March 21, 2023

Episode 205: Joanna Riley, CEO of Censia Talent Intelligence

Joanna Riley is an entrepreneur, advocate, and mentor for diversity in technology, and the CEO and Co-Founder of Censia. Censia was built to transform the way enterprise companies hire talent, its platform is a true system of intelligence for the enterprise, predictively matching the most in-demand people to opportunities at scale, powered by AI.

Before Censia, she experienced two successful acquisitions of her companies, was part of the International Training Unit for the FBI, was a collegiate rower, and earned her BA degree in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia, where she was a full scholarship athlete. She is part of the President's Program at Harvard Business School, receiving her MBA.

Julian: Hi everyone. Thank youso much for joining the Behind Company Lines podcast. Today we have Joe Riley,CEO of Censia Talent Intelligence. Censia was built to transform the wayenterprise companies hire talent. Joe, I'm so excited to chat with you, not onlybecause we both share similar industry, but in particularly your background,your experience as an entrepreneur and  

what other advice that you've seen thatthat could translate to other founders, but also talent and, and this wholetalent problem that a lot of companies are having big and small, it doesn'tnecessarily matter but everyone's finding to find the best people and, andpeople at in terms of in, in the background experience that really match wellwith the companies that they work for.

But before we get into all that goodstuff, what was more challenging? training for the FBI or building a companygap?  

Joanna: Oh, that's reallynice. I was an athlete when I joined the FBI, so I will say that building acompany is by far harder. Yeah, and training for the FBI was a, a lot, lotshorter, like narrower scope, I will say, than.

Building company.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. Tell us alittle bit about what you were doing before you started building Censia, onceyou went through the training and then honestly just jumped straight into kindof entrepreneurship and this whole journey that you've been on for, for a whilenow.  

Joanna: Yeah. Yeah. So, I, I,for me I went to undergrad at University of Virginia, which I, I loved, I wasrecruited to the FBI in undergrad, and worked for them right out of school and,and absolutely loved what I did.

I just hated the bureaucratic structure.So, learned pretty early on, luckily in my career that I liked merit-basedsystems, and that's kind of what really kicks me off into entrepreneurship. AndI think often entrepreneurship. finds people rather than, people, you don't goout and they're like, I'm gonna study to be the best one.

Like, it's right. You can't, the, the,the grit it takes to be an entrepreneur is something that, I do think thatyou're, early on you have, yeah. And so, for after I left FBI I built my firstcompany. I was 22. I I sold him when I was 24. And that kind of kicked off thejourney for me of kind of the, I loved being an entrepreneur and I've had justan amazing journey since I've, I've Censia has actually my fourth company andI've been through, I've sold companies, I've bought companies, I've beenthrough an ipo, I've been through hostile takeover.

I've been through all sorts of things that.The journey of learning is really unique and special. And I think the biggest,the biggest piece with Censia is it's kind of all of the, the previousexperienced learnings all bottled into one. And and it's kind of what I thinkhas been critical for our success.

Julian: I love that. And justto, to speak to the early founders who are early in their career, describe thefirst opportunity, what got you involved into that startup, and then how didyou build it into a, a company that was then, acquired, which is a lot of theend goals for, for a lot of founders.  

Joanna: Yeah. I think reallythat company came. . I, I was, I went into sales and did incredibly well andkind of didn't even know really what I didn't actually know. That was somethingthat I was passionate about. Telling the story of companies, I think,especially in general when we're startups, is, yeah, telling our own story iscritical, but finding people and teaching people how to tell our story, be the

communication from great products togreat customers and making sure that they constantly, grow and develop is oneof the harder things to do. And so, eventually one of one of my future clients,this is how the company started, they were like, look, you are the bestsalesperson we've ever, out of thousands of people we've ever worked with.

Like, we're gonna give you your owncompany and we'll be your exclusive client. And. We want to you only torepresent us. And I was like, oh, okay, wait, how do, how do I do that? It waskinda start, what's the 1 0 1 playbook? So I love what you're doing here, whichis really helping people kind of understand the journey and the sharedexperience of entrepreneurship.

Cuz it is you know what I, I guess thebiggest learning I learned through that journey was that it's all about thetype of people you hire.  


