Storytelling about Hofy With Sami Bouremoum
Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 157. This week we have storytelling about Hofy With Sami Bouremoum. During this episode, Sami and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing Hofy.
Sami is an expert in all things computer science and talent. His passion for creating a platform that helps democratize the employee experience globally really comes through during the podcast.
Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.
Show length: 31 minutes
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Welcome to Recruiting Daily’s Use Case podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens, or should happen, when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better as we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment and HR tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup. You’re listening to the Use Case podcast. Today, we have Sami on from Hofy and we’re talking about the business case or use case for Hofy. And that’s spelled H-O-F-Y by the way. And Sami will explain a little bit more about what they do and how they do it. So let’s jump right into it. Sami, do us, the audience, a favor and introduce both yourself and Hofy.
Thanks William. Excited to be joining you today. I’m Sami. I’m one of the founders and CEO at Hofy. My background is very much on the sciences side, computer scientist by formation. Then I went into management consulting at Bain before joining a tech startup called Samsara doing mostly international expansion. I’m sure you’ve all heard of it. And then Michael and I started a business in the micro ability space, and like everything in the last two years, was massively affected by COVID. And when we saw what was going on, we kind of felt like we were about to witness the black swan event of the century, if not, maybe the century’s an exaggeration, but at least the decade. So we basically thought, as true entrepreneurs, we should be figuring out how to help businesses through this massive change.
And we looked at the ecosystem of talent and how people were working in the past and what that would look in the future. And we saw that the Slacks, the Zooms, the Mirrors, they kind of all existed, but no one seemed to be solving global physical delivery and onboarding of employees from a physical perspective. So we basically wanted to create a platform that helps democratize employee experience globally. And that’s how we came up with Hofy. So what we do is we make it as easy to equip a new hire anywhere in the world, whether they’re in the valley in San Francisco, in Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, or in Pakistan, with a laptop, IT peripherals, furniture, a goody bag. And we make that process as simple as adding them to Slack or creating an email address to them. And we can do it, basically, it’s a monthly subscription to everything you need to work from home. That’s basically what we do.
So first of all, I love it because what’s wonderful, some of this stuff COVID just sped up, to your point about the adoption of Zoom and Slack and Teams and all these other tools. So we’re already there. But what’s wonderful from a recruiting and talent perspective, so both ways, is recruiters now can look at the world and say, this is my talent marketplace, and candidates can look at the world and say, this is my job opportunities. I can work in Paris and live in Topeka or wherever. So, a couple things. Let’s unpack some of the items that Hofy, and Hofy rhymes with coffee. So as the audience listens, Sami and I will speak really fast about Hofy but it’s really easy to remember the name of the company just because there’s a lot of coffee drinkers that listen to the show.
I am right now, actually.
So I get the subscription side. But there’s also, there’s physical things. Every company has some different requirements around computers and maybe even kind of their networks and things like that. Do you all kind of image the computers and do you dropship? Do you kind of do dropship, in case anyone didn’t catch that correctly, dropship meaning shipping. Do you guys get in and get your hands down into that part of it and actually physically help them with that part?
Yeah, absolutely. There’s basically two sides to the Hofy platform. The first, the SaaS side, which effectively is a piece of software that integrates into your HRIS and we integrate into most of the things out there. And the experience from the people team perspective is you log in, you can create equipment policies for the different teams in the company, say a sales rep may get a good headset, a nice webcam, and a slightly less powerful laptop than say an engineer who might get a very powerful laptop, a bigger screen, and a mouse and a keyboard, rather than a headset. You can create as many policies as you want, you can manage budgets, you can set health and safety parameter checks. And then it’s basically as simple as pressing a button when you move a candidate from your ATS into your HRIS. And the new joiner gets an email saying, hey, welcome to your new role. Log in here and pick the equipment that you want.
The employee will log in, select the equipment that they want within the parameters set by their employer, and then we will ensure that they get exactly what they need set up in the way that they need it, and even help with, if there’s a piece of furniture, we will even install it for them before the first day, so that they’re fully set up. And to make the whole process even more memorable for the candidate, if the company has swag packs or anything like that, we can include those in the boxes. And we can even brand the packaging with the logos of our customers, whether that’s logos inside the box, if the employer doesn’t want to market the fact that they’re sending things to their employees, or outside the box.
