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Unicorn Status w/ Anoop

There seems to be a new $1B unicorn born every day in the employment industry, but only one has the distinction of being a Chad & Cheese 'Death Match' winner. Enter SeekOut and its CEO and cofounder Anoop Gupta, who recently closed a Series C to the tune of $115M and a $1.2B valuation, who joins the boys for a friendly chat. About what? How about international growth plans, diversity offerings, competing with Eightfold and Phenom (and just about everyone else), and much, much more.


INTRO (2s):

Hide your kids! Lock the doors! You're listening to HR’s most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman 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.

Joel (23s):

Oh yeah. What's up everybody. It's your favorite guilty pleasure. The Chad and cheese podcast. I'm your host. Joel Cheeseman joined as always by the Robin to my Batman, Chad Sowash and today we are just super excited to welcome newly minted unicorn. That's right. Anoop Gupta to the show.

Chad (45s):

Wait, we have Anoop coming on?

Joel (49s):

Anoop is here. Unicorn alert. There's Anoop and by the way, death match winner.

Chad (58s):


Joel (58s):

From 2019.

Chad (60s):


Joel (60s):

We know how to pick 'em, Chad.

Chad (1m 2s):

And you know how sexy that is when you walk into a funding meeting and you have a Chad and Cheese gold rope with a big medal. Dude, you know, that's how he got it.

Joel (1m 13s):

Global hands you blank checks. When you come in with the death match, gold chain.

Anoop (1m 18s):

You're giving them my advice, secrets to how to become a unicorn.

Chad (1m 24s):

The thing is the thing is Anoop that I think you and only two other companies have actually one death match. So therefore, you know that not many have actually gone through the hoops yet. So you're safe. You're safe.

Joel (1m 37s):

Yeah. Damn. That damn pandemic kind of screwed it up for everybody. So what do you, Anoop are you sitting on a pile of money in Seattle drinking some Starbucks, like what, what's your, what are your days like?

Anoop (1m 52s):

My days are exciting because you know, the team we have is exciting, but it's also a lot of hard work and it's fun. It's fun. What we do.

Chad (2m 2s):

What's fun? Tell me what's fun. Are you digging into the data and you just love that you're bathing in numbers. I mean, what's going on here that's fun?

Anoop (2m 13s):

No, no you know really. I got to tell you, my favorite meeting of the week is my all hands meeting. We got like 120 people out there. We talk about gratitude. We say, thank you. We introduced new people who have joined and it's an amazing group. So it's the people that we have and the interactions that we have even during these times of COVID is most exciting to me. You know, when we say, and this is place, not a call from a corporate and what we're trying to sell. When we say people are the most important asset for any company.

Anoop (2m 54s):

You know, they make you want to get up and come back and talk and do things together. That's most exciting. Numbers happen automatically, when you have a great team and I'm serious.

Joel (3m 8s):

Well Anoop. I don't know if I assume you're too busy to listen to the show regularly, but our most fun is talking about all the new unicorns in our space.

Chad (3m 20s):

Joel just loves the sound effects.

Joel (3m 22s):

For those that don't know, like give them the details on the latest series C, what's going on there. And then, and then we'll kind of dig into the nitty gritty of that.

Anoop (3m 31s):

Yeah. So, you know, just a couple of weeks we announced our series C fundraise, $115 million and brings our valuation to 1.2 billion in four years and 2.6X, you know what we did nine months ago in March, we raised $65 million. So, you know, it's been a fun ride and journey. A lot of investors.

sfx (4m 1s):

unicorn music

Joel (4m 1s):

Love it.

Chad (4m 2s):

Yes. Let's, let's make that the last one. Okay. That's great. So let's jump into this. You now have taken unicorn money. You guys are obviously, you know, you're on the launch pad. You're you're on takeoff, but the thing is you can't be a point solution at this point, right? You've got to broaden up, you've got to become that new, bigger system, right? So what's your vision for tomorrow. You guys started off as a sourcing solution. You become much more than that and I assume, especially with this cash, you're going to become even bigger and stronger and broader. Am I wrong? Am I right?

Chad (4m 46s):

What's going on over there?

Anoop (4m 49s):

You're always right, Chad. And that is, you know, genuinely trip. So do bring people along who are listening, you know, seekout is a talent acquisition platform today. You know, we help you recruit hard to find diverse talent. And we have expanded that for passive sourcing to, you know, candidate discovery in your applicant tracking system, you know, ranking inbound talent so that, you know, you have an easy job there, you have too many applicants. We help you with referrals and then give you contact information and communicate on diversity.

