A day in the life: Interview with Roger Gorman, CEO of ProFinda
This week, we caught up with Roger Gorman, Founder and CEO of ProFinda – an innovative employee centric collaboration platform that intelligently organises people around work.
1. What time does your day start?
7:30am! But I tend to clock off about 3am too, as I’m most productive from about midnight to 3am. I’ve done 4-5 hours sleep since I was about 12. I am trying hard to change this!
2. Are you a tea or coffee person?
Neither. I’m not a big fan of hot drinks. I’d rather have a milkshake or something. Please don’t judge me too harshly!
3. What does ProFinda do?
It’s a next generation knowledge exchange matching people to work. As context, over the next 5 years the entire professional market place is shifting in an incredibly exciting way. The workforce of the future is more about employee centricity, portfolio careers, the borderless workforce, trust, fun, empowerment, and big data.
But even ‘today’ we’ve an amazing transformation occurring inside work on a granular level. And it’s around people discovery.Once an organization reaches over 100+ people you lose a real grasp on the collective knowledge of the group. So in a company of over 2,000, no one knows what others know. And this problem is on hyper scale when you get to 100k staff plus. And corporate tribes then form naturally (i.e. silos) within organisations. Gratefully, the market has at last woken up to see that classic ‘social collaboration’ tools have a nasty habit of reinforcing these tribes/silos, and do little to make sure that we have effective teams and so prevent us reinventing the wheel.
It’s clear every day in mid to large firms all projects, bids and knowledge sharing is woefully less that optimal. Mass emails, asking around and general panic remain a daily obsession. Also most tech inside firms are 100% for management. So HR systems and their managers rely on uninformative data from unengaged systems. Basically no-one knows anyone!
Another way to look at this is 99% of enterprise technologies can be defined as a ‘HOW’ technologies (emails, chat, forums, projects, billing, even actual buildings). These are ways to communicate. But companies literally have zero visibility of their actual talent and knowledge. Essentially no one knows their colleagues and collective knowledge.
What’s missing the a tool to solve the ‘who’. This means the ‘how’ is far more successful. So we decided to go back to the drawing board and design an employee-first solution.
I like to think of ProFinda as the digital lovechild of Google a dating website and LinkedIn. It’s essentially three things. A smart data discovery and leaning engine, a powerful people finder using matching algorithms, and a layer of gamification to nudge attitudes to maximize collaboration. Data is king, relevance is key, and reward loosens the dial on collaboration.
We knew from early on that Profinda had to motivate people in order for them to keep on using it day after day. In social psychology 74% of a typical group are not particularly collaborative. They may be private mono-taskers, they may feel embarrassed when relying on help, but the reasons are as varied as the whole spectrum of human behavior.
So when you think of a global corporation, where there are 200,000 employees, there are 150,000 that, for one reason or another, feel like there is no one to help – that’s horrendous. So this aspect is about gamifying people’s status, ego and reputation strongly prompts everyone on a level pegging when it comes to collaboration and knowledge sharing.
By 2020, there will be over 2 billion professionals in day jobs, and all of them will be connected online. We have an interesting opportunity to be the ones connecting them all as the workforce and tech landscape shifts. The dream is to connect professionals intelligently and equitably. Equality is giving everyone the same thing in absolute terms, but market equity (in the non-financial sense) is access to the same opportunities and empowerment. We must first ensure equity before enjoying equality.
4. Tell us a bit about your job.
Lead, listen, support, repeat.
I do a bit of everything. I see my job as empowering my team. So I keep a keen focus on finding talent and helping them to achieve our collective vision. But as the CEO, you do everything, constantly. So pitches, fundraising, product adaption and innovation, strategy work, managing people! And yes, I love it!
5. How is ProFinda going to change the world?
We want to connect 2bn professionals, intelligently and equity to empower a new era of commerce and innovation. We believe we can literally change the world, impact the planet and help is become a fairer and progressive holacracy. And a big part of this process it to also ensure Inclusive Capitalism is at the DNA of our business and therefore our clients. As such we can transfer $150bn a year of pro bono expertise (from our clients) back to charities and social causes around the world. We can ‘easily’ match and marry our clients to charities thus totally reinventing philanthropy.
And on this adventure one of the more niche/ specialist areas I’m excited about is our crisis management proposition. If you think a network like Doctors Without Borders. They’ve 330,000 medics on something similar to an excel spreadsheet rightnow (most firms are like this too). So when there is a crisis like Haiti, Nepal or the Ebola crisis what do they do? Managing that must be a nightmare. With Nepal it’s even worse because they’ve got the Red Cross, the UN and all these well-meaning amazing people landing, while the recipients are totally bamboozled to make leverage sense all this incredible goodwill. A platform like ProFinda can aggregated a collective view of all skills and assets (trucks, diggers, needles, drugs etc) and offer the coordinators a true, real time inventory to make far better strategic decisions on this new supply chain an deployment of this value.