And we do the whole thing. We don’t dropship, by the way, at least not in the traditional definition of dropshipping, whereby we work with a supplier who ships for us. We handle it ourselves. And the reason we handle it ourselves is because we are super conscious that we are directly impacting the first day experience of the employees, of our customers. So we absolutely need to get that right. And it’s not possible to get the delivery rates that we’re really proud of of 99% on if we relied on third party dropshippers. So we actually do the physical fulfillment ourselves for now as well.
I love that. I love that. What’s nice is you’re connecting the candidate experience, the onboarding experience, and then the employee experience all together with things that we would’ve probably taken for granted pre-COVID in an office environment. There was an IT team that would kind of have all of your stuff set up before your first day. Some of those days are over. In a hybrid workforce in a modern workplace, some of that still will exist, but you know, again, we’re living in kind of a new world. So, tell me a little bit on the other side. So you explained the SaaS side, what’s the other side of the business?
Yeah, so the one side is the SaaS, which is the platform, which is where we do the ordering, the budget management, the defining the policies, the health and safety risk assessments. The second aspect is the global fulfillment, where we physically have warehouses in many different countries. We have contracts with hundreds of vendors all around the world. And we basically personally ensure that we actually deliver that equipment. And it’s not just the delivery, it’s then the life cycle management. And then the [crosstalk 00:08:14] of that equipment as well. And it’s particularly important in a world where, as you said a couple of minutes ago, that the world has shifted from a myriad of local talent pools into one big, massive talent pool, which means companies are hiring wherever the talent is. And that talent may be somewhere where they don’t have an office, right?
You’re now hiring where you’ve got the best candidates, not where your headquarters are. And imagine you onboard someone in Mumbai, and for whatever reason, that candidate, that employee then moves on 12 months later, what you do with that equipment. There’s a whole host of risk, financial implications, around managing that. And we basically help with the entire life cycle. What happens if someone in Brazil spills water on their laptop? Are you going to ask the employee to travel two hours to the nearest Apple store and queue for a couple of hours to get it fixed? That’s not the experience that you want to deliver. So we will basically within 24 or 48 hours give them a new laptop, no matter where they are. That’s all part of that sort of managed process, which is why one of the first things that I try to debunk in a sales call with a prospect, with someone who I’m trying to sell to, is Hofy shouldn’t be thought of as an equipment supplier.
Because the minute we are thought of as an equipment supplier, it becomes very hard, we’re basically being compared against, I don’t know, the Best Buys of the world, or the Furniture Rows, but that’s a completely different business than we are. I kind of say that we sell four things, and four things that we sell are compliance, both from a financial and a health and safety perspective. There’s a whole host of risks in both these aspects around giving employees equipment. The second is convenience. So something that would take a business anywhere between three and six hours to do manually to figure out what the employee wants, where they live, how to get it to them, the parcel has gone missing and so on, we make that a 10 second experience. The experience for the employee, and that’s specifically what we are looking to deliver is what we call tweet worthy onboardings, right?
So we want the employee’s experience to be so memorable on their first day that they’ll take a picture of it and post it on LinkedIn or post it on Twitter and say, hey, look, this is my first day at company X. I love it. And they feel welcomed. And then the last thing-
Oh, no, no, no. Finish, finish, finish.
Sorry. Sorry, William. And the last thing, and this is the one that excites me the most, by the way, is this consistency in global coverage. And the importance of that is, if you think of the talent place 10 years ago, most of the remote employees tended to be fairly low level call center employees, customer support in offshore centers and so on. But now you’re actually hiring your tier one talent anywhere in the world. And I believe that it’s actually no longer okay to deliver a second class experience to those people who are not in San Francisco.
I was about to say, their expectations have changed. The talent’s expectations have changed. Again, if you work so hard to find that talent, recruit that talent, bring them all the way through the process, offer letter they’ve accepted, and then now it takes two weeks, three weeks, 10 days, whatever, to get the stuff they need to get productive, that’s just… First of all, they don’t expect that. The actual talent doesn’t expect that. They want to hit the ground running, and everyone else wants them to hit the ground running as well. I wanted to ask, on some of just the setup side of things, because I love how you broke out the four, some of the things that you’ve seen. So one question that I have is recovery. Okay, we part ways. What’s Hofy’s responsibility, or what’s the company?