Julian: Yeah. And it's reallya trial by fire, in getting into that opportunity. And, and I'm curiousbecause, not only have you brought companies from zero to one, but you've also,like you mentioned, led companies to IPO and describe the different challengesin terms of the, the CEO and their responsibilities, how they change and shift,and the different challenges that they face at, at these different milestonesthat, that you've seen.  

Joanna: Yeah, it's a greatquestion. I think that the thing that I've learned through that is that puttingthe company in the right position for success, and so, we were, every time,whether it's, even in every fundraise is that balance between a lot of thetimes for an entrepreneurs deciding, do I want this crazy overvalued valuation,or do I want to actually consistently show growth and strength?

Yeah. And it's, going through thatjourney early in my life. of just watching companies really rapidly scale andit, it is important I think, always to kind of do a check-in and be like,actually it's really relevant for us to do measured growth and at the same timehave consistent growth because the team loves that.

They stay loyal, investors stay loyal,your customers stay loyal. Everything kind of works out. . But I think the bigthing is putting the company in the right position for success. Mm-hmm. , a lotof people hate not performing . Yeah. And I think for me, that was a hugerealization is like, no, no, I wanna have put out numbers and then I want tobeat those numbers.

And I think that what I learned is sodoes the rest of my team. Yeah. And so, being, really young and putting thecompany in this, just what we had to achieve as far as our own growth, as faras our own success. Not taking your best performance Yeah. Or your bestperforming person and thinking that everyone can be like them, and just makingsure that the right people are in the right jobs.

I think. also seeing, a lot of timeswe've hired people that we've moved into different functions and it's like, oh,you're not great at this, but you are fantastic at that. Yeah. And so, I thinkthe big thing is for our founders is always to remember that we are dealingwith real people and helping them find their.

and I tell people a lot, I'm, I'm notgreat at a lot of things, but I'm really world class at a few things, and it'sabout spending my time doing those and hiring people that are world class atthe things I'm not good at. Yeah. And really putting people on the right job toget a, get outta their way.

Yeah. But it's harder to do than, thanyou think .  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.And, and like you mentioned a few times, Bringing the right people, having theright team around you, and then fostering that team. But, obviously sincere,you, you focus on talent. And one thing that was Yeah. Interesting for me inparticular was this idea of this talent data crisis and mm-hmm.

it was mentioned a few times over, butdescribe to the audience what you saw, and, and what kind of was the catalystto, to building Censia and, and what is this whole theme of, talent, data and,and this does the crisis that, that a lot of companies are seeing?  

Joanna: Totally. you knowwhat's really interesting? Before after I, I had been through a couplecompanies, I was like, if I'm gonna do this again, build another company, ithas to be huge and really love, I leaned on just other executives kind of tellme their pain points that they were dealing with. Yeah. And over and over andover again, CEOs that I would meet with that were.

From the biggest companies to startupsto, companies that have consistently just been, they've always, across everyindustry, they've just been there and they've been steady. Yeah. Every companywas struggling with the same thing. They all said that talent was a greatestasset. They all said that their biggest challenge was finding great talent and.

That they, if they couldn't find greattalent for the future to go through transf this time of transformation, theyactually wouldn't survive. Yeah. And that was shocking to me. I was like, howis it that this, we, we have, it's a quarter of a trillion dollar industry,just HR technology. Like, why can't we solve that pain point?

And I, I remember I said to one of myco-founders when we started , I was like, I want to be able to put anybody. ina system and instantly see people like them, like look alike modeling, if youwill. And he's like, oh, you can't do that. And I was like, why not? He's like,cuz the data's a mess. And I was like, what do you mean?

He's like, well, all the data's usergenerated. It's not structured. And I like, it was this moment of like clickwhere understanding that, if you look. Every platform out there, anyone can sayanything about what they do, and they do. They create incredible number ofvariations of title, the same titles, right?

The countless numbers of skills that aremaybe meaning the same B2B sales business, business sales, enterprise sales,corporate sales. They're all different ways to say the same thing. Yeah, andthere's countless ways to do that, but the problem is, is that alltechnologies, HR technologies, or talent technologies, Than keyword searchbecause this is such a big problem that we, we were like, well, we gotta solvethat.

We gotta create the taxonomies andontologies on this data to really be able to start to look at people based onthings beyond keywords and based on success and capability and future successrather. Keywords and subjective bias, which is really where a lot of the timeYeah. Talent decisions were being made.

