December 10, 2020

#12 - Where and when founders should be hands-on: Luciana Caletti, LoveMondays / Glassdoor

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In the early days of Love Mondays, co-founder Luciana Caletti was encouraged by her investors to talk to every player in the industry, including competitors. Not only did that accelerate their learning as a startup, but it also allowed them to build a relationship with their US-born more developed equivalent, Glassdoor.

Fast forward 3 years, they joined forces as Glassdoor expanded and Luciana became the Managing Director for Latin America. But even though her title might have changed, her role did not.

Today, we talk about her journey leading a venture-backed company and choosing where to focus her attention to generate growth. She also shares a few learnings on:

  • Things to keep in mind when you start hiring
  • How to create news pieces around your company
  • And how to build employer branding organically

Brian Requarth: Luciana. Welcome to the Latitud podcast. It's really great to have you.

Luciana Caletti: Thank you, Brian. Great to be here.

Brian Requarth: So you build a business, for full disclosure, I was an investor, is one of my first angel investments and the first exit I had. So thank you for that. That doesn't happen a lot of times when you invest in companies, so it's a success story. I wanted to kind of talk a little bit more about what you're up to today and what that experience was like. I have a ton of questions around that. And so maybe just start off with just giving a quick overview of that.

Luciana Caletti: Yeah. Great. So we started Love Mondays back in May 2013. And we started with the dream of bringing transparency to the Latin American job market.

Essentially, we found that people were making career decisions completely in the dark. So they only found out if they liked the company that they were going to work for whilst they started working there. The problem with that is that if they don't like their new job or the company they're working for, or their team, it's too late, they've already made that move.

And we all know that a career move entails a lot of things in our life, it's a big decision, it's a big pragmatic decision, but it's also a big emotional commitment that you're making. So we wanted to empower Latin American professionals to make good career decisions. And how do you make good career decisions? By having great, reliable, almost real time information and no one better than the employees themselves who believe the realities of the company day in and day out to talk about how the company is doing, how the culture is doing, how happy they are at work.

And then you as a professional who were considering joining that company will have access to that information and say: "Yes, this company is for me or no, I'm better off staying in my current job or finding another job altogether." So this is how I start Love Mondays. It was inspired by Glassdoor. So we use Glassdoor which is a platform that started in the US and then started expanding all over the world. And we missed some information about Latin America, because it's very different working. Even if you work for a global company, it's very different, you may have a very different experience working for that company in the US, or in Brazil.

So we really wanted some local content to empower local professionals to make great career decisions. That's when Love Mondays was born.

Brian Requarth: It's a big inspiration. If you look at Rich Barton who started companies like Glassdoor, Expedia, Zillow, it's all about bringing kind of a market with asymmetry of information, where you're bringing power to the people, it's a big theme in all the businesses he's created.

And he's actually been a big inspiration for me and my journey and thinking about the business that I wanted to build. One thing I'm just curious as a starting point in the early days of Love Mondays. When I started VivaReal, a lot of the real estate companies threatened to sue us because we were going out putting their listings on our site and ultimately it was good for them because they were generating new business.

Did you encounter any backlash from companies when Love Mondays started, because here you are this like provider of information and the reality is not everyone's going to say something great about the employer. How did that work? And what was the backlash of that in the beginning?

Luciana Caletti: Yeah. So this is a very interesting dynamic, right? That occurs in every market that you are disrupting. I think when you bother people and you bother some, some companies, it means that you're actually doing something disruptive, something truly disruptive will make some people unhappy. And that's part of the game.

The interesting thing is that at the beginning, no one knows you, no one complains. And then you start growing and then the more you grow, the more companies complain until you get to a point and you probably saw that with VivaReal as well until you get to a point that you become part of the reality of the market, then you're helping shape the market.

And then it becomes business as usual, people get over it. And, then you stop having the complaints. So at the beginning with Love Mondays, we did have a lot of complaints when we started growing. And I remember that the way we approached it was to try and keep an open communication channel with the companies and, explain the purpose of the website.

And actually once we explained the purpose of the website and how it actually helped them recruit who had not only a technical fit with the job that they were trying to fill, but also a cultural fit with the company and also values fit with the company values, that was an eye opener for them.

And then most of the companies, I won't say all of them, but the great majority of companies would actually embrace the platform and actually would make quite a few sales that were leads from threats to sue us. So legal leads that actually became some of our early clients because they understood that through Love Mondays candidates who would come in through the platform would actually understand the company culture and values before they apply to a job. And that makes a big difference for the company who is trying to recruit and may receive thousands and thousands of candidates for a job.