Because I know pre-COVID, I knew that some companies kind of moved to a model of after two years of service or whatever the bit was that the laptop was just, they’d shut off the VPN or whatever security wise, but other than that, they just kind of wrote off the technology. And every company does this, I know, differently, so I do realize that. But what are you seeing kind of in model wise where people, finance is probably driving some of this and looking at the asset class, but what do they look at when they think about what you send out and how they appreciate it and what’s the process, to recover or write it off?
Yeah, that a very good question. So the model with Hofy, it’s a subscription. So it’s kind of like a lease with the option to purchase at the end. So when a customer signs up, they will generally align their contract with the expected average tenure of an employee. And they can sign up from as little as six months all the way up to 36 months. And throughout that period, we will maintain that piece of equipment. If someone signs up for let’s say six months, but then they only extend their contract, we drop the prices right down and they just pay a much smaller fee on a cancel any time basis. When an employee leaves, there’s a couple of options. The first option is we can recover that equipment, store it and make it available for a new hire within that country or within a customs union.
So for example, in Europe, we’d be happy to move equipment from, let’s say Spain to Germany, and within the US from East Coast to West Coast, but we wouldn’t usually move it across customs borders because it creates a lot of admin burden, and also a lot of time waste. The second option is the company may decide, you know what, I actually want to keep this equipment and have it in my office. And so there’s a guaranteed option to purchase. Or they might say, you know what, this equipment’s two and a half years old, I don’t really want it. But the employee might want it, so the employee can also choose to purchase it from us. And it’s really a nominal fee, kind of 15, 20 cents on the dollar we charge you when we sell an asset that’s been rented before.
In terms of lifespan, you’re absolutely right. And depending on the different products, so you can choose to, say, on the furniture, to sign up for a much longer term than a laptop. And we can do automatic equipment refreshes, right? So we know exactly when the laptop was delivered, when it gets to, let’s say, two or two and a half years old. And then we can automatically in the background work with your IT team and with the employee to get them a newer piece of equipment that’s going to be much faster [crosstalk 00:15:09].
Oh, that’s so nice, and especially to be proactive about that. Most of the time, and people will know this listening, you get to a point with a laptop where you’ve hit the diminished return, and to be proactive about that from an IT perspective and just understand that, okay, this team is the software developer who’s working on their laptop. They need the best equipment possible. We’re going to refresh every year, every nine months. I mean, whatever the bid is, it’s like every time there’s something new, we’re going to give them the newest technology, because, A, that’s a way to engage that talent and possibly retain that talent. But also, it keeps them where they’re not dealing with kind of the sluggish parts of older technology.
Exactly. And when you say diminished return, you actually touch on one of my favorite topics, which is the false economy around trying to save money on employee equipment. And if you think about the cost to recruit, train, onboard, salaries, pensions, off-boardings, severance packages, the fully loaded managers, and so on and so on, the fully loaded cost of an employee is so large compared to the additional amount that you could pay to give them a slightly more powerful laptop with slightly better screen or slightly better mouse and keyboard, that even if their productivity or their tenure increases by a fraction of a percent, it offsets the cost of the equipment.
It’s like, that’s not the time to get cheap. That’s not the moment to get cheap. Get cheap somewhere else, but not there.
Yes, precisely. And so, I mean, even as a seed stage company, we were giving people fairly powerful devices and big screens because I’m like, okay, we’re a tech startup. People are working really hard. If I can extract half a percent additional productivity in my team by giving them a $500 monitor instead of $100 monitor, it’s totally worth it.
Oh, 100%. Plus, it’s a weird kind of a pride when you have something that powerful, you actually love working on a really powerful laptop and a really big monitor and all that stuff. The equipment is a part of that experience, again, tying back to kind of what we talked about earlier, this experience part of technology. Let me ask you two questions. One is, the devices that customers are asking you, because they can personalize anything, so phones, I mean, I wanted to see if you get into the tablets, desks, the standup desk, things like that.