And not just around who you hire, butwho you promote, how you pay your workforce, like right. Where you put yourworkforce. All sorts of things are just really those decisions are so criticalfor the company, and yet the technologies that they had, CR. C required so muchmanual work that we looked at it and said, how can we use data to do much moreintelligent decision making around people?

Yeah. And much fairer decision makingand much faster decision making around people because this can truly change a,trillion dollar industry, if you will.  

Julian: Yeah. It's, it'sfascinating to think about even the example you said with the different titles,for instance, because they, they seemingly mean the same thing, but.

Micro differences in, the amount of forthe corporate sales versus enterprise sales versus commercial, the amount ofvolume you handle, how the deal size is. Mm-hmm. and all these little intricatedetails that mean a lot to companies. But I guess from, founder, founder tofounder here, How do you kind of conceptualize data?

Do you index the data in a particularway? Are you labeling it? Are you training models to essentially createrelationships between unstructured data? What in particular is Censia doing?That is, is really cutting edge in, in the way that we cannot only categorizepeople, but also extract the information that we need from a database?

Joanna: Yeah, it's funny. Imean, we're doing a little bit of all of those things, . It's actually thecombination of those things that allow us to be successful, and I think the bigthing for us was. Not just, once we had this super structured clean data setwhere we could go, okay, all these titles mean the same.

Okay, these titles in this company arethis seniority. This is how the equivalent of that over here. Oh, thesecompanies own these companies. Oh, these people were there during thoseacquisitions. Like, right. Understanding people, think about founders, right?People. Driven to find people that have scaled organizations.

They've started something, they've hadan idea, right? And they've built that idea into actually something they'vesold that, or they've, raised capital for that. They've, they've gone throughthis, this different journey than, if you look at your profile, you probablywrote about yourself in skills, right?

My number one skill on LinkedIn issocial media marketing. I couldn't do that if you had a gun. I have no idea howto social media market like I, this, I mean, I, I don't, it's not my thing and.Things that are not on my profile. I've raised hundreds of millions of dollars.I've like thought companies, I've sold companies, I've been through all thistype of growth and ups and downs and all that stuff is much more relevant whenyou think about like experience to a company and who's actually gonna be ableto do that.

And so, What we figured out was that aswe started to, once we had structure, we could build intelligent algorithmsaround search in a very different way. We could be able to search people basedon track record and performance and future capability. We could look at people,in a, we weren't just looking at what they say, but actually what that means.

Mm-hmm. , what is the actual intentionof that? Okay. , you ran, sales at this company. What is that company? Whatindustry is it in? Sure. Was it a leader in that industry? Was it a series acompany? Was it a seed company and you grew it to series A? Did you go like,just that kind of knowledge on people is super powerful and we do that acrosshundreds of millions of people.

So it's it all a sudden really allowswhen a decision needs to be made in kind of an instant, you're looking at anentire market of capable people rather. , dripping people to Yeah. The client,and all of a sudden they have to then make a decision. They're like, yeah, isthere more ? Right, right.

Who else is out there? Right? Like ifyou're looking at everyone that's out there and you look at the actual data,what is extraordinary is when you look at data based on capability and trackrecord. talent looks nothing like you would think it looks right. They don'tall grow the same school, they don't all look the same way.

They all are very, very different. Andthey have one thing in common is that they have performed in this category. Atthis level. Yeah. And so, it's something that we get really excited about. Butas far as the technology that we use, we actually have had to use differentways of dealing different, variations of AI and machine learning throughouteach step of this process.

Mm-hmm. . So what we use to create,intelligent search on our own database is very different than the things thatwe had to use to structure our data. Right. And we're always, I mean, we'realways thinking about what's the next thing to come, so, yeah. Yeah. I don'tknow if that helps answer my question, but Yeah.

Julian: Yeah. No, itabsolutely does. And it's so fascinating thinking about, talent and, and beingable to find talent relevant for the job. And like you mentioned, scaling acompany at, at a seed level versus a series seed level is a completelydifferent. Set of skill sets and totally being that you can finally start toextract this information and help companies find individuals with those minuteskillsets and or particular skill sets.

