. Which is I guess, a good segue into my Twitter intro. I, this is my third business. I've been doing it since I was in college and have been focused on the recruiting world for the past eight months to a year. Just wanted to see things shaken up. There's there's a lot going on in the recruiting world from a business perspective, but there's also so many issues and it's such an infinitely complex space. So there's a lot to do still.


Tim Connors (4m 54s):

And we're excited to ...


Joel (4m 55s):

So Grad Street real quick, you mentioned that. What was that?


Tim Connors (4m 57s):

That was, that was one of my first businesses as an e-commerce play. I was selling graduation caps and gowns at first to my fellow students at UCLA because it was just like so overpriced at the bookstore. And then the next year it was, you know, 10 schools and the next year it was 20 schools and it was kind of my main bread and butter, for the first few years out of school. I just got tired of it to be honest, but it made like a hundred thousand dollars in sales.


Joel (5m 31s):

There you go. All right, well, this is your wake-up call. You're now in employment. So Chad, tell him what he's won.


Chad (5m 38s):

Well, Tim today you will have two minutes to pitch Pearl, Try Pearl, Pearl, whatever you want to call it. At the end of two minutes, you will hear the bell then Joel and I will hit you with rapid fire Q and A. If your answers start rambling or you get boring, Joel's gonna hit you with crickets and that's your signal to move along. At the end of Q and A, you will receive one of three grades. Number one, a big applause. That's right. It's time to start snapping necks and cashing checks, big guy. Golf clap it was pretty weak,you're probably going to have to strengthen some shit up, but not too bad.


Chad (6m 20s):

We're going to give you and last but not least, Oh damn the firing squad. This is not what you want, kiddo. I just want to let you know, my friends back to Grad Street.


Tim Connors (6m 35s):

No, please. Anything but that!


Chad (6m 38s):

All right. That was that. Those are the rules. That's Firing Squad. Any questions?


Tim Connors (6m 43s):

Let's do it.


Joel (6m 45s):

Are you ready?


Tim Connors (6m 46s):

Yes.


Joel (6m 47s):

In three, two ...


Bell (6m 49s):

Ding, ding, ding.


Tim Connors (6m 50s):

So over the past a year, I spent over 150 hours talking on the phone to recruiting leaders at companies, mostly 200 to 2000 people. And this is what I learned. These companies are spending a ton of time and energy collecting applications from candidates who are also spending a lot of time and energy filling out those applications. Everyone knows the way it goes, 99 or a hundred people apply, one person gets the job. 99 people fall into a black pit, never to be seen again by the recruiting team. So this is, you know, despite being told, Hey, we'll keep you in mind for future roles. It's just simply not true.


Tim Connors (7m 30s):

And it relates to a bad experience for the candidate. And the recruiting team is left to reinvent the wheel going and doing cold outreach again and again. And it's extremely inefficient. And the reason why this is happening based on the customer interviews we've done, is that the companies of the segment that we're focused on their data is either a messy, missing or stale. Or they, the ATS has a, not a robust search so it's really difficult to pull people back up and on top of that, it's not easy to do anything. Once you've found people in your HBS, it doesn't function like a CRM and many might say that it doesn't intend to function like a CRM.


Tim Connors (8m 11s):

So what Pearl does is it comes in to this segment and it offers an add on to those CR to the ATS like greenhouse lever, those are the most common in this space. And we allow you to, in one click recruiters can see a generated list of candidates that are relevant for any given role. And then there's a drag and drop interface that they can use to engage with those people with an automated outreach campaign that can respect and respond to them based on their response. So it's using some natural language processing and it can even trigger actions back in your ATS. All of this is sinked data in between. So it's making it super, super simple to start leveraging your database as a source of talent.


Bell (8m 53s):

Ding, ding, ding.


Joel (8m 54s):

Thank you, Tim. I want to tighten up pitch in the future and we've already gone through the, where can you find out more about Pearl by going to try pearl.go.com.edu.sweats.


Tim Connors (9m 8s):

You're killing me.


Joel (9m 10s):

Tim, let's get some of the infrastructure out of the way. Like what's your team look like? Have you raised money? Are you looking to raise money? Just set the stage for us.