So, yeah, that was an interesting journey. And I remember thinking that some of the companies would be very stubborn and say, no, I really don't want to be on the platform. At the beginning, we would block the reviews and we would put a notice to our users saying: "Hey, this company does not support transparency. You know, there's, there's hundreds of thousands of other companies who do so why don't you check those out?" But this company, we can't display their reviews.

And then some users would get in touch with us and say: "Hey, why aren't the reviews of so and so on Love Mondays? I saw these weird notes saying they don't allow reviews." And then I said: "Yeah, that says a lot about the company doesn't it? Because they are not supporting transparency." And I remember thinking that one day they will come back and they will ask us to put back their profile. So we would continue collecting content, collecting reviews and salaries for those companies and most of them over the years actually came back and said: "Hey, this thing of not being on Love Mondays is actually damaging us. So can you please put it back?" And then it would be champagne popped.

Brian Requarth: Nothing like converting somebody. You eventually wear them down and they realize the value. I remember as a quick testimonial, as you know, I was like a heavy user of Love Mondays.

Like I really read every single feedback from every single person that works at our company. We have hundreds of reviews of people that worked in the company. And I made sure to read every single one. And then I remember I would bug you and I'd be like: "Hey, I want to respond to these." I think, I don't know, You didn't have the feature yet. It wasn't the investor. Like, I need this as an investor. It was the consumer to customer. I really want to be able to respond in an authentic way. And I remember having a conversation with my team. There's two, two anecdotes, and this is I think a good takeaway here.

One, there was a person that works at our company and he was a very shy engineer. And one of the kind of little company parties we had, he'd had a couple of beers and he got the courage to tell me that the reason why he decided to join us was because of how I responded to those comments on the existing employees. You know, I think that the authenticity and him seeing. Kind of how we, what our thought process and what the ethos was of the company.

So that was one example. And then the second conversation, I remember we would have some disgruntled employees sometimes naturally in a company with hundreds of people, it happens. And my team would sometimes question why I was responding to people that were so disgruntled when clearly it was impossible to revert their thinking about their experience. And I remember having a moment of clarity. I think this is a good takeaway for all founders. In those cases where I would respond to the comments. It's not about changing the mind of the person that you're responding to. It's about stating a position. And for everyone that would read that, like how you see the world and how you see things.

So that's just like a kind of a reputation management and that authenticity, and that transparency is so fundamental for companies. The best founders realize that, I believe.

Luciana Caletti: Yeah, absolutely. That's totally true. And believe it or not, it was the same thing for me as the founder of Love Mondays, because I had access to the user details of people who posted reviews on the site.

Only the founders had that access. And of course, on the platform it's completely anonymous, but someone had to have access to that data. And it was me and my co-founders and only us. Basically, we created a generic email address for Love Mondays' employees to post content, truly anonymous on the platform.

And that was only available internally. People would post really authentic reviews about Love Mondays, all Love Mondays. And I would do exactly the same because you need to position yourself and explain how your culture is, because if your culture is not exclusive, It means it's exclusive in the sense of it is only for a certain profile of people.

It is not a strong enough culture because if you try to have a culture that feeds everybody, you're not going to be the best for anybody. So what you need to explain is what your company's made of and what type of people fit in? So for example, we at Love Mondays. We had a review of a very angry employee who was criticizing us for saying that we didn't have processes for anything. Things were a mess. You had to figure out how to make things happen and so on. And this is very normal in a startup. And then my response was along the lines of, for me, processes are to solve problems and before we actually have a problem we don't need a process. We're not a process oriented company.

So if you are a person that you need a determined process to do everything that you do during your day to get your work done, you're probably not the best fit for this company. And that's fine. You know, he likes processes. We don't have processes. No one is right. No one is wrong. It's just a matter of fit.

So the more clear you are about who you are as a company and what your culture is, the more chances you are going to have to attract the right people. So the negative reviews are a great opportunity to make that statement and to exclude the people who don't have a fit.

Brian Requarth: Absolutely. I mean, if you have someone in your company that is obsessed with, and maybe they came from a larger equation where they're used to that, in your environment, you want to discover that sooner rather than later.

And you want people that are thinking about joining to be not attracted to it if they're not a right fit, because then, you know, there's a self-selection process, which is really important for any hiring funnel. You're hiring the person, but they're also deciding to work for you. And that's, that's a two way street.

