The Story Of HiBob: The Instagram Of HR

November 10, 2021 00:20:50
The Story Of HiBob: The Instagram Of HR
The Josh Bersin Company
The Story Of HiBob: The Instagram Of HR

Nov 10 2021 | 00:20:50

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Show Notes

In this podcast I interview Ronni Zehavi, the CEO and co-founder of HiBob. HiBob is one of the fastest-growing HR platforms in the mid-market, known for its gorgeous and very innovative user experience. I...
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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:11 Hello everyone, this is Josh. Today I'm here with Ronnie Zaja, the c e o and founder of Hi Bob. I think you're the founder, right? Ronnie? Yes, yes. Okay. Speaker 2 00:00:20 Co-founder. Speaker 1 00:00:21 Co-founder. And the reason I wanted to talk to him today is there are a whole bunch of things that Hi Bob is doing that exemplify what I consider to be state-of-the-art HR technology. So in addition to obviously being a great company, I think he also has a lot of lessons for many of you that are selecting or building tools in hr. So Ronnie, let's go back to when we first met. Remind me of our original meeting. I kind of forget now, Speaker 2 00:00:47 <laugh>, because you see so many people. So we, we met in Tel Aviv in 2017. HaBO was a really early stage startup with a few dozens of people, but we had enough to come over and to, uh, demo the platform to you. I remember we met in the Lloyd offices in Tel Aviv. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And about 20 minutes into the demo you posed me and you said, well, you have something different here that I haven't seen before. Don't call it h i s call it people management platform because you do much more than the typical H R I S and, and the rest is history. So we kept in touch as many vendors in the, in this industry exchange thoughts, got your feedback on ideas. So definitely your, your inputs we call it today, people management platform. And the credit goes to our meeting in Tel Aviv four years ago. Well, Speaker 1 00:01:39 And then we met in New York and we, we've gotten together multiple times. I think what was unique to me when I met you is you came from another industry. You had no expectations or deep understandings about the complexity of hr. And I remember you thought it was gonna be a lot simpler than you thought it was. We, we'll talk about it in a minute, but what I really thought was refreshing was you were thinking about it as a platform for managers and individual employees, not so much for HR people. And from the very, very beginning, Speaker 2 00:02:08 I, I think the vision around the platform was, and when you were disrupting a market or you become entrepreneur, you come fresh, you don't know the details. If, if I go back to my previous company, it was in the city and space and somebody would tell me, I'm gonna build a company that's not spending time. It's too complex. Only the ones that's coming from outside. One, they're dare to think big. And secondly, they're fresh. They don't know the, how cold is the water when you jump into it. And boy, we were so wrong about building I s I remember sitting with my co-founder and talking about building an i s and I said, what's the big deal? Clocking clock out survey here, server there, six months, we go live. And that's it. And we're so wrong about, uh, it's probably one of the most complex home to build. Speaker 2 00:02:58 It's endless the list of requirements coming from customers. I think we are breaking the records in Asana in terms of, uh, number of records that we are tracking coming from customers. But with that, I think it, it creates a huge appetite to do something really cool in this space. And no regrets. This is an amazing market to be in. We were lucky to start six years ago, so we got to the ultimate product market fit. When the market was shifting, we cracked the code on the go-to market. We can talk about that as well. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but I think the combination of all the stuff together brought up to a point that we have a good shot right now in in in this space. And, but just to remind your audience, we are focusing on the mid-size market. It's a bit misleading. What is sme? Speaker 2 00:03:45 Because it sounds one definition but it's actually different. The sub 20 employees selling to them is different than the sub 100 or 500 or 1000 or tens of thousands of employees. We focus on the m anywhere between hundred to a few thousands of uh, employees. I call it the hundreds of employees, the many hundreds of employees. So it's what we call the three M'S one midsize, fast growing. The second M is modern and the third one is multinational. We took the global approach from day one because it goes back to the experience that if you really want to make an impact in the market and to lead the market, then you have to think big from day one and think global from day one. So we didn't take being a domestic player in Europe or in the us you cannot build a company in Israel. It's too small. But we took the, the