Tim Connors (9m 22s):

So, me and a co-founder we have three other developers. We have been working on this iteration of the product for about eight months. And we have, we started doing more salesy calls just in the last four weeks, honestly, four to eight weeks. And we are now focused on our first integrations with the first few customers. So we'll probably do a pre-seed, round starting by the end of the year, or just focused on getting those first few customers under our belt first. So we're working on logistics with integrations.


Joel (10m 1s):

So you've essentially been in business since COVID has left the world in a totally different place.


Tim Connors (10m 9s):

Yeah.


Joel (10m 9s):

Has, COVID been a positive, a negative, a neutral to the business? I would assume it's a huge hurdle that you weren't expecting and it's been a real challenge, but talk about what the COVID impact on the business and any pivots that you might be looking at as a result.


Tim Connors (10m 26s):

Yeah, sure. So when things started going haywire in March, we actually were not sure that we were going in this direction. We were initially focused on a talent marketplace for candidates to better discover and apply to opportunities. And we really like the idea there that we had, but we decided that we wanted to given everything that was going on, we decided we wanted to start small on an atomic specific problem that we can solve in a powerful way. Plus if we ended up wanting to build a talent marketplace, we'd need to kind of artificially build up one half of that marketplace anyway.


Tim Connors (11m 8s):

So we decided to make a temporary pivot to this product, to get started sooner rather than later, instead of building from the outside, we wanted to just start solving problems sooner. And so that was our, that was kind of our pivot for COVID. On top of that, I would just say that I don't want to say it's a good thing, but there is a huge amount of reshuffling that has happened and will continue to hop in the recruiting world. Andreessen Horowitz calls, they call it, it's calling it the great rehiring. It simply put, this just has been so many people put out of work. And so many people are going to have to be put back to work. And I don't think that the recruiting tools of today that are being used are going to cut it.


Tim Connors (11m 53s):

So to me, I see a calls to arms to get more specific solutions in order.


Chad (11m 60s):

Okay. So really quick, just, just quickly you got bored at Grad Street was the competition too fierce. Why did you drop it?


Tim Connors (12m 9s):

No. So the competition, there really isn't any competition. It's actually kind of a duopoly that specific market.


Chad (12m 16s):

My big question is you had a company. It sounds like it was doing pretty well. Why did you drop it?


Tim Connors (12m 23s):

Because I, I couldn't, it was just, wasn't making an impact, on the world. Like what I was, I was making like $10, $15 per sale or something. No one had any reason to remember what we were doing. It wasn't like no one gave a crap about what we were doing. And I didn't give a crap about what we're doing either.


Chad (12m 43s):

Okay. Okay. No, I got it. I got it. It's a purpose. That's a purpose play and I totally get that. Okay. So my next question from the website, quote, our intelligent matching algorithm will identify the most relevant seekers in your ATS for the job and quote, how are you matching garbage against garbage, jobs that are written, that are out there today? Job descriptions are, are garbage for the most part, unstructured resumes are garbage. So what's the process. What are you using? Tell me a little bit about that. Did you build it? Did you rent it? Give me, give me the overview?


Tim Connors (13m 21s):

Yeah. So we are partnering with a firm to help us with the matching. And we took a look at a lot of different options here. We wanted to be able to access an engine that had millions of data points of training, and that wasn't something that we have access to as a small startup. And so that's the direction that we went in. Now to your point of data, garbage in, garbage out. The first thing that we do with the customers I work with, is we parse the resumes ourselves, is that we pull in data from LinkedIn to get structured data. Because you're right, most of the people that we're talking with have, do not have structured data.


Tim Connors (14m 2s):

It's actually, it actually, it was very surprising to me that that greenhouse or elaborate didn't have like a native parsing engine, but it is difficult. So that's the first step that we do with everyone.


Chad (14m 13s):

What makes you different than the rest of the technology providers out there that have been doing this matching piece for a very long time?