So customers, I know that they can pick and kind of per position kind of box in the choices, and then the employee, well, at that point, the candidate that’s becoming an employee can then select the things that they want, which I love. Because if you’re a Mac person, great, you can get a Mac. If you’re a PC person, fantastic. Get a PC. Who cares? Job still got to get done. I love all of that. So on one level, and the question is, what are you seeing from customers right now that are maybe even driven by candidates and employees and things that they want and things that they need to be just better at their jobs?
Yeah. I think it’s interesting that there’s certain things that we were a little bit surprised about and other things that we expected. We sell mostly into venture backed tech startups, so I’d say that most of our users are Apple users, even though I’m a PC user personally, so I think that’s a big one. So that’s something that is as we expected is that I’m a little bit surprised perhaps, and maybe it’s because I’m an equipment geek more than anything else, is we sell fewer web cams than I thought we would. And one other bone that I have to pick with a lot of these laptop manufacturers is you’ve got these really fancy, powerful laptops, but they put these crappy cameras in them. And now, your camera and your webcam, sorry, oh, the camera and the webcam of your employees is the interface between your employees and other colleagues and between your employees and your customers.
Surely you want that interface to be as polished as possible, yet I still see people use it. Especially PCs are even worse in general than the Apple devices with webcams. And I still jump on calls sometimes talking about six, seven figure contracts with people, and they’re on 480 pixel webcams with muffled sound and it just kind of blows my mind sometimes.
Yeah. Again, getting back to that experience, like this isn’t the moment to be cheap. Dell or Apple or whomever it might be listening, this is not the moment to be cheap. I mean, if my phone can have an 8K camera in it, it’s a small device, but by and large.
You know, both Apple, I think, and Lenovo, I’m not sure about Dell, have actually upgraded their cameras now to 1080p because internal webcams used to be 720p until very recently. I still think 1080p is just about fine.
Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. I have my webcam, but it’s a different beast. It’s 4K.
Right? So I love it. I love it. And that’s a great experience. Again, it’s a great experience because it’s a high def experience for folks. Are your customers pushing you, because we’ve talked mostly about employees, candidates, onboarding employees, kind of structurally, have your customers been pushed to think about contractors and gig workers and freelancers and things like that, enabling other types of workers or workforces?
Yeah. So there’s a couple dozen companies out there helping companies hire contractors and gig workers around the world. You’ve obviously got the Deals, Omnipresence, Remotes, Papayas of the world who are doing phenomenally well by the way and the business model makes complete sense. And we actually sell to a very similar customer base in that it tends to be companies who want to hire the best talent, irrespective of where that talent is. And Hofy is actually very complementary to that because first of all, we have global coverage, which means no matter where we’re hiring, we’re a great partner. But second of all is there’s some compliance challenges around providing equipment to gig workers and contractors. And before I go any further, I want a caveat that I am not a tax lawyer or an employment lawyer and that what I’m about to say doesn’t constitute legal advice of any kind.
I think that’s fair. I think that’s fair to say. That’s fine print. In the US, that’s what we call the fine print.
Yeah. That’s the fine print. But in a lot of countries around the world, employment laws stipulate that if you are a contractor or a gig worker, whatever you want to call it, that those contractors, in order to be classified as contractors from a tax perspective, need to be using their own equipment. And if they’re using equipment owned by the employer, [crosstalk 00:23:00]. Yeah, well, yeah, that automatically misclassifies them as employees. And that creates a number of issues for the employee, for the employers. The biggest one by far is the risk of creating a permanent establishment which is kind of just a complicated way of saying, well, if half of your engineering team is in Brazil, the Brazilian tax authorities may say, hey, you should pay half of your taxes in Brazil. I’m over simplifying that, but that’s kind of the gist of it.
And the second is, well, employees usually have more rights than gig workers, and so they could technically sue you for employee rights, for maternity leave, for pension scheme, for paternity, for whatever that may be, or for medical insurance. A gig worker is not entitled to but an employee is, so it’s always been a gray area, and a very difficult one to negotiate, particularly with laptops. Because if you think about it as a business, it’s really important from an InfoSec perspective that you have control of your devices, and who has access to your data. But you don’t really want to, but you cannot give them devices owned by you, because then you basically put yourself in a risky position from an employment in a tax law perspective.