Anoop (5m 31s):

So that's where we are coming at from. The thing that we, you know, our customers very much made us aware of is, you know, there's talent acquisition but with the great reshuffle, with the great resignation there's a lot of interest in retaining the people that you have. So what we have done is we are expanding ourselves. You know, we say SeekOut is the best solution for hiring, retaining, growing, and developing your talent, right? So this is something we call enterprise talent optimization.

Anoop (6m 12s):

It is looking at the whole enterprise looking at who you already have and who you want to get from outside.

Chad (6m 22s):

So internal mobility. Here's the big question, I guess. How do you differentiate yourself from all the other core talent platforms that are actually out there to day? I would say that most of the newer platforms are more automation centric and help organizations scale in, in many different ways, whether it's on the IM side or it is on just the recruiting side, but how do you differentiate? Because that's, that's me looking from the outside in, how do you, and how does your team differentiate how you're different, when you're pitching a new column?

Anoop (6m 57s):

Yeah, no. So, so let me talk, start from an example. So if you look at a platform like Workday, you know, which helps, which has something called skills cloud, you know, that people can enter skills and they can suggest some jobs options, but they start with zero skills. And the first task that an employee has to do is to go on enter thier skills. And I'm Frank, if you were to say, I knew going into your skills, I wouldn't even know where to start or what to add, or not. Serious question and turns out, you know, from what we learned is maybe 10%, 20% of the people do it okay.

Anoop (7m 40s):

And even if they do it, you know, they do it in a very limited back. So our foundation for doing and differentiation is how we build the most comprehensive 360 degree profiles and views into internal employees. You already know when we go to Excel, talent and hiring, we have the public profiles, we have the get hub. We go and look at jobs. You said security clearance. We do a diversity. We infer lots and lots of things about them. So now what we are doing is we have combining that external data that we already know about the employees at the company, along with the internal data that might be there in a day, for example, you know, what's your level of job level internally?

Anoop (8m 32s):

What is your trajectory ban? We can go and look into the learning, the development systems. We can actually go into your internal GitHub, your corporate, private GitHub, you know, and find out what is the work that you actually done. So we will have the most comprehensive view of the internal and external data combined together of the people. Once you have that, you already have a lot of, you know, sophisticated ai matching and other technology that we have developed, you know, for Excel talent type position to say, you know, here are jobs that are relevant for you. All right, we can tell you, here are career paths other in the company have taken.

Anoop (9m 14s):

We can tell you about here are team members that you can Slack chat to. Right? So that is where the power comes. The power of the talent data platform layered on top with a talent intelligence platform, with a talent action platform so both the HR people and the employees can make great products.

Chad (9m 43s):

So you're gathering data, then you're contextualizing data. And then you're creating ontologies around that data to be able to plug it into several different systems. Is that correct?

Anoop (9m 54s):

Yeah. Yes. So basically the foundation is, if you've don't know anything, you know, it's garbage in garbage out, right? So you better have the right information that will inform your decisions. Then data by itself is not sufficient. You better get some insights and predictive insights on, you know, why somebody might leave or why somebody might stay and it's not only by just internal data, you know, it does external market around a person and their skills and experiences. And then insights by themselves are not sufficient you gotta be able to do something and we let you do something.

Joel (10m 33s):

Is there an engagement piece in terms of employees actually getting involved with the data or is this all sort of out of their purview?

Anoop (10m 41s):

No. No. So there is an employee portion that we called the courier hub and basically that's the place where the employee goes. You know, they can enter their preferences on any kind of thing they might do, but we'll tell you open jobs that might be highly relevant to them. They can choose something, they can find their skills gaps, and they can say, what are the skills I need to build up? So let me tell you another aspect of it, which is interesting. So Kathleen Hogan, she's the CSRO at Microsoft. She be send a email to 25 house and people managers saying, Hey, you know, retention is an important thing we care about our employees growth.

Anoop (11m 32s):

So for your team members, you know, start having career conversations. People, managers, they don't know what jobs you have. They don't know, you know, which areas are hiring. They don't know anything, right? So it is about employees. What they can directly do themselves. It is about people managers and the conversations they can have a bit, their team members. It is for HR managers and business leaders to understand who they have in the organization and how they can advance.