Tim Connors (14m 25s):

So yeah, to discuss them matching, we're generating matches. It's based on several different, its like education and skill and seniority and location and languages. It's pretty sufficient. And given the data that is being structured, it's light years ahead of any, most of the current status quo, the companies that we're talking with. We all companies like ever, if you there's a, in the UI of our app, there's a review state screen, so you can take out people if you feel like they were real fit. And of course it trains the model more over time. But it, it generates people that from, from what we've tested so far are pretty relevant to the job.


Tim Connors (15m 12s):

And so I would just say that this current status quo is no one's being reached out to, everyone's being ignored. So to bring that to a point where, okay, now I can at least review a manageable amount of people and result in 20 people being reached out to is a massive jump in functionality, your two biggest competitors, okay. Gem, there's also a company called Hiring Solved.


Joel (15m 37s):

The success of your business is predicated upon integrations into ATSs, which is a good thing. And also sort of a challenging thing, right? So you've mentioned, I think Greenhouse and Lever, I'm going to assume that you are already integrated with them. Are you sort of putting all your eggs in one basket or a couple of baskets? Are you currently developing for a myriad of ATSes? I guess talk about that since it it's pretty much the, the life of your business is going to be these partnerships and integrations.


Tim Connors (16m 10s):

Definitely. So I'm with the ATS integrations, we're putting ourselves, we're putting our eggs in a handful of baskets that provide a good API. Of course, if the API is offered, but it's rudimentary, our UI might have to change for that specific customer, but Lever, Greenhouse, Workday, Smart Recruiters, they're offering APIs that, that we can work with and that will provide us everything we need. We don't, we're not doing direct partnerships with the ATS vendors, if that's what you're asking, but they all allow their customers to do third-party integrations. And that's where we're headed.


Joel (16m 49s):

You integrated currently with those four Smart Recruiters Workday, iCIMS or, I mean, not iCIMS but Lever and Greenhouse.


Tim Connors (16m 57s):

No, we're currently working through an integration on a Greenhouse customer right now.


Joel (17m 1s):

Okay. So currently you're not integrated with any of them?


Tim Connors (17m 5s):

Yes. And the goal is to be integrated with a specific customer. Right.


Joel (17m 9s):

Okay. So Greenhouse will be number one.


Tim Connors (17m 11s):

Yeah. Most likely.


Joel (17m 13s):

Okay. So obviously that's going, going badly, I would think that's not going as quickly as you thought, because you've been around for eight months?


Tim Connors (17m 20s):

No, it's not like we've been, it's not like we came out the gate with a product ready to sell eight months ago. So yeah, I mean, we've just, like I said earlier, it's been like four weeks since we started shopping around our current solution. And even then I wasn't even sure if we were ready to meet the market where it was, but we're doing a free trial where we're very ready and willing to adopt our product and its UI to what companies need. And so I think there's a lot of companies, that understandably, jumped at that opportunity to help craft something that they specifically need. And company has just a ton of TA leaders are sitting out there feeling really frustrated that they're sitting on this gold mine of value without any way to use it.


Tim Connors (18m 2s):

So it's a very welcome to the people that we're talking with.


Joel (18m 6s):

Understood. So a business that we've talked about for years, startups like Crowded, for example, came in, had sort of, kind of imploded. I doubt they're the best example, but the whole idea of sort of reinvigorating the database, bringing people back from the dead, seems to be a failed, a failed business. I'm not sure why we've talked to people that think, well, you know, if I applied a year ago, you know, I've got new skills. I don't care. I've moved to another city. Like it's fairly, it's almost a spam game where you, you know, you blast a thousand people and hopefully one or two of them, you know, are still kind of interested. Is that, is that what you see in the business model? Am I getting, am I getting it wrong?


Joel (18m 46s):

Did they do something not right that you're going to get right. Talk about that.


Tim Connors (18m 53s):

Yeah. So there's a few key things here. The first thing is this specific market segment going after companies that are specifically around 500 to a couple thousand that are in high growth mode. Those are going to be the companies that are most likely to experience this. And in those cases it does it, they're not even really concerned about people a year ago. Of course, we're dishing those people up just as well. But a lot of these companies have a lot of hiring volume that someone three months ago, it could be a fantastic fit and they'll probably just be lost in the haystack, given their current hiring volume and the capabilities of the recruiting teams, that companies that are growing really fast.