And have you seen any changes into wherepeople are finding these employees have, have you seen any trends kind ofshifting as companies are now kind of forced to. Labor in, in more or inalternative ways or in alternative places, in methods, or being a little bitmore intelligent about those that they hire because, it's not, I don't thinkit's of, of any everyone's aware that the microclimate is what it is, and, and,and VC funding is a little bit more strapped and.

Companies are having to perform moreintelligently, but yeah. Mm-hmm. , have you seen any trends? Where are peoplefinding talent now and are you seeing talent and, and finding talent in adifferent direction? Are you seeing it moving in a different direction?  

Joanna: Yeah, I mean, it's agreat question for sure. I think that over the last, three years, there's beenenormous amounts of changes on even how talent teams have to operate in,before, even before that, people would ask where you went to school, what yourgrade point was, average was like, that is so full, in a, in a world wherewe're questioning what the future of education was gonna look like.

That's so interesting. Right, right. Inaddition to that as prior to Covid or prior to the pandemic, we had a lot ofpeople hired based on location. Right. And so then all of a sudden that goesaway and people. Oh, am I, how am I supposed to be thinking about hiring? Andone of the things that we push is always to think about hiring for the futurestate.

It's been, it is a critical piece ofwhat we talk about and how we think through delivering on a client. Success islike, , every person you're looking for is like, okay, if you're here, where doyou wanna be in two years? Cuz it's about people that have done thatconsistently and been successful in that if it's a new product launch, it's anew product launch in a category that needs to be disruptive at, mid-marketlevel.

Okay, sure. She's done that before andso. Looking at that, but I think what is really cool to your point, is itreally disrupts what success looks like, right? They start to look at, one ofthe cool things in our platform is you can go company first. So you can go,show me all the companies in cybersecurity that have been through hypergrowththat you know are Focused on the enterprise, it's like, great, who were the keypeople that built that company or those companies?

And who is, yeah, who's there now, who'sthere during the time of scale? And it was partly a, you I, as I, as I startedsaid, people kept using the same analogy. They'd be like, everyone wants theCMO of Airbnb when Airbnb was going through, crazy growth . And I kept thatjust saying so close to my head of.

Yeah. We all want the people that reallystrove the difference. Right. And I think it is around what, what we figuredout was that was a lot harder to do than we thought. And so one of the bigthings was we believed in the future of the industry. Yeah. We wanted to helpall of HR tech be, become intelligent and really use AI and get beyond just SQLdatabases and keyword searches, right, right. Yeah. How do we start to look at.People differently. And how do we start to change how do we build the future ofwhat talent technology's gonna look like? And so, Platform is all API first,because what we see is we're creating, seeing so many other companies buildfast or more efficiency, more innovation on top of now not having to solve, ohGod, how do I structure all these company names?

How do I structure these titles? Whatdoes this mean? They're not spending, even for our clients, there's noonboarding process of teaching your recruiters bullying string like Right. It'scrazy that we are still doing that at a time. , Spotify can tell us an nextgreat song we never imagined. We'd love that we'd fall in love with andZillow's gonna tell us if our house is gonna appreciate Right.

But we're still like typing keywords into . Yeah. Yeah. Find our next best employee. Yeah. Like, it's just so foreign.So Yeah. It's, it's really, really exciting to, we just kept hearing.customers, what they struggled with. It was really about solving the pain pointthey had and where they had the biggest bottleneck.

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. And, andhow, as a founder of, of a company that you know works within the HR space, howdo you differentiate? From say like a regular ATS system or a job search, whatis the con conversation? What is the, the conversation that you have that leadto, creating a client relationship that helps overcome?

And, it's more of a selfish question forme, but but yeah, just curious on how you kind of move past those otherincumbent platforms that are nice tools but don't necessarily. Get you to theresult faster than you would have with something very similar to what they wereusing before.  

Joanna: Yeah. So we we reallynever want a customer to rip out what system they use. Mm-hmm. . And the reasonis I never wanted to be in the business of adoption . Yeah. Teaching people thechange behavior. One of the things I've learned through this, long journey, butalso I have a team of people that, two other co-founders that also have beenthrough their own journeys and they're like, let's not do that.

Right? Let's not teach people to get offof what they're currently using and now start using something new. And so a bigpart is that we first built a platform, then we created all the integrationsinto the big hc. ATSs CRM so that our clients could actually, all of a suddenthey're sitting from going from a static database of people that are all thepeople they've once interviewed or they found and they've, recruiters all dayare Yeah.