global approach and this is where we operate right now. Speaker 1 00:04:42 I do wanna talk about the go to market, but first about the product. So when I first saw Hi Bob, you were thinking about it as an HR MS or an H R I S and my original concept or when I saw it was this is more of a people management platform. What is it about the design and the application itself that's made it so compelling and market leading from your perspective? Speaker 2 00:05:05 So if you look at the journey in this industry, everything started at a simple system of record and then it evolved to a system of resources, automations. We thought that the next phase is system of engagement. Why? Because we thought about the new generation coming to work, call it the, the Y generation, the Z generation. We thought that they will come with a different expectations around their experience when they engage with the platform. So everything starts with the UI in the ux. It has to be intuitive, simple, easy to use in the flow of work. And if you have a, a welcoming platform that people really like to use, they don't feel annoyed logging into a platform to apply for a PTO or whatever, then you start engagement. The engagement has two levels in my opinion. One what I call the front end engagement, the ui, the ux, how beautiful to the eyes is it? And also the backend. The backend is related to the connectivity. You have to integrate the platform to so many platforms and solutions around hla. Cause you are the single source of truth for companies. So to us SY system of engagement was a, a new theme in this evolution. By the way. It's not the end. We think that the next phase is system of intelligence. You focus about data and insights coming from the platform, but the only way to be system of intelligence and to have data is engagement. Speaker 1 00:06:36 Ronnie, let me stop you for a sec. You know, I think that concept is well understood by a lot of the vendors, but how you do it is different. There is something about what you built that is absolutely different from the other platforms I've seen. And I think it's the Instagram like front end. I remember at one point you told me it's the Instagram of hr, which I think was that the right idea? Which you Yeah. Speaker 2 00:06:58 We heard that from a customer. Bob is, has Instagram experience at the front end and workday at the back end. Speaker 1 00:07:03 <laugh>. Yeah. And the other thing is what it does, if you look at a vendor like Lattice or the old success factors, they built a system for say performance management or a particular HR process. And then from there it became a more engaging platform. When you started, you set out to actually do different things. Talk a little bit about what it does for people and how you use it because it isn't really just for that. So Speaker 2 00:07:28 Strategically we knew that the big point of a point solution, you know the best of breed like success factors like Cornerstone when they built something, um, one from LMS and the other one from Talent, at some point they have to pivot and go back to the, to the fundamentals, the, the co HR in order to be a real player. So we knew that the only way to build something scalable was let's figure out what we can do in the co r. And then the challenge was around the flexibility and the agility of the platform. Because if you wanna serve midsize fast and companies, when they grow from 50 employees to 200 employees, this is in new organization. When they scale from 200 to 1000 and they expand globally, growth, flexibility, agility, the ability to run different workflows within the platform that can be customized and localized by teams, by different culture perspective. I think that's the beauty of the platform. And you do it in a very nice way and an elegant way. Beautiful to the eyes. Intuitive. So you don't need to be an HR expert, you know, an admin to use the platform Speaker 1 00:08:37 In your design paradigm. I think people listen to the podcast are gonna have to look at it to see it. But did you have designers from the outside world that had never worked in hr? How did you, who designed this? Yeah, Speaker 2 00:08:49 So one of the coolest stuff we did at, at the very beginning, we brought in consumer designers and consumer developers to build the the front end component. We thought that the experience should be as good as a consumer experience and you cannot ring it from, let's call it B2B platform developers or designers. We brought them from the consumer, the b2c, and we are collecting the fruits from the beginning because it was really refreshing. We talked about the Instagram experience. Yeah, it's there and it's one of the things that really differentiate ourself comparing to the legacy players, but also the debt of of the plat of the platform. We, we have everything you need for business that is growing and spending globally truly Speaker 1 00:09:34 Development, planning, performance management, organization design, checking in with people, team management, know it's, it's really got a lot of stuff. Sign Speaker 2 00:09:42 Off pto. Yeah. Compensation