Matt Redler is the CEO at Panther. There, he’s working on building the economic infrastructure for the remote world. Through remote work, Matt believes that talent across the world — no matter where they are — can get access to great work opportunities. And that people can start living lives with more agency to be where they’re happiest. Prior to Panther, Matt founded Chefit, a personal chef startup. Matt is passionate about speech and debate and boxing.Follow
Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 201. Today we have Matt from Panther about the use case or business case for why his customers use Panther.
Matt’s first two ventures, while great ideas, ultimately failed due to the lack of true need within the market. He set out to change this track record with Panther, an automated global payroll and compliance platform for remote teams.
Show length: 21 minutes
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Music: Welcome to RecruitingDaily 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.
William Tincup: Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you are listening to The Use Case Podcast. Today, we have Matt from Panther, and we’ll be learning about the business case, the use case for why his prospects use Panther. So without any further ado, Matt, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and Panther?
Matt Redler: Yeah, absolutely. Will, thank you so much for having me. So my name is Matt and I’m the founder, as you mentioned, of Panther. And what we’re doing is we’re building the all-in-one people platform for distributed teams. We believe that the way that we work has fundamentally changed a ton. And as a result, we really have to rethink the way that we hire, stay connected, and communicate. And so Panther is rethinking the people platform, everything from hiring and recruiting to onboarding and helping companies stay connected in this new distributed models.
William Tincup: I love this. Okay. So give me the components, again, of the things that are within the platform.
Matt Redler: Well, let me tell you quickly where we started. What Panther has started with is global payroll, and the reason we started here and, candidly, how I discovered this pain point, is my last company, I was the only US employee. And long story short, require people to get together in person, so COVID required us to wind down business. And so we started connecting all of my teammates with their next opportunities so that they would have soft landing. This was in the early days of the pandemic. And we discovered a number of companies that were really excited to work with my teammates. That was the easy part. They’re great people and great at what they do, the problem was that because most of them lived over in Eastern Europe.
When I had to explain to the folks that I was speaking to, what they would have to go through to hire my teammates, to set up a… Sorry, to hire in another country, you basically have to set up foreign subsidiaries and local bank accounts, and learn some other country’s employment law and figure out local accounting, legal, HR, and payroll. And so when I explained all this to them and actually walk them through this very foreign, onerous process, they backed out of working with my teammates. And so the first problem, or I should say the original problem, that we set out to solve at Panther is we said, “Well, how can we make it so easy to hire anyone anywhere,” and so that’s what we started by doing.
But just candidly, by getting to know more folks who are building distributed teams, we realized a number of tangential problems. So it’s not just about hiring in other countries, but even hiring in new states is so unbelievably bad that most of these organizations, or I should say many of them, are restricting their hiring to one or two states. Background checks are really difficult to do around the world. Once you onboard someone, you want to set them up for success and have them hit the ground running, so ideally, you have to find a way to get that person a productive remote-working setup. But how do you do that wherever they are around the world, all these different things? And so Panther is this all-in-one… We want to become an operating system for distributed people ops, if you will.
William Tincup: And so any place in the market that you can specialize, like either vertical industry or size of company, or is there anything that Panther specializes in?
Matt Redler: Yeah. So today, we focus on working with companies that really just want to ignore location and hire the best person on earth, regardless of where they live. And so that’s what our tools today really unlock, or I should say give, this super power of 100 [inaudible 00:04:13] the size of the potential talent pool. And so that ranges from super small startups, all the way to large enterprise and public companies. But very soon, over the next few months, we’re going to start to expand and also help with cross-state payroll so that you can have, for the first time ever, your entire team all around the world, domestically, abroad, et cetera, all in one system with easy reporting. And you can give them access to their remote working setups, and onboard them and offboard them to other softwares, all that exciting stuff.