Basically building pipeline and it's allsitting static. So the day that that was entered, if it was entered correctly,is it, it was accurate. Right. And now it's no longer accurate. In addition tothat, it's really hard to keep people at the top of your mind of, okay, who'sreally good. In addition to that, they were entered there and only aresearchable in a way of, did they write this word on their profile?

Then I could find them and instead ofthat, what we say is, all right, now we're gonna build this. We're gonna,basically, you're gonna keep your front end, but we're gonna be the intelligentcloud on the backend. So all structure, all your existing data gets up to date,it stays up to date, it's now intelligent.

You can now search it based on. Muchmore intelligent search. You can do searches based on, show me CFOs of SaaScompanies that have been through an I P O with over a billion in revenue thatare female. It's like seconds later you see that, right? You're not going. ,what would those women put on their protocols?

Julian: Yeah. Right,  

Joanna: you know how, what arethe keywords exactly that would allow us to see that? It would, no, it wouldtake this, you have this whole spider chart of things that had to cometogether, and that was a big thing for us is that we realized a lot ofinteresting people, information sits on platforms and then there's a lot ofinteresting information around companies.

It sits on other platforms, and it'sactually this magical. Combination of the two that allows us to see theintersection of where wow. People, what they did inside companies. Wow.  

Julian: Yeah, it'sinteresting. No, it's incredible to see the, the ability for, them to have sucha insight into talent, to companies and, and find individuals who have theseskillsets.

Cuz like you mentioned, it's, it'schallenging otherwise. And I guess, my question, Around, talent in particularis how is the experience gonna change for those being recruited and how, talk alittle bit about what you've seen on, on that end. If I'm, say a, a CEO of acompany and I've led it into growth and maybe I'm looking for a transition or anew change or, or to, to do the same thing at another company.

what is that experience now versus what,what had been prior and waiting on LinkedIn and maybe looking at my other jobsearches? How, how is that communication just more that much more easilyfacilitated and and successful?  

Joanna: Yeah, so I think thatthe, the biggest, the biggest piece is that when couple things that havehappened, number one,

Looking at the rate of which talent thathas been hired is diverse. Yeah. That has been something we are super proud of.We are sitting with over 70% of people that have been hired on our platform inthe past 12 months are diverse. That is nuts. And it not diverse Wow. Searches.They are just, they would be best people and it is so cool when all of a suddenyou level.

The playing field and give everyoneequal opportunity to be seen. Yeah. Not equal, equal outcome opportunity, butequal opportunity to be seen. That changes the game. Yeah. It like all of asudden you're looking at people not from, what's crazy is actuallyunderrepresented communities will under-represent themselves, not knowingly.

And so women, for example, put 40% lessskills on the resumes and profiles than their equal counterpart men. Yeah.That's. . So in a case where you're looking at, let me look for keywords, well,they, they're gonna under-represent themselves in that area. And so what all ofa sudden change is, you could start to look at people evenly, right.

Which meant that if you were a founderand somebody is like, I am looking for a founder that has been through earlystages, that has raised, series A funding that in this space you are gonna beseen. Yeah. And that's a really cool thing. You don't have to worry. Worryabout that, but the recruiters also know why that person showed up.

So they're looking at the way that theyactually show up and the way that we communicate talent, it gives them so muchof that of the narrative they need to be able to actually talk to talent. Cuznow they know the things that you've done, what you've been through, whatindustries you have knowledge and they can ask much more intelligent questions.

Right. And it shows. A very different, alot of talent hate how often they're reached out to for jobs that they don't,would never do. It's just like they're not even at all aligned with what theydo. Right. And it is, it is a hard process and it's, it's critical I think, fortalent that they have, that they have an opportunity to be engaged withproperly.

The other thing is we do so much onanalytics piece internally, so being able to look at talent. Internal inside oforganizations or even talent as I think of it on an analytics standpoint, whenyou go, we had a, a Fortune 500 client of ours. Go, Kate, can you analyze thetop 300 people in our organization and compare them against these otherorganizations?

Like, how should we be developing thistalent in a way that those guys are doing or these other companies are? Butwe're not doing, yeah. What should we be adding to this team that we're notcurrently adding? Like who is the high performer group in this team? And it'sso interesting that data can really answer those questions in a way that they'venever been able to.

