Firing Squad: Woven's Wes Winham
Pre-screening technology talent is hot, with employers clamoring for a better ways to find engineers while testing their core competencies, filtering out the bull and false claims. Enter Woven, who promises to help employers find hidden gems in their talent funnels. Sounds good, but the boys have final say on whether or not this spunky upstart gets applause or an itchy trigger finger.
Firing Squad is proudly powered by the programmatic powerhouse known as (((Monster Truck voice))) PandoLogic!!!
PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by:
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Chad (2m 0s):
Damn programmatic is hot!
Yeah, it is hot Dude, pass me a cold PBR. Would ya?
Chad: Okay. Number one, I wasn't talking about the temperature and number two PBR is a shitty beer time to upgrade to an IPA. Okay.
Joel: My bad. Guessing you were talking about Programmatic Job advertising being hot.
Yeah. That shit is everywhere and all the kids are doing.
Chad: I know man, but there's only one company that's been doing it since 2007.
Joel: Damn 2007. Hey man, what wife were you on? In 2007? I was on number one.
Chad : We don't talk about her. Focus, dude. I'm talking about PandoIQ from our friends at Panda Logic. PandoIQs, Programmatic recruitment advertising platform helps employers source talent faster and more efficiently than ever thanks to predictive algorithms, machine learning and AI.
Joel: 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.
Chad: 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.
Joel: That shit sounds expensive!
Chad: 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: Sold! How do I get started?
Chad: Go to Pandalogic.com to request a demo and tell him Chad and Cheese sent you.
Joel: Ooh. They have a chat bot too, that we can talk to.
Chad: Oh, kill me now.
INTRO (2m 22s):
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. I'm about five cups of coffee into this.
Joel (2m 27s):
Let's do this baby, Chad. I am Joel Cheesman. This is the Chad and Cheese podcast. I am joined as always by my cohost, Chad Sowash and on today's Firing Squad we welcome. Okay. Wes Winham Winler from Woven.
Chad (2m 42s):
Joel (2m 42s):
Wes, welcome to the show. CEO and founder and fellow Hoosier. How's it going, man?
Wes (2m 49s):
I am excited to be here.
Joel (2m 51s):
You sound excited. Well, let's, let's get into you for like your Twitter intro. What should our listeners know?
Wes (3m 0s):
Let's see, I guess I'm a software engineer. I'm obsessed with building teams and I'm a superhero, but my only weakness is bullets. I'm I'm pretty nervous for today.
Machine Guns Sound Effects (3m 7s):
bam, bam, bam, bam, bam
Joel (3m 14s):
You don't want any of that?
Chad (3m 14s):
Shouldn't have told us that Wes.
Wes (3m 14s):
Y'all will be nice, right?
Chad (3m 14s):
Yeah. We'll we'll think about it.
Joel (3m 21s):
We were grade Hoosiers on a curve, so we will be especially nice?
Wes (3m 26s):
Yes. All right. Sooner turned Hoosier. That's fun.
Chad (3m 29s):
Some additional love points going into there.
Joel (3m 32s):
Tell him what he wins Chad.
Chad (3m 33s):
Wes, you're going to have two minutes to pitch Woven at the end of those two minutes, you will hear that bellA then Joel and I will hit you with rapid fire Q and A. If your answers start rambling or you get boring, you're going to hear the crickets. At the end of Q and A, you will receive one of three grades from Joel and myself. Number one, Big Applaus, get that cash ready, baby.
Joel (3m 58s):
Back up the Brinx truck.
Chad (4m 0s):
Number two, golf clap. Need to tighten up your game. We think it's okay, but it's just okay. And then last but not least.
Machine Guns Sound Effects (3m 7s):
bam, bam, bam, bam, bam
Joel (4m 12s):
Oh shit. I baby.
Chad (4m 15s):
You don't want the fire squad. That means you pack up your shit. Hit the bricks. Pull up that drawing board because this just ain't working. That's Firing Squad. Are you ready?
Wes (4m 25s):
All right. All right. I'm ready.
Joel (4m 28s):
Bells (4m 28s):
Ding, Ding, Ding
Wes (4m 31s):
Woven is the best developer screening platform for remote teams. Woven customers have a high bar for developer hiring, they care about more than code. In 2015, I was the VP of engineering at a startup, every single hire was critical. We were fully remote, so I got a ton of applications. Remote brings 10X the volume. I started off using a code quiz. It screened out folks who couldn't code bad versus not bad, but then I made a bad hire. I realized that just because someone can play putt putt, that doesn't make them a great golfer.
