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Llama Drama: WorkLLama’s AI Revolution


Yeah, we know. WorkLlama is a dumb name for a company. But Shakespeare said, "A rose by any other name would still smell OK," or something like that (English lit wasn't really our thing), so let's dig into the business with Sugandan Dinakaran, VP of Product at WorkLlama. Turns out, WorkLlama promises to do a lot of the heavy lifting for your recruiting strategies. We're talkin' marketing, acquisition, engagement, scheduling and more, and they've raised $50 million so they must be doing something right. Added bonus: The name is explained, and like it or not, it does make sense.


PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION


Podcast 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.


[music]


Joel: Oh, yeah. What's up everybody? This is the Chad and Cheese Podcast. We're live from the Daxter booth.


Chad: Yeah.


Joel: At Unleash in Las Vegas. I'm your co-host, Joel Cheesman. Joined as always, Chad Sowash is here. And we are excited to welcome Sugu Dinakaran to the show.


Chad: Boom!


Joel: He is the VP of Product at WorkLLama. Sugu, welcome to the podcast.


Sugandan Dinakaran: Thank you for having me.


Joel: Did I pronounce your name correctly?


Sugandan Dinakaran: Got it. Money.


Joel: Awesome. Awesome.


Sugandan Dinakaran: After ten attempts. Finally. [chuckle]


Chad: Money. Money. I love that.


Joel: So we'll get to WorkLLama in a second. A lot of our listeners don't know who you are. Give us a little bit about you from a personal angle. What do you like? Sports, family, walks on the beach?


Sugandan Dinakaran: Walks with the dog.


Joel: Love it.


Chad: Walks with the dog. Do you have one dog, do you have...


Joel: What kind of dog?


Sugandan Dinakaran: I've got a 6-year-old white golden. A golden retriever.


Joel: Oh. Goldens are awesome.


Sugandan Dinakaran: Yeah, his name is Truffle, Truffle Valentino.


Joel: Truffle. That's cute.


Chad: Truffle Valentino. Oh.


Joel: That's a good name. And we'll get to the company name in a second. Not so exciting. [laughter] Also, a lot of our listeners won't know WorkLLama. Give us the elevator pitch on the company and what you do.


Sugandan Dinakaran: Give you that in a second. So we are a unified AI platform for everything talent. So at the core of WorkLLama is a talent marketing, talent engagement, ATS, as well as a high-volume recruiting engine. So that's what we do. We focus heavily on contingent, as well as direct sourcing, and we're also beginning to play in the enterprise space more and more.


Chad: Okay. That's a lot, man.


Sugandan Dinakaran: Yeah?


Chad: That's a lot.


Sugandan Dinakaran: It's a lot?


Chad: That's a pretty wide TAM. I mean, that's... Whoa!


Joel: Llamas can bite a lot at a time, apparently.


Chad: Apparently.


Joel: Because they've bitten off a lot. Can they chew it?


Chad: They carry a lot of weight, though. Yeah, yeah, for sure.


Joel: A lot of weight.


Sugandan Dinakaran: Yeah.


Chad: You've got the AI, which means you've gotta have some type of conversational AI that's there, which is...


Sugandan Dinakaran: We do. Yeah.


Chad: What's the llama name? 'Cause you've gotta have a little llama head, right?


Sugandan Dinakaran: So I didn't come up with the name.


Chad: Okay.


Sugandan Dinakaran: But whoever did it did a fantastic job.


Chad: Don't make excuses. Don't make excuses.


[laughter]


Sugandan Dinakaran: We'll talk about Tina in a second. But, yeah. Llama, the idea behind the llama was that they do the heavy lifting for you.


Joel: Okay.


Sugandan Dinakaran: And that was what we wanted to be for our customers, is we do the heavy lifting for them. And we're talent-focused. We've always been about talent. We wanna make sure we take everything away from the talent, make it as easy as possible for them in their career journey. That's been our vision for them, is to find what they enjoy the most and use the best of technology available for us to make it as exciting and easy for them to find what they need.


Joel: So you're head of product. The generative AI revolution is in full swing.


Chad: It's here, kids. It's here.


Joel: Talk about the last 12, 18 months in your business and how things have changed, your perspective has maybe altered due to the generative AI and what's out there now. How is that impacting products?