Have answered before. So I think alsoeven once people are in companies, it is about constantly keeping an eye onthose people to be able to go, Hey, this, this person's really killing it.Like, give them another opportunity over here. Rather than kind of looking ateverybody, a lot of times internally, inside of organizations, they have verylittle data on their own.

Yeah. Most of the time externalrecruiters have more information on, on employee base than their own company.And that's another thing that we really wanted to change. Mm-hmm. . So it isabout giving companies information so that they can actually retain, grow, anddevelop their own employees.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. It'sincredible to, to think about this. The, the whole diversity kick where it'sjust leveling the playing field and allowing information known aboutindividuals and companies at the certain times and responsibilities, andcreating a real, an interesting culmination of that experience to, to give anaccurate depiction of, of their background.

I mean, one founder has said it beforeon the show. It's, the, the, the best companies are the ones that hire the besttalent first and create great teams and they win. And I was. , that's prettysimple, but it's so hard to do in so many ways.

Joanna: It's, and it's always,I, if I had, leave one message for every person in the audience, always batabove what you think.

Yeah. Like always bat above your weightclass. Yeah. Yeah. Go after the greatest people you can, because you'd be verysurprised at the caliber of talent that wanna join a passionate, visionaryfounder that is going after something big and believing in that. And a lot oftimes I think we as entrepreneurs are like, oh no, I could never get thatperson.

Like, yeah, in the beginning you hire,the first time I built the company, I like hired my friends and I was like,These guys aren't really performing, but like, yeah, shoot, they're my friends.I can't let 'em go. And so like also, one of the things is when I startedCensia was like, I'm shooting for the day that I have to hire my replacement.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm not gonna be theceo. That can always take us through every stage of growth. I mean, as afounder, that's one of the more common things. But every person, I always tellthis to my team. , how awesome would it be if you had, if you outgrew your owncapabilities, like be prepared for that.

Because this is one of the things, ascompanies grow, the team's not always the same. At each stage of growth, itneeds to be different. And so being able to communicate that and get peoplepassionate about constantly seeing. The next opportunity is building the benchof people that are gonna take us to the next level.

And it might be some of the same peopleand it might not be, and that's okay, right? Because we're all on this journeytogether and it's, it is a really cool I think that's one of the cool pieces isyou just, you do need to hire a great bench of talent and do it first. Yeah.Yeah. It's the difference.

That is the biggest difference makerbetween success and failure, I think is great people and how aligned they are.Yeah. They're misaligned. , it's really difficult if they're aligned, likeeveryone's going in the same direction and everyone is, they, everyone knowstheir part and they're all doing it at, high caliber.

Everything kind of goes up and to theright.  

Julian: Yeah, yeah, exactly.Well said. What are some of the biggest challenges that Censia facestoday?  

Joanna: I think that we youmean despite, like they just took all the banks away. , I'm just kidding. Yeah.. I think that we are, It, we are growing at a very fast pace and I'm a hugebeliever in focus on the product and the customer and everything else followslike, our, we are such a customer first company and I love that we will neverchange that it is actually scaling at the pace that we have to scale the teamand making sure that we are focused on people that are always putting thatfirst.

Yeah. Happy customers. Scale grow or forothers they, yeah, they give you feedback. They constantly make you better. Andthat's, been a, a really big part of, a big part of it. I think also it is, weare living in a time over the last three years where entrepreneurs have to beso tough, yeah. It's just, yeah, it's one thing or the next kind of onconstantly and being able. lead the team with that calmness and communicationand, and transparency. So I think it's, it is really, it's what we don't knowis gonna come. That's probably one of the bigger challenges. And always settingup for the right kind of growth. Right?  

Julian: Yeah. If everythinggoes well, what's the long-term vision for Censia?  

Joanna: World domination.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. I lovethat.  

Joanna: Yeah. No. I think thatthis is the most exciting time to be doing what we're doing. Yeah. And to seechange in our industry the way that we're seeing it.

We're watching, I know, I, I'm, I don'tknow if any of you are watching Yellowstone, but there's a, there's the prequelto Yellowstone, which is 1923 and Harrison Fords, and it's really good, butthere's a moment on, in, in, you're, at the time they're showing that there arecars on the road and horses, and they're taking away.