Tim Connors (19m 35s):

So, so that's one thing is making sure that you're focused on the right segment, but another big, big, big thing is recognizing that recruiters don't want to use another tool. There's a lot of tool fatigue going on among the people that that we've spoken with. And that's why we stay out of the way. We recognize that we have to solve this problem from a technical perspective, but also from a people and processes perspective and that I feel is so often ignored by other people that have tried this approach. That's why we generate a finite list of results that you can see. There's we don't give you a search bar. You can't refresh and get more people. It's just five, ten minutes, maybe max process, that you do at the start of every rack and all of that data syncs Mac, all of the outreach that occurs sinks back to the ATS.


Tim Connors (20m 22s):

It's not a separate pool for you to go and spend endless amounts of time there. And so we're not causing people to make that decision and choose us over LinkedIn or something. And I think that that's been really key.


Chad (20m 35s):

So are you confident? The tech is not going to go all Amazon and start discrediting women and people of color. You know, they had to shut down their matching algorithm. Are you confident yours isn't going to do this?


Tim Connors (20m 50s):

I'm confident that ours will perform with less bias than existing humans.


Chad (20m 57s):

Okay. So that doesn't answer the question, because bias is bias, right? How are you going to ensure that your tech is not biased? Or how does the company do it?


Tim Connors (21m 9s):

Yeah, sure. So we have, we do check, obviously run a series of tests ourselves periodically against different functions, especially when we're bringing on a new customer, knowing what kind of roles they're looking for and doing tons of internal tests is one way to continue keeping a pulse on that. We also recognize like, you know, I have a background in AI, so does my co-founder this I can announce to the world right now, AI in recruiting will not have 0% bias. It just won't. That's not a sexy thing to say in a pitch, but it's based on it's it's whenever you have a significant amount of data, unless it's completely fabricated and detached from the real world, it's going to be seated with real world use cases.


Tim Connors (21m 56s):

So that's kind of just the way that it is. So from there on out it's well, how much better is this than the existing structure? And we need to be realistic about what the current status quo is. I disagree with you that it is trivial to be less biased than existing recruiting teams, even teams that are trying very, very hard, have to spend a lot of money doing training and using tools to reduce bias. It's actually not a trivial thing at all. And so that's, these are all things to keep track of is how, how much better are we than the current status quo. And that's also why we give all of the teams, you know, access to some insight into why was this person chosen? And of course this is review screen that I already mentioned how you can take people out and put people in cause we don't expect you to just trust it 100% percent.


Chad (22m 44s):

Right. Well, I think it's interesting though, that most AI and ML fans don't talk about auditing. Auditing is always the answer. And also it's also the short answer, unless you have this black box that nobody can see into and then you're going to have issues.


Tim Connors (23m 2s):

Totally.


Chad (23m 2s):

Joel.


Joel (23m 2s):

Yeah. I'm curious about the communication side of the product. It looks like email is the primary source of communicating, with the job seekers in your database. Is there any plan or, or am I not saying maybe SMS is part of it, WhatsApp, things that other things that people communicate with, is that going to be part of the product? Is it a current part of the product or maybe it never will be?


Tim Connors (23m 26s):

Yeah, actually SMS is currently part of the product as it functions. I don't think it's on our website or anything, but we came out the gate as a SMS first recruiting play. We kind of ended up shifting with this latest pivot and kind of playing it a little bit safer with it, with the email outreach, but we do offer SMS as well. And we're looking to add that to that flow builder that you might see on our site.


Joel (23m 54s):

Okay.


Chad (23m 55s):

Excellent. So talk about price. What's this gonna cost me?


Tim Connors (24m 5s):

Great question


Joel (24m 6s):

We're still a startup, we don't talk about price.


Tim Connors (24m 9s):

Yeah, yeah. Right. We're still kind of deciding with people at first people that we're working with, what the value is that we're bringing, we expect it to be sort of the framework that I'm using is kind of like a, since it's heightening the value of your ATS, it's kind of like a function of how much you're paying for an ATS is a correlated there. So we'll probably be charging anywhere from 400, $500 a month for most of the companies of the cohort that I mentioned.