Sugandan Dinakaran: Sure. So we take a slightly contrarian position there. Obviously, AI is here to stay. No one's debating that. AI is doing a fantastic job with what it's doing right now. But what we're seeing in the industry is a lot of Grammarly type work. We can write job descriptions for you. We can write emails for you. And we're trying very, very intentionally not to jump on that bandwagon. Our AI in the past has always been very intentional. So we're trying not to just have anything in there that calls it AI.


Chad: Right.


Sugandan Dinakaran: So what we're trying to do is bring in a lot of what we call contextual knowledge that we know about our talent and our customers to then use GenAI or the best of technologies out there to make it more contextual and useful. So obviously, there are parts of it where our competitors continue to go on with a lot of AI-powered solutions. And we wanna make sure we're not lagging, but we also wanna make sure we're not another copycat of what a Copilot is. We're trying to be very intentional in what we put out in the market.


Chad: Well, being intentional in your space, right? I mean Microsoft Copilot is very broad.


Sugandan Dinakaran: Yeah.


Chad: It does a lot of things. It's very... Say it's wide, but it's very shallow at this point for the data that it has available to be able to train off of. You guys, though, more specific, more workforce data. So how quickly do you think that more of the focused domain-specific players are gonna be able to get this AI piece right? Because they're not looking at broad tranches of data. They're looking at very small and focused. Although ones that could definitely help from a process methodology, from a matching, those types of things. But what do you think about the space and the actual domain players? Will they get this right faster than the broad-based?


Sugandan Dinakaran: Well, for sure. I think... Well, it's already happening, right? It's not that it's gonna be breakthrough technologies that will come two years from now. It's already happening. What technology providers in the HR space have always had is the data that a typical, like, an LLM, might not have been able to train on.


Chad: Right, right.


Sugandan Dinakaran: So we've had the data for a while. What I think it will change drastically is now the interface. It's no longer gonna be just a search and filtering. It's no longer just gonna be, "I'm gonna give you a click, click, click to get to what you need to be." It's gonna be more conversational. It's gonna be more, "I'm looking for this. Can we do this?" And then further just gonna go through that process of asking the right questions to what you need to do.


Chad: Right. So good engagement is what you're looking for, yeah?


Sugandan Dinakaran: Which is where, I think, the differentiation will come from with what we're seeing in the AI space.


Chad: Which makes sense, which we've seen a lot of companies do.


Sugandan Dinakaran: Yeah.


Joel: So the llama carries a lot of weight, and you guys provide a lot of services. I'm looking here at marketing, scheduling, engagement, etcetera. Talk to me about the competitive landscape. You're in a lot of people's pie, if you will. How do you look at the competitive landscape there, Mr. Llama?


Sugandan Dinakaran: So here's how we've always taken this. And this is just coming from me as a product person, is work on what your customers and your users want, and then you'll have a product that's better than competition. So we've tried to take that position where we're not intentionally looking at competition to see what they're doing and what can we do to be as powerful, as competitive.


Sugandan Dinakaran: It's always been what is our customer looking for and build it for them? And to your point, what that's done is we've been able to achieve a suite of products that are able to replace a lot of point solutions for our customers. So rather than a customer saying... And this is an interesting word that I heard a lot. It's called orchestration. If you've been in the sessions, you hear orchestration a lot.


Sugandan Dinakaran: And what that is, is it's actually telling me that our customers are gonna have to figure out how to use Product A for talent marketing, Product B for ADS, Product C for scheduling, and then orchestrate what they need out of them. And for us, it's always been... I call it the integration nightmare. I call it... Okay, orchestration is just a fancy way of saying it's gonna be a hard way to get to what you need to do.


Chad: So you're talking about all these different point solutions and then trying to integrate and then orchestrate the process methodology?


Sugandan Dinakaran: Exactly.


Chad: Right. Yeah. No, that sounds like a bitch.


Sugandan Dinakaran: Yeah. And for us, it's always been one platform, one solution. "We'll get you to what we need." And the approach we've taken to the market is, customer first. So we always work with our customers, we partner with them very, very heavy on...


Chad: Everybody does that.


Sugandan Dinakaran: On the roadmap. Right.


Chad: Let's talk about the stuff that you guys do different. [laughter] Okay? Everybody talks about that. Let's get out of the talking points here. Okay? We're gonna talk about the really cool shit that you guys are doing and talk about how you're... And from our understanding, you're partnering with Daxtra.


Sugandan Dinakaran: That's right. Right.


Chad: How does that actually work?