Luciana Caletti: Exactly. If they self-select, it means that you don't need to waste their time.

Brian Requarth: Exactly. No, and I love the transparency. Just as an anecdote, at Viva Real, one challenge that I think happens in the companies as they scale, is that the communication becomes harder. Right? And you're a small room of like, you know, 20 people. I remember your first office. I remember coming over to the little office in Vila Madalena. And it was a tiny little office and it was just like, it's so easy to be on the same page and to be communicating, you know, on the lines of transparency. As we got bigger, we started having, you know, the company meetings every two weeks and we would have at the end. Anonymous questions. So like anonymous reviews and we called it the "cabeludo" right? Like the hairy questions, like where you could ask anything you wanted. And literally there was no question that was off limits. And I think that that kind of transparency is just so critical in an organization because it builds trust. And ultimately, trust is the base of this. If you don't have trust, it's hard to have a conflict and you need to have conflicts in companies to get to good decisions.

And if you are able to have conflicts. You can make commitments to do things. And then lastly, you can have accountability if you have commitment making and ultimately you end up having results. And so that's kind of a pyramid of thinking. I would love to hear a little bit more about some of those mistakes that happened and those challenges that you made early on in your career that you think, you know, I think we all have them. And, in fact, my co-founder Gina, she's going to be launching a podcast that's only, um, as she calls it F-ups, because I think that's where you learn the most. But I would love to hear a little bit more about your relevant challenges and mistakes that you made along the way.

Luciana Caletti: Oh, there's so many. But I think the first thing, funny enough, you do need to hire for culture, a thing that's not only for technical, but for culture. And in the early days when you're growing so fast and you desperately need to fill a position, I have made that mistake. I don't know if it happens to all founders, but I made that mistake, because we were simply desperate to find a certain type of engineer. And when you hire only for technical skills, not only they will not get the job done because they just don't fit in the company. And if they don't fit in the company, they're not going to be productive. Forget about it. So not only you're not going to get the work done, but they will also negatively contaminate the rest of the team. It will damage the other good people that you have, not because they are right or wrong again, it's not a matter of being right or wrong. It's just, they're the wrong fit.

They're not the right person for your company. So never compromise on values and on cultural fit. I think that was for me, the first learning, because you simply won't get the job done. You might as well wait another couple of months until you find the right person, but don't hire the person for technical skills only, because they're not going to be productive.

The other thing I think is around product. Being a business and you've probably experienced that as well, Brian with VivaReal. So being a business that requires critical mass, it becomes completely relevant, and before you can monetize significantly, I think there's a ton of product learnings that you have along the way in terms of how to make that relevant for the people who come to the site in the early days before you have that critical mass of content. So if you are that type of business, you could start focusing on a certain niche. So for example, for us, we started for everybody. And then we focused a little bit more on consulting and technology companies.

So focus on certain industries and then with less content, you become more relevant. Trying to be everything for everybody too early is a mistake as well. I think those were my two biggest learnings.

I think the other one that I would say is that, luckily that we didn't make this mistake because we had great advisors like yourself.

I can't remember who told us this, but we were tempted to hire an agency to run advertising and PR and so on for us in the early days. And that would have been a massive mistake in my experience. You need to have that in the company. It's key for your growth in the early days for you to learn how you grow. Once you learn how you grow. Once you have a formula that more or less works, you can outsource that. But in the early days, don't do that. And there, we almost made a mistake. Someone told us that and we kept it in-house and it was amazing. So I think those are the three key areas I would watch out for at the beginning, if I were to do it again.

Brian Requarth: I think that this is something that it's hard when you're desperately needing someone to help you with something. And you've got this open space and you want to deliver, you don't want to compromise in those situations. But when we hired some people in the early days, you need people that are a little bit more generalists in the early days, people who can wear multiple hats because you don't have this very deep team.

I remember hiring someone. And the second day at their job, they said, okay, here's the spreadsheet with the org chart of the whole team that I need underneath me. And obviously this is like just a wrong hire that I made, right? Because you know, they came from a larger company. Didn't have the, as they say in Portuguese, "mão na massa", hands-on kind of like actually executing.

And so I've heard the supposed wisdom of hiring for like the next 18 months ahead of what you need. I don't know if I really buy that because what about the problems you have today?

So what advice do you have for early stage founders that are looking to make those first key hires?