Joel (11m 59s):

So you recently told, I think George LaRocque in an interview that you are not trying to be an ATS or an HRIS system, which I initially sort of chuckled at and said, good luck with that. But, hearing you now, it seems more like the companies in your cross hairs are like an Eightfold® or a Phenom. Am I right on that? And if I am, what makes you feel like SeekOut sort of has a better shot at taking them on and succeeding.

Anoop (12m 30s):

So, you know, competition and companies are always there. It is a huge market out there for us to go and win. We believe that our strengths in talent acquisition very naturally extend to this new world you know, that'd be called talent 368, you know, for enterprise talent optimization. We have the right expertise of team members, you know, who know how to bring data together, then bring in talent intelligence. We have a data platform where we can integrate new sources of data very easily. And then, you know, we have a lot of AI and other people so we can do.

Anoop (13m 14s):

So I think we come from a unique place of the richest data already about employees.

Chad (13m 25s):

Quick question around system of record. Could you be a system of record for an organization who did want to kick their ATS to the curb? Because I think really, if we look at it, an applicant tracking system is just a Relic term, right? We are more focused on a tech stack, which is going to differ from company to company. So they'll need different plug and play options, modules, all that other fun stuff. The big question that it all comes down to is can you be the system of record for an organization?

Anoop (13m 56s):

So let me take an example and an analogy that might be helpful, you know, for your audience. If you look at service now, you know, there are a hundred billion dollar plus company and you say they are a system of record. They build on top of Salesforce, they build on top of Zendesk. They bring it up from many places together, okay. To provide insights and data and workflows so companies can get work done. Right? So similarly, okay. What our intent is to be that system on top off the HRISs, the ATSs, the LMSs, the internal spreadsheets where they might have information about, you know, these people have sold and go inside the Salesforce to go inside that.

Anoop (14m 50s):

So I believe that the power is not just in the system of record. The power is in the data, the insights and the actions that you can take. So I look at Workday as a partner, you know, I look at Smart Recruiters, Greenhouse as a partner. On top of which what ATS systems are about is a lot of, you know, Workflow and compliance and what are the, you know, regulations in each country and things like that. And we kind of want to stay above it.

Chad (15m 23s):

Yeah. I can understand that, you want to stay away from the red tape. So you are actually providing a, really, a lot of the glue. What would it be? The really the RPA and automation that works behind the scenes within those platforms, instead of being the platform that everybody logs into, where do you guys actually fit in that?

Anoop (15m 45s):

We could be sitting on top? So, you know, so again, we talked about, you know, if you are an employee, you want to know what's possible for you. Who you should connect to, you know, what career paths. So all of these things, you know, what should you learn? They will come directly to us. They don't go into any of the other systems. If an HR person is, you know, looking at either sourcing internally talent, or they want to understand, you know, between this group of division and this division, what is happening and what is the talent we have, they come to us.

Anoop (16m 25s):

If you say, you know, this group is disappearing and how do I want to redeploy the talent? They come to us and live on top of that. And then to make a change, you know, okay, this employee should move to this organization or whatever. You go into the HRS and do the needed stuff.

Chad (16m 43s):

Do you integrate so that you can deliver that experience into those systems? Or do they have to actually leave Workday or leave whatever core talent platform they're using and then log into your system to use it for that? It, how does it work fluidly? Because we all know that employees from an adoption standpoint, they don't want to log into a bunch of different systems. So, do you have the integration and delivery mechanisms in place to ensure that that happens in a core system so that you get prime adoption?

Anoop (17m 15s):

So I'm saying as a prime adoption, if you look in ATS system today and who can most HRI systems today, they are ERP systems. They are designed by the professionals and experts. They are not designed for the employees, not designed for a lot of, you know, the people. So we expect that a lot of work will happen in our systems and through API.

Chad (17m 43s):


Anoop (17m 43s):

You know, the effect of a salary change, whatever else can happen in an HRIS system.

Joel (17m 48s):

Let's talk about people for a second, Anoop, I think you have roughly 120 employees now, is that correct?

Anoop (17m 56s):


Joel (17m 57s):

Give or take.

Anoop (17m 58s):

140, yeah.

Joel (17m 58s):

Okay. So you mentioned in many interviews, that head count was obviously going to go up and I don't think anyone doubts that you have some huge brains at the company. Are you going to add more brains, a little bit more sales and marketing level type folks? Like what kind of increase in head count are we going to see? And also what kinds of people are you going to bring in?