Wes (5m 4s):
Engineering is more than just coding. So I created a take home project, it was actual golf. I could tell, okay from good from great. Then I had a light bulb moment. It was a Friday and I really didn't want to slog through resumes. So instead I emailed my take home project to everyone. I felt really smart and went home. One week later, I had to score all of those projects and I did not feel smart, but a few of the projects were good and one was great! Architecture, documentation, senior quality work.
Wes (5m 34s):
Then I read her resume. Wow. Only two years of experience, that was the Eureka moment! She was the best candidate in my pipeline, but I absolutely would have rejected her resume, a hidden gem. Fast forward to today Woven does two things. First we shrink the take home projects down to a one hour online assessment. It's golf, not putt putt. Secon, we use machine to score those projects that saves engineering time and widens the top of the funnel. An average tech recruiter might feel one wreck per month.
Wes (6m 5s):
One of our customers hired five times that many 15 senior engineers in three months, all 15 are still there fully. A third of our customer's hires are hidden ones. They would have been missed without us. For teams, just looking for coders there are cheaper screening options. For remote dev teams with a high bar, Woven is more than code.
Chad (6m 23s):
Where can we find you?
Wes (6m 23s):
You can find us at woventeams.com.
Joel (6m 24s):
That was woventeams.com kids.
Chad (6m 32s):
Joel (6m 32s):
All right, Wes. You, you ended a little bit dancing on the competition and I want to get a feel for it's a crowded landscape Topsy, Hacker Rank, a Wonderlic and others are doing some screen stuff.
Chad (6m 45s):
Joel (6m 45s):
How are you guys different? Where do you play in this space specifically?
Wes (6m 51s):
So Hacker Rank is great. Those code quiz services are really useful for narrowing down your candidate pool. They can tell you if someone can't even play putt putt and that saves you time, saves engineering time. If you want to go more than that, if you want to see a problem solving, architecture, those sorts of things, you're kind of on your own. You could build something like that with HackerRank and some people do. We do that part for you. So we're a layer on top of some of those code quiz services. We actually partner with qualified.IO, and then we will evaluate those projects so you can tell, okay from good from great.
Joel (7m 23s):
So there's some people, some manual labor in your product. There's some automation. It sounds like. So talk to me through scaling the challenges of that. Do you plan on eventually going to an all automated solution or will there always be people involved in the grading of folks.
Wes (7m 40s):
So I think it will be automated. So one of the breakthroughs about 2015 in NLP was around evaluating natural language. So we're leveraging some of those for some of our scenarios. This is a proof of concept. We will be able to scale evaluation of, we're talking about an email where we're evaluating: did you thank the person or not? Did you summarize the problem or not? And we can write machine learning classifiers to automate that process in the future. So it will be faster and even better.
Chad (8m 10s):
So on the website, it says "33% of our customers, inbound hires would have been missed in traditional hiring process." Now I love the story that you told about the developer that you would have missed. The question is, that is a bold statement to talk about all of your clients. How do you know a third of those candidates would not have been hired for any of those jobs?
Wes (8m 33s):
So a core part of our product, it's not really rocket science, but it's the idea that you can switch the order of two interview steps. So some people you have a welcome call first, some people, they do a work simulation through Woven first. By instrumenting that, and you say, okay, look at a resume, if you're excited about it, just talk to him first, then send it to Woven. If you're not, and you might reject him, send him to Woven first instead of rejecting them and that's where we can get that 33% number. Okay.
Chad (9m 2s):
Okay, getting into the steps. I'm glad, I'm glad you wanted to talk about that because the first step is obviously the candidate application. Are they doing that through a crappy applicant tracking system process, or are they using a Woven process? That's step one.
Wes (9m 16s):
They're using the applicant tracking system. So that's something that, you know, everyone hates everyone, else's ATS, but a lot of recruiters are okay with our ATS. I think there are better and worse ones, but that's the ecosystem. So we try to be compatible with everything everyone is already using.
Chad (9m 33s):
Trying to play nice. Okay. So the second step is an hour work simulation. This type of talent is incredibly soft after, even in COVID times, why would they take an hour to complete a work simulation?