William Tincup: Well, for those that are listening, global… Well, just payroll, let’s just leave it with payroll and do domestic. The payroll laws come in many shapes and sizes. So the federal, the state, and then even some cases there’s municipal. So take all of our places that you would know, like Seattle versus Miami, the minimum wage might be mandated in the city of Seattle as something completely different. It might be mandated, so let’s just start with that. There might be a minimum, a wage that’s there. So keeping up with employment law, it’s not even a full time job, it’s things… Somewhere in the country, something has changed in the last 10 minutes. And how do you keep track of it all? Now, think of that worldwide, so put Ghana and Slovakia and different places into the mix, and keeping up with that… It’s what payroll people call libraries, it’s the payroll libraries of keeping up to date with all of the things that are going on.
So first of all, you started with one of the hardest things in HR to solve for, A, which is good because it’s for a different type of work. If we can broaden it out, you’re talking about distributed teams, but it’s just you’re thinking about work differently. So you start with something very hard, like global payroll, and then you’ve then… You obviously do full domestic and all of that stuff and then onboarding. So if you can pay them, that’s fantastic. But we’re starting with the assumption that they’re distributed, which means that they can be anywhere which… By the way, the phrase I’ve started to really use is location agnostic. I don’t know why that sticks with me, but I’m just like, “Huh, yeah. You’re just agnostic, you just don’t even think about it, don’t care.” So when I got onboarding, so as the audience is listening to this, so global payroll check, onboarding for distributed teams, check, what’s either now in the product suite or things to be coming later?
Matt Redler: Yeah, absolutely. So the things that you mentioned there are in the product suite today, as well as global background checks, which means when I say… Really, when I say global, I’m referring to borderless or location agnostic, as you said, so it could be in the states, it could be anywhere else. But soon to come is, basically, Panther is looking at the entire HR stack, everything from benefits to one-on-one facilitation and performance reviews, to time tracking. And we’re just saying, “First of all, let’s put all these things in the same platform so that they work seamlessly together, they’re all interoperable.” But secondarily is, “The way that these tools that exist today are built, it’s built for yesterday’s way of working,” and so the questions is how can we rethink some of these things, even if it’s subtle, just to be more optimized for teams that are location agnostic?
So for example, if you look at recruiting software, which encourages, right after the resume review, the first call and many, many calls after that, it’s the main point of communication, one of the things that we’re experimenting with right now… And if those listening have thoughts, please reach out to me personally with them. But one of the things that we’ve heard is that recruiting software that encourages asynchronous video back and forth, at least for an earlier portion of the recruiting pipeline, could be a healthy way to get to know, with less friction, folks from different cultures and time zones. Another part of the suite might be the fact that today’s time management tools, they don’t empower work that’s done asynchronously, they don’t empower the fact that when we have the opportunity to work remotely and we don’t have to be in an office at the same time that other folks are, we can just work when we’re most productive. A lot of us have different schedules. We might take breaks in the middle of the day to go to the gym, we might…
Like myself, I happen to be a Nighthawk, so I love getting into deep work at night. And there are these ebbs and flows throughout the day, which is just much more natural in terms of human behavior. So time management tools that prioritize and empower that level of work, those are some early ideas that we’re playing with. But we’re just hearing distributed teams saying, “Listen, I want a people platform that’s made for me. How do I get to know my teammates that are across the country and across the world? What is Tina actually like outside of what I see in Slack? And so one last thing I’ll highlight that we’re building is you can think about it as a company homepage where you can go and see all the company announcements and events coming up, but most importantly, get to know your teammates, whether that be through company-wide newsletters that are shared or everybody having profiles with videos so that you can actually get to know your teammates in this casual way, like you would if you were around an office. So we are reinventing the people suite for the new way of working.
William Tincup: So as you’re thinking about this operating system, how much of it do you want to build yourself? How much do you want to build APIs that can connect with other… I’m thinking of a personality assessment, you know?
Matt Redler: Right.
William Tincup: Maybe you aspire to build a personality assessment, I don’t want to take that away from you if you do. But there’s a bunch of personality assessments that are out there, so how much do you see, especially with the… You’re calling it an operating system. Some people in the industry would call it a suite or a platform, et cetera. And so how much of it do you see is… Panther’s going to build these core elements, and then we’re going to be API out to the things that aren’t the things that we build.