Anoop (18m 25s):

We are bringing and people in all areas. So we have bringing, you know, salespeople, we have been in bringing in customer success. We had growing on marketing, we had growing up partner this thing, and we are growing our engineering and product and designers. So truly, it's actually been growth in all dimensions, you know, to grow the business.

Joel (18m 50s):

And is this a more of a global workforce? Where's the company in terms of work from home, a hybrid work? Like what does that look like?

Anoop (19m 2s):

Yeah, so we are around two thirds in this broader Seattle area. And one third, you know, mostly around the US we do have a team in India, you know, that is there. We are totaled flex work from home and hybrid. So we do have nice offices in Bellevue and in the Seattle area. And different teams operate differently, you know, based on what members want to do engineering, a lot of engineering comes into our office. You know, sales are very fast, small fraction comes in maybe 5% because they can work just as effectively from home.

Anoop (19m 46s):

What is important to us is, you know, the health of employees and their families. So we've been totally flex and pretty effective with that and pretty effective in, you know, maintaining our culture, which has said, gives me the most happiness and brings me joy.

Joel (20m 7s):

Are we going to be seeing an office open in Israel or Germany? Like what what's that growth plan look like?

Chad (20m 18s):


Anoop (20m 19s):

So, you know, clearly we will be growing internationally too. There's still a huge market in the US that we have not touched. We just last week, you know, announced the hiring of our Chief Revenue Officer that is Kristen Scott from Appian. So with her joining, that will give us the capacity to also go international in a very tactful way.

Joel (20m 44s):

And that was fairly sort of quietly the new CRO. I don't think there was any sort of public announcement. What's the story behind her background? Did the current CRO get repositioned somewhere in the company? Did they leave? What happened there?

Anoop (21m 4s):

No. So, you know, her background is from Appian, you know, which is a more platform for connections of you know, how companies build their apps on top. She helped grow them from, you know, when they were on $20, 30 million to over $200 million, which is, you know, an area in a range, we are very interested in that experience. She is a wonderful, you know, builder, enabler of scaling enterprise sales teams. Our previous, we didn't have a CRO before, we had a VP of sales, Scott Goodman said, and he's been amazing for us.

Anoop (21m 51s):

He will remain with the organization. I think we just needed to expand the capacity of the leadership team.

Chad (21m 57s):

Great answer on the, we need to focus on the US first because a there's a lot of discipline that obviously goes into that. There's a lot of money already sitting on a powder keg when it comes to cash, but then obviously looking international as well, because you do have international clients. I get that. So , that's awesome. My question, Anoop goes around something that I hear from talent acquisition leaders, all over the place, they're sick and tired of hearing all of these platforms that were boasting AI before and now they're DEI platforms, right?

Chad (22m 37s):

And it makes not just them sick because they know that it's quote unquote, "loosely DEI". If it is DEI, let alone AI, but you guys also have diversity hiring on the website. You've talked about it. What should companies actually look for to be able to differentiate? Because when you're starting to talk about, you know, addressing unconscious bias with technology, that only goes so far, so help us out.

Anoop (23m 7s):

Yeah. So the funniest thing Chad, is that, you know, diversity holistically looking at diversity, equality, inclusion, belonging, is a complex problem, and there's no single silver bullet to address all of that in one go. You know, if you were to ask the talent teams, they'll say, Hey, sourcing and recruiting is the hardest, but you know, there are many companies which might be revolving doors, you'll hire the talent, and then they have the talent leaves and that is no fun or helpful. So I'll tell you where SeekOut helps today and where SeekOut is going and a lot of the growth than the funding and the unicorn status relates to how we actually help people.

Anoop (23m 56s):

So I hope that some of your people who are listening today and are just sick of all the noise about everybody doing it, you know, they give us a serious look. So it starts with, you know, to me, one is how do you set targets? So, you know, so being able to understand that in the talent pool, you're looking at data engineers with 10 years of experience who know Tensorflow. Well, you know, we will tell you what diversity looks like. We'll tell you what diversity looks like that your peers will tell you where these people are.

Chad (24m 29s):


Anoop (24m 30s):

The second thing. So this is about how you set targets and realistic targets and not be just streaming. Right? The second thing is I believe that job descriptions matter in attracting talent, and I'm not talking about the Textio like thing. Make sure you're nice and fuzzy, which I know you guys will never do.

Joel (24m 56s):

Come on now.

Chad (24m 58s):

Joel's, Joel's warm and fuzzy. Come on.

Joel (24m 60s):

Don't make me push the soundbites Chad, don't make me push it.