Wes (9m 45s):
So think of this like a slider, so you can crank it all the way to the right and everybody does the one hour work simulation is the next step where you can crank it all the way to the left. If you're hiring like a principal engineer, you only have four candidates, you should talk to all four applicants before you send them to the work simulation. That's absolutely the right thing to do. Anywhere in between. You might send some of the candidates to the work simulation first and some of them you talk to first. So it's really about the choice, for the recruiter and the hiring manager, based on applications.
Chad (10m 15s):
Why wouldn't you test that for everybody? Because again, you're talking about a bunch of individuals who perspectively, they don't look good on paper. So why wouldn't you just test everybody just right out of the gate?
Wes (10m 26s):
And some of our customers do that, especially if you're remote. We'll do light deal-breaker screening, so we'll integrate with the ATS application. We'll ask, how many years of experience? Can you overlap with these hours? That sort of thing. If you're deal breaker, we'll screen them out and then everybody else gets the work simulation. The reason you won't do that for every role, that's not the right choice is just like you said, for more senior roles, candidates have a lot of options. And having that human touch before Woven really increases completion rate.
Joel (10m 52s):
How has COVID impacted your business? It feels like it might be the best and worst of times for a company like you. You're small and nimble. You're in the tech space, which we're hearing whispers of that's coming back or that's at full employment, now or pretty close. You're also hitting the work from home or the, you know, the, the work, the team that's in different places, but then also people aren't hiring right? And an unemployment as it is an all time high. So talk about COVID and how that's impacted your business and what it's going to look like going forward.
Wes (11m 23s):
There's two things for us. We're a remote first team. So we were well positioned to be remote, but it still sucks. We still have folks that have their kids at home that they have to rotate childcare. It's more stressful. We're all socially isolated. So we've had to really lean in and monitor PTO, make sure people are taking enough time off. Even if it's a staycation, it's been hard, like just not having social connection has made it hard on the team, but I think we're doing okay. The second thing is on the business.
Wes (11m 52s):
So good news. Everyone now cares about remote hiring, bad news everyone now cares about remote hiring. So we were the best road option in February. And now everyone is the, you know, quote unquote, "best remote option." So it's crowded things a little bit. I think it's accelerated remote work, which I think is a, I think flexible work is great. Give people the choice of where they want to live, where they want to work, get people together on some schedule. You know, maybe that's once a week, maybe that's once a quarter, but I think that flexibility is a really big move forward.
Joel (12m 23s):
What is your current, what's the highest hurdle to get a new customer. And I'm curious as to what your current customer looks like. I see a lot of SMB logos on the website, our enterprise prospects, you know, in your sites as well. Are you going to remain sort of in the SMB smaller space?
Wes (12m 42s):
For at least the next year, we're focused on smaller growth companies. I think that's where we are 10X better than the alternative. You, you need to double your engineering team, you probably just raised some money or you're opening up a new product line. You probably don't have a huge recruiting organization. So a lot of that work would fall on the hiring manager. That's really where we're focused right now.
Joel (13m 2s):
And the highest hurdle to getting a client?
Wes (13m 3s):
Highest hurdle for us is we are not super good at marketing. All of our we're kind of grinding it out.
Joel (13m 11s):
Love the honesty.
Wes (13m 13s):
Yeah. We've got a lot to learn. My plan right now is get on the Chad and Cheese podcast and then ... profit. So here we are.
Joel (13m 20s):
Open a new bank account buddy cause the sales are coming in, you know what I'm saying? I'm waiting, I'm waiting!
Chad (13m 22s):
Depending on the score.
Joel (13m 25s):
Yeah, that's true. Let's let's get to the end and see how that goes.
Chad (13m 28s):
So Wes, how are candidates lured into Woven? Are you solely focused on just the assessment piece or are you a part of the candidate attraction piece as well?
Wes (13m 37s):
If you were to talk to me a two years ago, when we were just starting, I would say we're just going to do the assessment. And what we've learned is there's a lot of value in like a little bit of like what's, what's working for other people when it comes to candidate attraction? We're not out there running the job boards, but we can tell you this title is going to outperform, Oh, you're hiring for this role, you should use this tactic on Indeed. And we specialize in remote teams and remote job boards are different. Like the tactics are different, like using multi-city Indeed is like a superpower. If you don't know what that is, maybe get out of your ATS and go logging into Indeed you can recruit, you can source attract so many candidates by using little, sometimes free, tactics like that.