Matt Redler: Right. So we’re always thinking about and prioritizing how can we create the best experience for our customers. And so the way that we think about that is if there are components of our suite that are out there that do the job well, we’re going to use those resources, those APIs, whatever they may be, because it allows us to then double down on where are the areas where we can make a real difference for our users. So let me give you an example. We are using a partner to help us facilitate the domestic payroll, but what we’re building internally to work together with this domestic payroll…
And this all happens behind the scenes, by the way, these users, they can’t tell the difference. But what we’re building internally is the automation of state filings and tax registrations, so that when you go to hire Maria, the best person who you found, and she happens to live in Texas and she’s your first employee there, you don’t have to think about, I don’t know, how do you register for unemployment taxes in Texas, how do you get the right benefits plan set up, how do you register with the state of Texas that you’re going to be a new corporation operating business in the state. All of these things are automatic across all 50 states, and so that’s what we’re building internally.
Because when you mix that with incredible domestic payroll, which our partner is handling, that’s the beauty of when it comes together. So I guess big picture, what we think about is we think about using existing services when they do an incredible job for sure, and that allows us to focus on, number one, how can we make the real difference for each of these things so that it’s optimized for teams that are location agnostic. But secondarily, let’s make all these things interoperate beautifully together in a single platform so that when you go to, let’s say, onboard a new employee in the Panther platform, if they’re in a new state, we’ll automatically file for you.
If they’re in Italy, we will draft a locally compliant employment agreement, an Italian agreement. We’ll run a background check in the proper jurisdiction, we’ll ship this individual the equipment they need, we’ll onboard them to all the right software they need. If they’re a salesperson, they’ll get access to Salesforce. If they are an engineer, they’ll get access to JIRA. And if they’re a director, maybe they get admin access. All of this happens from a single point, which is the Panther platform. So that’s how we think about what tools to build internally… Our philosophy around using partnerships, as long as the experience is great for our end user, it lets us double down on areas where, maybe, that experience doesn’t already exist.
William Tincup: I love that. You mentioned benefits. I was wondering if your customers are pushing you or asking for global benefits.
Matt Redler: It’s interesting because there… I mean, in theory, there has always been these private benefits that you can offer for your teammates who are in different countries. The problem though is that this experience… Well, I should say I’ll be a little bit more explicit, to be able to offer your international teammates an experience that doesn’t feel second class, what you used to have to do is, pre-Panther, find and shop for benefits, plans, and partners, and understand these policies in every single jurisdiction. A new partner, a new policy, some of these things were completely different than others. The pricing is all over the place, and so it’s very difficult to just, when you’re recruiting, be like, “Yeah, this is our policy,” and be location agnostic about your benefits. And so what we offer today at Panther is really, I believe, what we consider the world’s first set of borderless private healthcare plans.
And we really believe in simplicity at Panther, so we offer two plans, a standard and premium. And I guess, just because the healthcare system in the United States is a little bit funny compared to the rest of the world, we have a US plan, but then we have the borderless plan everywhere else. And these borderless plans, they apply to any other country, meaning if your employees are in Italy, France, Ghana, Azerbaijan, it doesn’t matter. As a company on Panther, you can either have a standard, a premium, or… I mean in theory, you could have none as well, but let’s say a premium healthcare, private healthcare policy that all of your teammates, regardless of their location. You can recruit the best people on earth and retain them by offering them these world class plans in a really simple way. So we’re trying to extract away every bit of complexity, and I think this is one cool example, which is we took having to have 100 partners for 100 different countries and maybe 100 or 200 plans into two plans and one partner.
William Tincup: I love it. So three questions, one is your favorite part of the Panther demo. And I know it’s hard to pick your favorite child. However, like its… I call it the aha moment, but you’re showing people software and you get to a certain thing, it might be a dashboard or whatever it is, but you get to something and they’re like, “Oh, wait a minute.” What is for Panther?