Where they tie up the horses for parkingspaces, and you're just, you're watching this like getting electricity andhaving like refrigerators and cars. They're like, why do we need this stuff?And I'm like, oh my gosh, I feel we're doing this in this industry. Whereas allof a sudden creating.

what comes from true efficiency gainwith AI is unbelievable because you're not replacing the stuff that like reallystrategic, critical work that humans are doing. You're replacing the mundanestuff that they spend 80% of their time on, and it's taking away from the timethey're spending actually really spending time with, the right talent andhaving the right conversations and bringing the right people intoorganizations.

if you're spending 80% of your time justtrying to find those people. It's a really big mismatch. Right. So it's reallycool to see all of a sudden kind of what happens when they don't have to spendthat time anymore and they're like, oh my gosh. Like I can do two times. I canactually make two x more hires a year because I'm not spending time doing this.

Or I can, yeah. I can now spend thismuch more time with candidates, vetting them, making sure they're right andunderstanding. Or really knowing my own employees that are doing great, right?Like that's a very cool thing to see. But you know, where the talent industryis largely still built on, especially if you go higher up in more and more intothe exec executives.

It's, it's built on a lot of people thatknow a lot of people and yeah. . It's interesting to see that change and go,yeah, he's, that's so good. Those people, but let's also make sure that we'relooking at everyone else that qualifies for this too.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. It's soexciting to see the, what kind of can come from the, the more intelligent toolsand the, the increased productivity and efficiency, but also the insights,which is I think, a huge component that's, that's missing and, and that recipe,you can only see the amount of success that companies will.

Attracting the right talent. Yeah. I Ilove this next section. It's, I called it my founder FAQs, but I'm gonna hityou with some rapid fire questions and then Cool. We'll see where we get. So,first question is, what's particularly hard about your job?

Joanna: Getting sleep? I can'tfind, like, can't schedule it in very well. Yeah. Eating basic things. Selfcare. I love what I do and that means that. Probably do it more often than Ishould. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So typically I think just. Yeah. I also, I, Ihave to, as part of our onboarding process, and I was like, I will email you atthree in the morning.

Please do not know that you have, you donot have to respond. You respond when you start working. Like, yeah, do notrespond. It's not urgent. It's just that, that's at the top of my mind in thatmoment. So also just, creating, the, I don't want the culture built on my ownpatterns. Right.

That's, that's, I mean, kind of a joke,but also really true is, yeah, as founders, we need to. . I'm, I haveunbelievable peers in a peer network that I rely on a lot to kind of teach meand share experiences, and I share experiences and we, we all kind of help eachother through these, these tough times.

And I think it's one of the biggestrecommendations I have for entrepreneurs is build a peer group. Yeah. Reach outto people, build that network of, of peers. , you'll, you'll see that you'reactually doing pretty well.  

Julian: Yeah, yeah. No, ahundred percent. Yeah. And one thing in specific to you and your experience andyour background for founders who are, say, looking to, to, put themselves in aposition to, to be acquired or to, to build partnerships, maybe go through anacquihire or, or some, variation of it go with strategic partners.

What are some ways that they can bestset themselves up so that they can attract those types of opportunities,whether it's acquisitions or partnerships, what have you seen that has beensuccessful in your journey? Not only obviously building great product, focusingon your customer and scaling and operating at a brilliant, efficient.

But which, how can founders putthemselves in a position to be more attractive, safe for an acquisition orotherwise?  

Joanna: Mm-hmm. , I think thatit's based often on we as founders don't often take the time to go, okay, whatis our eventual outcome here? So, yeah, I have heard. Entrepreneur,entrepreneur gonna be like, oh, we're gonna go public and it's gonna be amulti-billion dollar company.

And, and like, that's all great, buthave you run an analysis of what would take to get there. And so if it's, Iwant to be acquired, whether it's an aqui hire, whether it's acquisition,understanding who. What company is the right one, and how do you start tonurture and develop those relationships where it isn't?

I found that the best partners didn'tcome from just one person inside. It actually came from a number of peopleinside that were all kind of singing the same tune and all, whether people fromoutside were like, Hey, you should talk to this company. It's really great.Like you're doing all the right things and even getting them as clients, thatis something that it comes from.