Wes (14m 17s):
So we'll give advice around a job boards, but that's not our product.
Chad (14m 20s):
Okay. So what about from a database standpoint, are you also pulling talent in to be able to create a database so that a company can come to you obviously for the assessment piece, but also there's a database that's available much like Coder Bite or, or a Hacker Rank?
Wes (14m 38s):
So I should have talked to you like two years ago, cause it took us awhile to figure this out. But we've started taking candidates who are silver medalists from one customer and redirect them to another. They're they're using sometimes the same scenarios, so we can say this person we know is a bad ass, we know they fit your criteria, do you want an introduction? And that's great for the candidate. It's good for our customers. Candidates also appreciate that the person that rejected them is looking out for them. So we've started doing that and we've made some hires that way.
Chad (15m 9s):
Holy shit, I damn that's a, that's a plus one for me there, Cheesman. Your turn.
Joel (15m 12s):
Wes, you say you're not good at marketing, but you do have a podcast which is pretty rare for the people that come on the Firing Squad. And for any startup out there who is thinking about a podcast, what has been your experience launching one in terms of brand awareness and getting customers, et cetera, is that worth it? Are you guys going to shut it down in a year?
Wes (15m 34s):
Oh, I don't know. I have really enjoyed the conversations on the podcast. We've had some guests that are so smart. I've learned so much. I've had people tell me they've learned things in the podcast, but we have not yet been able to turn that into anything that's really working on the sales side. So I think that is more about us than the podcast. We created 40 episodes and I'm really proud of some of the content there. We just have not quite figured out how to do that last mile. So that's a, that's a TBD for me on a podcast.
Joel (16m 4s):
Interesting. So you, you guys got about two and a half million dollars last year. Crunchbase says you raise a total of 3.1 million. What is that money being used for? If it's not being used for marketing, apparently?
Wes (16m 17s):
Hiring engineers and a little bit of sales, so building out the team. We had some marketing, we just haven't really been able to figure it out. We've been doing marketing. It just hasn't, it hasn't quite clicked.
Joel (16m 29s):
Is more money raised on the horizon or do you think you have enough for the foreseeable future? And if you want to raise money, what's that like in COVID?
Wes (16m 38s):
We got super freaking lucky. Like I, we closed a round in January right before COVID just randomly, like there was no master plan. Like I was not like looking at the news in China and like, Oh, I better get this close. We close it. So we got to two years in the bank and we actually cut cash burn to be a little bit more conservative. You asked earlier about impact of COVID, March and April were really rough for us. Everyone was ah, we're not sure about hiring we're pausing. So it was, it was pretty much a goose egg in March and April.
Wes (17m 8s):
It's picked back up, Q2 was our best quarter.
Joel (17m 11s):
Wes (17m 13s):
Yeah. The team's working hard. So we're, we're not raising, not looking to raise money in the next year, but I'm actually excited about raising money. If we're still on Zoom, like man traveling kind of sucks, there are a lot of VCs that will not fly to Indianapolis and like flying all over the place as not a great, you know, not a great use of time. Now it's kind of leveled the playing field. Like if you're in San Francisco, but you can't meet the VC cause you can't meet at whatever fancy coffee house everyone goes to and you know, does deals like, I'm on the same Zoom screen is that guy? I think it's an advantage.
Joel (17m 45s):
Chad (17m 45s):
That is. So who are you partnering?
Wes (17m 48s):
So Qualified IO delivers our assessment. They have a great developer experience. They're the, if you really want to make your own assessment, they're the best place to do it. They have so much support, a great IDE, a great backend for grading. So that's really our, our biggest partner. That's what it enabled us to not spend two years upfront just building what they built. We could build. It's like if the first thing you had to do to be a great creator was go build YouTube. That's pretty hard. If you can use YouTube and just record some videos, like then you got a opportunity to be really creative.
Wes (18m 20s):
And that's what we were able to do with Qualified.
Chad (18m 21s):
You're layering on top of what Qualified's already doing. Cause we're using them as a foundation.
Wes (18m 27s):
Chad (18m 27s):
Okay. What about integrations and applicant tracking systems, CRMs, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera?