Matt Redler: I’ll tell you what it is today, and I’ll tell you what we’re working on and what I see it being tomorrow. I think today, the most exciting part of the platform for me is the approved payroll button, and the reason why is because when you’re working on a truly location-agnostic team, you are dealing with a lot of currencies, a lot of payroll cycles, and lots of various laws that implicate the way that payroll works. And so the way that we simplified things at Panther is you just click this approved payroll button. And when you do that, our platform will pull the funds from your bank account in USD. And then we move that money all around the world, and all of the employees run a locally compliant payroll where they’re paid in local currency.
Honestly, it feels like magic. What would otherwise take a finance organization that is maybe, I don’t know, 10% to 20% of one’s organization to facilitate this, it’s become one button. But the thing that I’m really excited for that will be making meaningful progress and see soon is this idea of when you add a new employee with that one button, the confirming of the hire in one click, the background check is run, the employment agreement is generated and sent for signature, the equipment is going to be sent on the right date, all of the bank account information is requested, everything and anything because I believe that there is nothing more important in… Well, I’ll say this in two parts. Number one, there’s nothing more important in our companies than the people. And number two, I think there is nothing more important to having people be their best and stay with your company and be excited about recruiting more of their best friends and colleagues, their network than an incredible onboarding process. And so that’s our number one priority at Panther, is how can we build the remote onboarding process that blows new teammates away.
William Tincup: I love that. [inaudible 00:19:30] the focus on ease of use and also the EX, the employee experience, candidate experience, employee experience and, probably in the future, alumni experience, buying questions that practitioners should ask Panther, what should practitioners ask you?
Matt Redler: Well, I think that the biggest question when evaluating Panther is to understand what is the way to do it without Panther, how can a company without Panther just hire someone who lives elsewhere… Or actually, let me take it a step up. How can a company become location agnostic without Panther? That’s the powerful question. And we think of ourselves as consultants that are there to help however we can, whether you become a customer of ours or not. And just honestly, it blows my mind when you get into the red tape and the bureaucracy. I mean, it’s boring pen and paperwork stuff. And whatever you think, over a little bit of time, you’ll multiply it by 1,000, if not more. When you understand, as you mentioned earlier, Will, just how different every micro jurisdiction is, especially when you start to think about accepting the best talent that lives wherever they happen to live, that’s the primary question when thinking about Panther, is if not for Panther, maybe I still want to do this, how would I do it?
William Tincup: Well, and I usually tell and talk to practitioners about the status quo. Software companies want to compare themselves to other software companies, which is Fine. But generally speaking, it’s how are you doing it before, how are you going to do it tomorrow, which is the status quo, which is, I think, all of our biggest competitors. Last thing I wanted to get from you is, and again, I know this is difficult, but your favorite customer innovation story. Without names, without brands, none of that stuff, of course, but just something where you’ve seen a customer use Panther and you’re like, “Wow, that’s cool.”
Matt Redler: Right. Well, I got to tell you that the biggest unlock that we’ve had is we’re recognizing that our customers did not like the idea of the original way that we had built Panther, which is that Panther would just be for the teammates that are outside of your headquarters country. So if you’re an American company, you would have a domestic payroll product, and then you’d use Panther alongside that. And we just learned that they really did not like splitting their people across multiple systems. It meant that it was very difficult to do reporting, it meant that they had to keep company announcements and t-shirt sizes, and these types of things in multiple places, it meant that they had to run payroll multiple times, and so honestly, the biggest… At least for me, that’s been a huge wow moment, is hearing that what our customers are looking for, candidly, it’s just such an ambitious project, is, “Can I just have one place that literally does everything for me?” So we’re ready [crosstalk 00:22:50]
William Tincup: Which again, it’s an operating system [crosstalk 00:22:54] instead of building pieces, which again, you had to start somewhere. What I love about that particular story is you started with a thesis and your customer said, “Cool. We’d also like this other stuff,” and you listened to…
Matt Redler: That’s right. We ask what are your related pain points, and I don’t think we’ll ever stop asking that question.
William Tincup: That’s fantastic. Matt, thank you so much for your time today, and thanks for being on the podcast.
Matt Redler: Thank you so much for having me, Will, really appreciate it. Thank you.
William Tincup: Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to The Use Case Podcast, until next time.
The Use Case Podcast
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.
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