And we solve that because the laptop is technically owned by Hofy, right? So the employer has complete control of the laptop. They can manage it in whichever way they want, but what they’re actually paying for is not a laptop. What they’re paying for is a business expense that needs to be incurred in order for the contractor to perform their duties whilst the contracting party, IE the company, the business, meeting their InfoSec requirements and maintaining control of their data. So it’s a slight new nuance, but it’s a very important difference.
And one of the things I love about your website is you break out kind of the different personas of people that are interested in Hofy and why they would be interested. Compliance, IT, people ops, et cetera. You break those out and say, listen, it’s a cadre of folks that are going to be interested in these experiences being wonderful. And so, two questions as we roll out and they’re both going to be customer related. One’s going to be your favorite kind of customer story and then the second one is one that’s global, because there’s a complexity to global, you know?
We’ve got employees in 111 countries and they all need new laptops. There’s a complexity of that that I can’t even get my brain around, I can’t even wrap myself around that idea. When you talk about customers, no names, I don’t want you to disclose anything like that. I want to know kind what one of your favorite stories is, customer stories, and then something global that will kind of get the audience to really think differently about the complexity of onboarding new employees that are somewhere else other than in their office.
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So customer stories, I have dozens of them. Yeah, here’s one. When you go into an office, you basically get a screen, a monitor, and the cables are all plugged in, and you get a laptop, and when you arrive at your desk, you’re obviously able to plug in that monitor into your laptop. And the reason is because the laptop has been picked by someone in the IT department, the monitor or the screen has been picked by someone in the IT department, it’s been set up correctly, and so you, as an employee, don’t need to even worry about whether your screen connects to your laptop. Now, when you use a platform like Hofy, you give people budget to go out and say, hey, buy your own screen and buy your own laptop. Most people aren’t actually that savvy with IT.
And what we found from experience is that, because we have the data of what laptops people have and what monitors they have, we realized very quickly that people were buying, were requesting laptops and monitors where the cables required to connect the monitor to the laptop is not included in the monitor box or in the laptop box. So one of the things that we started doing is basically, before we send out a monitor, we check what laptop the employee has and we will ensure that the cable is in the box and we do that free of charge. We don’t charge for that, but we just make sure that that happens. And I suppose what really gets me out of bed as an entrepreneur and as a founder is customer demand and customer satisfaction. And I think one of my favorite moments was when I got a screenshot from a Slack conversation between the head of people at one of our customers and one of their employees saying, hey, I completely forgot to think about that.
And it was just this cable with this note in the box and everything worked straight away. So that’s kind of like, for me, most of the happy customer stories are one where I feel like my team has gone above and beyond to make that happen. So that’s kind of, I’d say that’s probably my favorite story. In terms of the global complexity, there’s loads of them. There’s a couple that stand out. There’s a couple that stand out. First and foremost is, most vendors will only have national level contracts, right? If you’re hiring people in 20 different countries, you’re going to need to find 20 different suppliers, most likely.
But even if you do, we’ve got people in 55 countries right now, is there are many countries where local vendors will not accept Visa or MasterCard, especially if they are foreign Visa or MasterCards. And we’ve had to get creative in countries like the Ukraine. Even sometimes with some vendors in Israel, where actually paying our suppliers becomes really hard, or if an employee leaves and we are disposing of those goods or the equipment, getting the money out is even harder. And we’ve had stories like one of our customers said we used to spend six to eight hours to onboard a new employee in Brazil, and most of their development team is in Brazil. And with Hofy, it literally is one click and we just take care of the rest.
I love it. I mean, I love it, and obviously we could talk forever, because just the complexity part, just dealing with, again, you’ve onboarded new employees and they’re all over the world, especially people that are going through high growth, which is obviously some of the folks you’re dealing with venture backed. They’re not just hiring one person in Brazil, they’re hiring 12 people in South America and they’re in 11 different countries.
And so the complexity is just, it can be really interesting. I love the way that you’ve tailored and really kind of focused on connecting the dots of those experiences, candidate onboarding an employee. And Sami, just thank you for your time today. I absolutely appreciate you. I appreciate you coming on the Use Case podcast.
No, thank you for having me, William.
And thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case podcast. Until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.