Joel (24m 39s):

It's fairly transparent of you. We appreciate that, Tim. That's not a bad answer. I don't know. I think there's the bell.


Chad (24m 48s):

I think we're there.


Joel (24m 51s):

That's we're there. Tim, are you ready to face the Firing Squad?


Tim Connors (24m 55s):

Yes, I am. Let's do it.


Joel (24m 58s):

Chad, get him.


Chad (24m 60s):

Woo. Okay. So first and foremost, Tim, I would like to say that right out of the gates, the name doesn't bother me it. And here's why even though Try Pearl or Pearl or IO or Calm or whatever the hell you want to choose.


Joel (25m 18s):

I can't believe you just said the name doesn't bother you?


Chad (25m 22s):

It doesn't, it doesn't and here's why. Because if you're going to power back end processes, right and if you do this through partnership much like gocanvas.io did, and I don't know if you know or not, but they were actually acquired by Jobvite to now Amman is the CEO over there, but that didn't matter to them because they had their focus and they knew exactly how they're going to go to market. And I feel it's a little shaky with you still, but you have time because you're young. There's no question recruiters have tool fatigue.


Chad (26m 3s):

opening.io was just acquired by iCIMS just months ago. Right. And I see this as kind of like an opening.io light. White box is, is best for identifying bias, there's no question and it's much easier to sell. So overall I think it is a crowded field to an extent, you have an opportunity to be able to help companies leverage all of that money that they've already spent in their database and also message to those individuals when an opportunity opens up. So when a job is posted and they match up. So I love every single bit of that. You have to tighten your game up tremendously because you were on the verge of a firing squad, but yet you're going to get a golf clap.


Golf Clap (26m 54s):

Soft clapping.


Joel (26m 55s):

All right, Tim. Bless your heart. So thanks. The name is whack. I'll go ahead and say it, whether it matters or not, you need to get a better one. I think you can. It's not that difficult. But aside from that, I think that you're in a little bit over your head, you're new to the space. You have a bit of a track record of not necessarily getting bored, but this isn't working. It's not making a difference moving on to something else, which isn't, which isn't the worst thing in the world. It's okay to be like this, you know, win fast, lose fast, is a fine model like this isn't working, let's go do something else.


Joel (27m 38s):

So I appreciate the fact that you've actually, you know, you face COVID, you've made some pivots changes with the business. That's great with your small team, that you've been bootstrapping. I'd love, I would have loved to hear that you had an integration done at least one. So you, you have something under your belt, some track record of success, some customers that are using the product. Cause I can tell you that just integrating with greenhouse or any other ATS is not going to be a panacea for boats and hose you know, in short order. It's very tough to get into these integrations and be successful and you're still going to have to do the work of the marketing and the sales and all that, all that fun stuff. I think that your point and maybe the most pressure point that you made in this entire conversation was the realization that tool fatigue is real.


Joel (28m 29s):

And that it's very tough to sell in this, in this space, in this market. And that you have a product that has a little bit of a track record of being challenged, going in and revitalizing resumes and into databases. Like there's not been a great track record. And these are companies that have been well-funded had had people within the business that had been around, that had contacts and knew people that they could help start the ground or hit the ground running. So for me, my friend, I think that you've got a great idea inside of you somewhere, but I don't think that this one is it. So for me ...


Firing Squad (29m 9s):

Bang, bang, bang.


Joel (29m 9s):

I'm going to say Firing Squad, hit the bricks, go do something else, but we still love you, Tim.


Tim Connors (29m 15s):

All right. I appreciate the feedback guys.


Chad (29m 18s):

Oh, you're very welcome. Very welcome.


Joel (29m 21s):

And with that, another episode of Firing Squad is in the books. We out.


Chad (29m 27s):

We out.


Firing Squad OUTRO (29m 27s):

This has been the Firing Squad. Be sure to subscribe to the chadandcheesepodcast so you don't miss an episode. And if you're a startup who wants to face the Firing Squad, contact the boys at chadcheese.com today that's www.chadcheese.com.


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