Multi-touch approach that has to bebuilt out. And I think that that's one of the things that we sometimes fail to,to think through is, or we now, we fail to think through, we just don't havetime Sure. To go like, okay, let me plan out this, this journey and then putmyself in the right places. I think also sometimes the hard thing is, is that,oftentimes people kind of forget that the acquire sometimes is the competitor.

Sure. And so how do you actually enable.If that's the goal, how do you figure out a way that you can enable thatcompany to be better with what you have versus trying to be like, we're thebetter version of that thing. Right? Yeah. Well then that thing isn't gonna bethat interested in acquiring, right?

It's a much tougher, tougher battle. So,I think that's also the case with good competitor, looking at the competitivelandscape and being like, all right, like, here we all are, but actually we'reall different. Like I. I always say, some people will ask me about certaincompetitors.

And I'm like, well, if we're ever at thesame party, somebody is at the wrong party. . Like, we should never sell thesame thing cuz we actually deliver our products. Sure. Very differently. Yeah.So while they have this way and they have that way and it's like, I also veryclear around like, okay, these people focus on the blue collar worker.

These people focus on the white collarworker. The executive market's largely underserved and we focus on that first.Even though we can solve across the board, we really come in and are like,we're gonna help you here. And so I think that also really knowing where yourstrength is in your categories also really helps people.

understand how they can leverage you,partner with you, and eventually, acquire you.

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. I'd loveto ask this next question because I love how founders extract knowledge out ofanything they ingest. So, there's, there's no rules to this, but whether it'searly in your career or now, what books or people have influenced you the most?

Joanna: Oh, so much. So many.Principles by Ray Dalio is probably one of the better books that I've ever, Ithink about that all the time. I, Ben Horo also wrote a book called The HardThing About Hard Thing. Sure. And it is one of my favorites. Like, I alwayslook back at the books that have influenced me the most, if there's atremendous amount of highlights in there,

Like, it's kind of broken pages of thebasketball out. Like, I'm like, yeah, that's it. Like, and I, I look at those,there were, so there were a few books that I just continued to turn to and Ithink that they. Principles was more around how I structured things. Yeah. Andthe hard thing about hard things was more around me understanding that I wasn'tscrewing up as bad as I thought.

Yeah. And so it, they both had their reason.And I think that as I've looked at continuous education around it, it is nowI'm I'm much more interested in kind of books that are gonna drive me in adifferent way of thinking. Yeah. if they still somehow connect to, can I thinkdifferently about what I'm doing?

Yeah. I'm really attracted to thingsthat are people that have built businesses in a different way. Then they, theyshook up the business model. They shook up how to do things. Yeah. And so I'mconstantly interested in, how did people think outside the box? And it kind ofhelps me think about how to think outside.

Julian: I love that. I lovethe anecdotal stories as well. It really kind of helps you. Yeah. I mean,humans, we, we compare things. We, we, we like to see how our life fits into adifferent scenario and all this. And the reason I love to ask that question,like I mentioned is, is the way we ingest things as founders also is, is afunction of that as well.

And, and how that translates into whatwe do day to day. And I know we're coming up to the close of the episode, butbefore we give you a chance to give us all your plugs is there anything that Ididn't ask you that I should have or that you would like to?  

Joanna: No, I I love thatyou're doing this and I think we all we all have things to learn, so I thinkthis is, it's awesome and I hope I hope that it was helpful.

Julian: Yeah, it wasincredibly helpful. Not only learn about your background experience, but alsowhat you're doing and the insights that you have, especially with talent as.Talent. Talent is something that's becoming extremely more and more coveted.As, as, like you said, founders have to be more strategic about their buildingof their teams and how they're operating.

But last little bit. Tell us where we canfind sense. Give us your website. Give us you as a founder where we can findJoe Riley. Give us your LinkedIns. Where can we not only be a fan of you as afounder, but also of the company and what you're working on?  

Joanna: Awesome. Well, you canfind at It's CENSIA, and if you wanna follow me, I am on LinkedInat Joanna Riley.

I'm also Joanna Riley on on Twitter andInstagram. And so, please follow.  

Julian: Amazing Joe. It's beensuch an incredible conversation. I'm so excited to share with my audience, andI hope you enjoyed yourself on the show, but thank you so much for joining ustoday.  

Joanna: Yeah, thank you.  

Julian: Of course.

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