management for merit increase, uh, people analytics components. Let's Speaker 1 00:09:48 Talk about the go to market part of it cuz that's the fascinating part To me, this is a really competitive market. There's hundreds of systems including the payroll providers themselves. So there's everybody from ADP and Ceridian at the low end to Workday and SAP at the high end. You guys are growing like mad. Can you talk a little bit about your growth rate and what you've learned about how to go to market in this space? Yeah, Speaker 2 00:10:11 It took us a while. You know, uh, we have to really paint a position that we've built enough in our suite platform to serve customers. But I think about a year and a half ago we knew that we reached product market fit. So we had the right offering for our customers and we will like laser focus on what to go a as I mentioned the 3s. So today we are closing about 250 new customers every quarter. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and this number will grow. And I'm talking about companies with hundreds of employees all over the world. North America, Europe, Australia's like, Speaker 1 00:10:46 That's like 60 or 70 a week. That's 10 to 15 a day. Speaker 2 00:10:50 Yeah. And, and you know, it's constant peak. Uh, there's a day that we close, um, a few dozens, but I think the momentum is there and we are really picking up very nicely on the go-to market. But I think the recipe that I think is really important and work for us very nicely is the combination of the performance marketing activities as well as the field sales. So usually when you think about enterprise selling, you hire AEs with a high base salary and you double it with a bonuses and and commissions. It's very expensive and you get to a point that you have to sell at a very high a cv, you know, to balance between the L T V and cock. I think the combination of inbound activity as well as our ability to outbound and to nurture a, a target customers that we believe are relevant for us. Speaker 2 00:11:43 For example, every business on the planet that fits into the three msms. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, mid-size, fast growing more than meaning that you are, you believe in in moving your applications to the cloud. You use Slack, MS teams, whatever. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and you are global. This should be an ultimate customer for us and we should be in front of them. They should be aware of our brand name and we should have a dialogue with them around the stuff that really bother them. We have offices on the ground in major cities, New York, San Francisco, London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Sydney, Tel Aviv. And we have both SDRs, BDRs and also customer success. We believe that serving the customers is as important as selling them because giving them a great service at the same time zone that they can really have a quick chat with our team. And the beauty is that we ended up having an enterprise go to market result without really investing. They have a lifting of building an enterprise go to market team. Speaker 1 00:12:46 So you do have salespeople, right? I mean you have sds. Yeah Speaker 2 00:12:50 We have, we have sdr, bds, Speaker 1 00:12:51 What's the average revenue per salesperson per year? Speaker 2 00:12:55 Above million. Speaker 1 00:12:56 About a million. That's pretty good. That's actually a very efficient model. What do you look for in people when you hire people? Let's talk about sales and marketing in particular. There's a lot of sales and marketing people that have worked for a lot of vendors floating around there in HR land. Do you look for a particular characteristic or experience or tenure or? I Speaker 2 00:13:15 Would say the number one criteria, Josh, is culture. Culture fit. We have a very unique culture that we are very proud of being innovative, doing the extra mile, a very transparent organization. I'm using the same slide deck that I'm presenting to the board in my all hands meeting with my team. So culture goes first. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, uh, and I think that when you go after people and you try to hire them, the very first question is, do you think they will fit into the organization, number one. Number two, are they really hungry, motivated and they want to be successful? And I'm okay to hire first timers. I was first timer, you were first timer in your career. As long as you see that they have the right vibe, the motivation to be successful. And then on top of that, if somebody comes with a HR tech experience than more than happy, like you win all the points at, at once and and beyond that, you know their ability to adjust themself to the company. As we grow, we are 330 employees in a year from now will will be, I don't know, 400, uh, 500 employees. Can they really grow with us? Can they really be the next team leaders, the head of whatever because we really rely on them to step up and to be able to take us to the next level. Speaker 1 00:14:32 Great advice. Very, very good. One more question and