6. What brought you to this area?
I love to connect people, but couldn’t understand at work why a) there was no smart system out there connecting our collective knowledge, and b) why so many people were not emotionally excited to connect others, when they had the chance.
I was running innovation for some really big bands and so this idea was born out of soulful frustration that we were couldn’t react better for each other and for our client. In my last day job I knew that out of the 100,000 people in our networks, there were armies of experts who could transform the outcomes. But often for big pitches and projects I was literally given the switchboard to other companies in the network and told they would be able to tell me. But how would a receptionist know?
I’ve been working quietly on this idea of ‘hyper-connecting’ for 14 years and retained in my own time in certain disciplines around behavior psychology. We’ve been commercially alive for 4 years, and out of stealth mode for one year.
And in just one year we’ve been featured in the White House, Davos and we’ve now won some of the world’s largest consultancy firms as channel partners and large clients directly too.
7. What does your typical work day schedule look like?
I try to spend the morning working in a cafe because I get work done there. Yes, you can’t take the entrepreneur out of the boy! Then I come into the office and the rest of the day could be made up of meetings, doing my own thing, and sometime ‘thinking’. But while I’m uber busy, I’ve never missed a meal in my life! It’s funny – I am SO busy but I always eat. So it can’t be that bad, right?
I work most weekends but for me it’s never really been work. Some people think I work too hard, but I don’t think they don’t get it. I might go for a few drinks but then I go back and make a few phone calls – I have a conversation with guys in Brazil, Australia, KL, anywhere I can find heroes to talk to and plot world change with – they are all out there!
I get to meet and network with some of the most exciting people in the world and I see huge fun and potential in that. I guess that’s my clubbing experience! It’s awesome.
Everybody needs a life quest or a soulful purpose. Everyone has SO much potential to offer. And whether or not you achieve the quest is not the point, it’s definitely the journey.
8. Can you tell us a bit about your current projects?
I’m quietly connecting people. A phrase that I find really nice is ‘Inclusive Capitalism’ – the notion that we’re connecting communities with companies, and that’s what ProFinda does better than anyone else in the world if you ask me!
9. When is your most productive time of the day?
Between 1am and 3am, when I can think!
10. How does technology support your work?
“Support” is a bit of an understatement since technology is our fundamental enabler. It’s the product we are selling and it’s how we make it. Conversely, ProFinda, as a platform prompts that any solution is 20% tech and 80% cultural change.
11. What is the one app you could not live without?
Google Maps. But the one that always gets me most excited is Shazam. For me it’s something created out of unicorns and fairy dust. I still think it’s a magical thing and epic UX!
12. What’s the best thing about working at ProFinda?
The people. There’s 62 of us now, but all with aligned values and belief around our mission. We’ve got our tech teams around Europe, and we’ve also got people in the US, Australia, Singapore. It’s also the size of the vision, and that we’re doing something that is visionary and something that could impact the world, we all believe in it.
13. Where’s the after office hang out?
It changes. The good news it’s not just one place – I really hate that whole thing! It’s an ever changing selection of places. We did all go to that ping pong place recently, that was good fun.
14. Who is your professional role model?
Am I allowed have more than one? Because I have about 12… but in no particular order – Manoj Bhargava, and I hate to be cliche but Elon Musk of course, and a third is Dave Logan, and I properly quote him way too much! Manoj is all about changing the world for the right reasons and he’s innovative, creative and selfless. Ditto for Elon Musk. Dave Logan because he has actually put a framework around attitude, and for me everything is about attitude and empathy.
15. How do you balance your personal and professional life?
I don’t really. It blends into one. Some of us at work even hang out on the weekends because we are friends. I very rarely switch off but the plan is to get to the point where I am disappearing off one week in four, but I’ll probably get bored out my mind!
16. What are the top 3 qualities you look for in an employee?
I’d say empathy, creativity and drive. Those are the sort of qualities we look for.
17. What is the one piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting out?
Ha! Don’t listen to one piece of advice. I do feel advice should always be deeply considered, but what you do with it is up to
you. It’s your journey. Sometimes advice is misleading, and other times it’s like a spoken gospel. Just follow your intuition. Your immediate gut feel is way smarter than your conscious mulling.
Visit Profinda.com for more information.