Wes (18m 35s):
So we kinda have two types of integrations we we'll do for folks that don't have an ATS, which about a third of our customers don't have an ATS when they join. Most of them end up buying one. We will integrate directly with Indeed and Stack Overflow and Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter and all those to give them a way to capture candidates. For folks that do have an ATS we will integrate, we have one way integration with basically all the ATSs, I think there's nine of them, that we do one way integration and that makes it easy to send candidates. We just did our first two way integration last month.
Wes (19m 6s):
So pretty pumped about that. Workable is done two way integration, pushing data back to the ATS and we're working on a greenhouse lever and jazz HR.
Joel (19m 16s):
I love the, the perspective on the Zoom meetings with VC and the fact that you're here and in Indianapolis and not on the coasts is intriguing to me. Talk about what it's like to be sort of a small Midwest startup, the pros, the cons, talked to the folks out there that are maybe looking to, to make a move to inside the country, as opposed to where the water is.
Wes (19m 39s):
I think there are, there are a lot of this, there are disadvantages and an advantage. Everything is about trade off, if we really get down to it. The disadvantage is you can't really raise 3 million on a, you know, 8 million pre with an idea and like a really good pitch deck, like that just doesn't happen. You can't get all your Y Combinator friends to sign up for your startup, throw some logos on your deck and then go raise money. In the Midwest, you actually have to build something. You have to sign up revenue. You have to show some traction, investors expect it.
Wes (20m 9s):
I think that's a benefit. I think that creates stronger companies. Now that we have, I think there used to be a little bit, at least to be a little bit harder to raise that series A and series B in the Midwest. And that limited a lot of growth. I think that's getting easier, Zoom has changed things. There are enough big companies out here that have got done well, the VCs are willing to hop on a plane to consider you. So I think the focus on customers and solving a problem and generating revenue early on is going to create some really, really impactful companies that really do make an impact on the world versus, you know, raising a lot of money, getting a lot of press, having a big ideas and maybe making less of an impact, let's say.
Chad (20m 45s):
Yeah, the network or the secret handshakes at the Starbucks in San Francisco.
Wes (20m 54s):
Chad (20m 54s):
So every platform we were talking about things making an impact, obviously being able to help companies reduce bias is, is huge. But everybody says that they can do it. I know that you guys obviously are saying that you can do it as well. Explain how that is happening in your platform.
Wes (21m 13s):
So for me, it comes down to, you know, there's lots of different types of bias, that's like a whole academic conversation that I don't really want to get into. What it comes down to me is can this person, is this person going to be successful at the job? And the actual job is coding is communicating it's problem solving, it's persistence. And you can go and interview people about these things. You can like give them these psychometric evaluations, multiple choice. And like, you know, you're popping balloons. There's these crazy games you can play. And supposedly that predicts those things.
Wes (21m 43s):
I'm more simple. I want to see someone do the job. I want to see them answer an email. That's really confusing and doesn't have enough information and they have to debug a problem. I want to see them write a Slack message. I want to see them take some bad code with some like poorly defined requirements and build something cool. So that's what we do. If you, if someone can do the job that will come through, I don't know that much about all the bias things, but I know that if I see someone to do the job, I'm pretty confident they can do the job.
Joel (22m 11s):
All right, Wes, this product sounds really expensive. Not to sound like an infomercial, but how much can I expect to pay for Woven?
Chad (22m 18s):
And do I get Ginsu knives with it?
Joel (22m 21s):
That's especially that, especially that.
Wes (22m 23s):
Act now while supplies last and only three easy payments,
Joel (22m 27s):
But wait, there's more!
Wes (22m 29s):
Exactly, so we're, I think we're probably two to three times as expensive, i you compare us to some of the tech screening platforms, if you compare us to head hunters, which are a lot of our customers are spending a lot of money on headhunters, cause they were rejecting those hidden gems before us. We are freaking cheap. So we're somewhere in that range.
Joel (22m 49s):
Good enough. All right, so the I'll let you out on this one. As someone with a teenage child, Rose Holman versus Purdue, who has the better engineering program?
Wes (23m 0s):
Friends, don't let friends go to Purdue. That's just not something you want to do.
Chad (23m 3s):
And another and another point for Wes.
Wes (23m 8s):
Seriously, there are great engineers are Purdue, but you know, I'm partial to Ro`se is a great program. There's some smart folks there.
Joel (23m 17s):
Good enough? Good enough.
Bells (23m 17s):
Ding, ding, ding
Joel (23m 17s):
All right. That's the bell.
Wes (23m 20s):