Anoop (25m 4s):

I didn't mean it in a bad way. Okay. But it does about requirements. You know, job descriptions become kitchen chair, kitchen sinks. And, you know, depending on what you do, you can narrow the aperture of people. So helping, having data-driven conversations, with hiring managers that help you widen the aperture so you can find great, capable, diverse candidates, you know, is really important and SeekOut helps you with that. And then the third thing is actually sourcing and finding those candidates and, you know, we have amazing AI and filters, et cetera, that they'll help you.

Anoop (25m 44s):

And then, you know, we say unconscious bias that all of us have and how do you reduce bias as the way we call it is actually bias reducer. And we give you flexibility and hiding names and pictures and social networks and universities, whatever you want to do to do that. Now, a lot of companies are finding all of this very valuable and that's, you know, suddenly a very strong element and our growth. Now, as you look forward, how do you measure inclusion? How do you measure belonging? How do you measure the processes? So, because we integrate with the applicant tracking systems, we will also tell you, you know, they were 50 women and 50 men who applied and, you know, 10 women got an interview and 20 men got an interview and one woman got hired and four men got hired.

Anoop (26m 40s):

So basically data can also be an interesting tool that lets you ask smart questions, you know, in the workflow, what is actually happening out there. And so that you can say, it might be reasonable or it might not be reasonable. Maybe the interview process needs to be changed, maybe the right kind of doors, people need to be there and the interview room. You know? So there's a lot of things that you can do as we head into the, you know, enterprise talent optimization I was talking about, you can take Microsoft, you can look across all the vice presidents and you can say, Hey, for each one of them, you know, how many black people joined the organization and how many people left.

Anoop (27m 26s):

If there are a lot leaving then, you know, maybe, and it's, you know, there is an inclusion, belonging problem that is there. So again, data allows you to ask smart questions and if you dig down, you know, that will help you debug the system and get on a path to improvement. Without data companies are flying blind and that is, you know, not good for them or for anybody else.

Joel (27m 59s):

Let's talk a build or buy Anoop, a lot of your competitors have slightly bigger war chests than they did a year ago, which certainly begs the question. There's going to be a lot of acquisition activity in our space. Are you, I don't think you guys have made any acquisitions, at least nothing publicly that I've seen. Are you guys going to now be in the acquisition business? Are you going to stay firmly in the build business or somewhere in between?

Anoop (28m 35s):

We have not done any acquisitions so far that is there. We remain open to anything that comes up opportunistically.

Joel (28m 43s):

He's saying there's a chance, Chad.

Chad (28m 45s):

I'm saying that. That's how they branch out into international. Yeah. Good. Put that on my predictions.

Joel (28m 52s):

Keep going Anoop.

Anoop (28m 53s):

Yeah, no, I am just of the mode, you know, never say never. We will, you know, I'll tell you about how I think about acquisitions. You can have technology acquisitions, a small team that's done something amazing. You can have, you know, customer acquisition, somebody has a large customer list that will benefit from our solution. And so, you know, you can do customers, you can have Aqua hires where we just get a lot of talent from the thing. And so, you know, they it's all over the map in some sense. And we will look at opportunities that come our way, carefully, but also, you know, I've done many acquisitions while I was at Microsoft.

Anoop (29m 39s):

It is really important that there is a culture match and be able to grow. They can be a huge distraction, okay to the existing team. Where no progress is made. So we will try and be smart if we do anything.

Joel (30m 3s):

Only the sexy people, Chad.

Chad (30m 5s):

They have to be a diverse set of sexy people. That's Anoop Gupta co-founder CEO Deathmatch winner, unicorn at SeekOut. Anoop, we really appreciate you coming on the show. It's been way too long. We definitely need to get together at a conference somewhere. But in the meantime, if somebody wants to find out more about you or SeekOut, where would you send them?

Anoop (30m 30s):

So I would send them to our website,, get a demo. Or you can send me mail directly? I'm a new know, connect with me on LinkedIn. Send me an email and it'll be great to get together.

Joel (30m 49s):

So friendly, friendly. So open everything. Anoop, we love you, man. Keep on rocking, Chad and other one in the can.

Joel and Chad (31m 0s):

We out.

OUTRO (31m 46s):

Thank you for listening to, what's it called? The podcast with Chad, the Cheese. Brilliant. They talk about recruiting. They talk about technology, but most of all, they talk about nothing. Just a lot of Shout Outs of 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. Any hoo 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 just don't expect to find any recipes for grilled cheese. Is so weird. We out.


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