Sugandan Dinakaran: Obviously, Daxtra has been a phenomenal leader from an AI search infrastructure, right? What Daxtra does is fit really, really well in our ecosystem. So our users don't have to leave the ATS.


Chad: Right. White-labeled right into the system?


Sugandan Dinakaran: Right. It's fully embedded. It makes the ATS more productive. And Daxtra does a phenomenal job of getting the candidate data, parsing, indexing and provide a unified search experience. So for us, it's leveraging Daxtra's AI capabilities on top of what we already have...


Chad: Gotcha.


Sugandan Dinakaran: To provide this rich search interfaces for our customers where they run the search within Daxtra.


Chad: Okay.


Sugandan Dinakaran: And then they'll leverage everything that WorkLLama does, like our talent pulling capabilities, our shortlisting capabilities, our automation communication capabilities. But they sit right in the middle of it, which makes the integration with Daxtra very, very powerful.


Chad: Okay. Because technologies like Daxtra really does... They do the heavy lifting to be able to parse, to be able to contextualize and then to be able to prospectively be that search infrastructure or matching infrastructure. Is that how you guys are using them, kind of like in totality?


Sugandan Dinakaran: That's exactly what we're doing. Daxtra also searches local databases, which is great for our customers, and then also goes out to, like, the LinkedIn and the Monsters, and they're able to provide a unified way of saying, "Hey, here's your top 10 talent," it doesn't matter where they're coming from, which is great.


Chad: Gotcha.


Joel: Well, back to carrying a lot of weight, because I'm a guy who knows about carrying a lot of weight.


[laughter]


Joel: You guys raised 50 million big ones last year.


Chad: Say what?


Joel: Yeah, 50 million big ones. You're at 139 employees, according to LinkedIn, based in Georgia. That's just a side note. There aren't a lot in Georgia...


Chad: Where in Georgia?


Joel: Alpharetta, Georgia.


Chad: Atlanta? Okay. Alpharetta. Yeah.


Joel: So the $50 million, talk about the future, what's the money gonna be used for. I assume new products features are coming out. We've talked about the past, the present. Let's talk about the future.


Sugandan Dinakaran: It's all going in my pocket, man. It's for my paycheck. Yeah.


Joel: Hello. [laughter] Drinks on, Sugu.


Sugandan Dinakaran: Let's go. No. We've focused a lot of that $50 million in growth and expansion. From an R&D standpoint, partnership and partnership integrations is a big part of where that's going. And AI research. We're building a lot of our internal AI teams to build some of this out, so that's another big area where that investment's going. And obviously, the last part is acquisition.


Chad: Oh, the big A word. Acquisitions.


Joel: Dig into that one.


Chad: What are you looking for? What are we shopping for?


[laughter]


Joel: Sugu is going shopping.


Chad: We shopping for? Come on. Let's talk about this.


Sugandan Dinakaran: Yeah. If you're in the market for a direct sourcing platform, we are here. Market for an ATS, we are here. In the market for talent marketing, talent engagement, we are here.


Chad: Oh, gotcha.


Sugandan Dinakaran: We got you any ways you want, four ways, one way. We got it. [laughter]


Joel: That is Sugu Donakaran. I mean, Dinakaran.


Sugandan Dinakaran: There you go.


Chad: There you go.


Joel: For our listeners who wanna know more about WorkLLama, where would you send them?


Sugandan Dinakaran: Go to workllama.com. Or check us out on LinkedIn for more. Or... We've got a nice booth here at Unleash. Go find us right there.


Chad: Yeah. Eat your food, Tina.


Joel: That's right. [chuckle] We gotta go feed Tina.


Sugandan Dinakaran: Free llamas. Swing by the booth.


Joel: That is it. Live from the Daxtra booth at Unleash in Las Vegas. We out.


Chad: We out.


Podcast Outro: Thank you for listening to... What's it called? Podcast, the Chad, the Cheese. Brilliant. They talk about recruiting, they talk about technology, but most of all, they talk about nothing. Just a lot of shoutouts to people you don't even know. And yet you're listening. It's incredible. And not one word about cheese. Not one cheddar, blue nacho, pepper jack, Swiss. So many cheeses and not one word. So weird. Anywho, be sure to subscribe today on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. That way, you won't miss an episode. And while you're at it, visit www.chadcheese.com. Just don't expect to find any recipes for grilled cheese. It's so weird. We out.

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