then we'll wrap up. What is the one thing, if anything, that you worry about, what do you think the big challenges will be going forward or risks you see in your business right now? Speaker 2 00:14:44 I think the stars are aligned for any vendor in tech in general, in HR tech specifically. It's very rare to be in a market that is rapidly changing. Everything is changing. Yeah. The way people work is different than it was two years ago or will be different in a year from now. So for me it's all about execution. The market is there. It's a huge market, I would say endless market to go after. Yeah. The market is shifting. Number two, if you have a great technology and we do have a great technology to offer and the right team now it's all about execution and how we do it in the right way. I'm a great believer in taking the highway with no shortcuts. It means that we have to grow but also to be very efficient in our growth rate. I've been around for many years so I've been in the 2000 crisis and then in 2008 and now who knows when the correction will come. So my advice is growth, high growth, but also efficiency. And we just need to focus. We are expanding globally. We just open an office in Australia. We are playing very nicely in in the Nordics North America of course. And I, I think, and I hope that in the near future, in the next coming months quarter, the brand high Bob or the name of the platform Bob behind will be something that people will recognize and will appreciate and will find a way to use us. Well this is Speaker 1 00:16:03 Great Ronnie, one more question I wanna ask you. Are you glad you moved from the tech industry into hr? Are you happy about your new career? Speaker 2 00:16:11 Sometimes yes. Sometimes I say, oh my God. Because I, the Speaker 1 00:16:14 Reason I ask one of the entrepreneurs I know who comes from the tech industry told me one day I'm tired of talking of HR people all day. And I'm thinking, well you shouldn't be in this market if you don't enjoy it. Speaker 2 00:16:25 I think the, the HR persona is also changing. We come across very sophisticated teams. Very smart. Yeah. The way they think about HR is as an integral part of the business. They think about long-term, they come up with strategies. So I have a lot of respect to our buyer, the the HR people. And by the way, we learned only from them because we didn't come from the industry, we came as an outsider. It was all about listening to them. Yeah. And to be a great entrepreneur, you have to have a, a great skills of listening cause you hear about the problems, you hear about the challenges and then you try to fix them for them. Or you try to compare yourself to the competition. There are so many players in this industry and you try to build something right for, for the customers. My advice for entrepreneurs always listen to your customers and then choose between the good cholesterol and the bad cholesterol. The good cholesterol is a problem that can be used across many customers and bad cholesterol is a problem that is only unique for one customer. You should not do that. Speaker 1 00:17:29 Well this is a really, really good conversation Ronnie. We could probably con continue for an hour, but this is very, very helpful. I think you're, to me, there's a couple things I've observed in working with you. First of all, you had a lot of experience in business so it was not intimidating to jump into a very deep pool that you didn't realize how deep it was gonna be when you first got into it. And second, you really do have a very unique ability to listen to and respect the customers, the HR professionals. Because my experience in HR is exactly the same. These are some of the smartest, most creative people I've ever met in my career. They're just looking for solutions to very, very important problems. And with your technology expertise and design expertise, you guys are clearly breaking the mold in one of the very core important parts of hr. And the other big lesson is that medium sized companies turn into big companies very fast. So you now have some very large customers that didn't necessarily seem so big when you first started with them. Oh, Speaker 2 00:18:25 Oh yes. Some of them started with us at 50 employees and there are over 4,000 employees within two years. Speaker 1 00:18:32 Okay. Ronnie, thank you so much for your time today. If people wanna learn about Hi Bob, I'll put some information about the company in the notes. It was great getting to know you all these years and continue to work together and watch the company thrive. Thank Speaker 2 00:18:44 You Josh. Thank you for having me. Speaker 1 00:18:46 Well I hope you enjoyed that conversation. I think there's a lot of lessons from Hi Bob, for those of you that are buying HR technology, implementing it, and obviously for those of you that are vendors, please contact me if you'd like more information on this HR tech space, I can explain to you what I think Hi Bob is doing. That's pretty cool. And see how you can apply this in your own organization. Thank you.

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