Luciana Caletti: In the early days, you absolutely need to hire the people for the problems you have today. I've seen this mistake made by tons of companies, which is: "Hey, there is a large global player in the sector that we operate, they are a director of sales for this large company, let's bring them in. If they can sell for this large company, they will be amazing. They'll bring all the knowledge to us and they will be great salespeople at our company."

That is a massive mistake because first of all, this person is not going to want to go on to meetings to make sales because they are not a sales person anymore. They're a sales director or their job is completely different. You don't need a sales strategy at the beginning. You need someone going out there seeing clients and actually making the sale and they will see it in the contract and all of that. So you do need to hire for the problems you have today.

And the presence of the founder in these early stage sales, marketing, PR everything you do. I think the founders at the beginning need to be there and need to be part of building the process and how you're going to go on about your go to market strategy, how you're going to preach, how are you going to position your product? The founders need to be there because the founders started this business because they are very passionate about this mission, about the purpose of it. And even if you hire the best person ever, they won't have the vision and the passion that you found, so you need to be there to communicate this passion and this vision, and to bring it to the day to day work. I think the founders need to be really hands-on in the first couple of years, at least of the companies to transmit that passion and the sense of purpose or those early key hires.

And then they will transmit that to the team as they get bigger. But that first kind of layer of employees that you hire, you need to be there hands-on with them.

Brian Requarth: Yeah. And I always thought about the first people we hired at Viva as multipliers. I don't want to use this word, but ,I can't think of a better one: You almost have to indoctrinate why you're building what you're building and get the messaging so clear. What happens, those key people, they become multipliers of the message. And that's when you're able to kind of scale culture is when everybody knows why we're building what we're building. They know what the plans are, and they're able to communicate very crisply. So the new people that come on, obviously as a founder, you're very involved in the hiring.

At what point do you think it makes sense for the founder not to be involved in the hiring decisions? Like where is the threshold of that? Maybe there's not a perfect answer for that, but what would you say, how important is it that the founder be involved in that hiring process and onboarding process?

Luciana Caletti: Yeah, I think it's extremely important. You hear some numbers out there. So up to 50 employees, maybe a hundred employees. We never got that big. So I was involved in all the hires that we made, but I think it depends on your field, but I do think that, say up to 50 people, the founder needs to be there. I think to select for the cultural fit, to screen people for the cultural fit as well. Nothing better than the founder. I think the founder, the best combination I've seen from my experience, is the founder plus the team who will report into this person. If you have the team already, if you don't have the team already, founder plus peers is the best combination, but you need both.

Brian Requarth: I think you make a really interesting point on the sales side too. I think this is a very common mistake where there's like a flashy executive from a company and founders are drawn to that person because they're part of a success story. Or they have like a big Rolodex of people they know, or there, it just looks really good on paper. But it doesn't always match the needs and sales management versus a salesperson. A lot of times I see founders that have an amazing salesperson and in Brazil, there's this mentality a little bit of like becoming a manager.

You kind of move that person into a management role, when a lot of times you're then removing your best sales person from your team. And just because you're an amazing salesperson, doesn't make you an amazing manager or vice versa. And so I think that's something to be very careful of. The same applies to engineering.

There's a lot of challenges and probably those founders that are listening that are starting to get to the point where they have to have management and, and a layer of management in there. That's an awfully challenging one. There's the Y career path, right? Where it's like, you can stay as an individual contributor or you can go into management.

That's also a very similar parallel where maybe this individual contributor produces at a very high level and the throughput is amazing and they think for their personal career in development, they need to start managing people for them to kind of move up the career ladder. And the reality is that like there's individual contributors in companies like Google that make way more than you're a machine learning person on the Google search team.

You probably make way more than an engineering manager running a team for ads, for example. And so I think that that's an important lesson for founders to decide, develop that career path.

One question I have, because I remember in Brazil, I think this applies to the rest of Latin America. There's this obsession with kind of the "plano de carreira", right? This career plan. And I remember always hearing that in the beginning and I didn't even understand it because I always looked at career development as: You build value for the company you evolve and you grow, and it's not really the company's responsibility to develop a plan for you. It's kind of your responsibility to figure out how you evolve and how you can build value for the company. Maybe add some thoughts on that and love to get your perspective.

Luciana Caletti: Yeah. So this is a really interesting one because on one hand, people are coming wanting autonomy, independence, and just the ability to make things happen and to deploy code whenever they want. And so on. However, when it comes to managing the career, they have a very paternalistic approach to that in the sense that they expect, like you said, that the company will have all the path drawn and all the answers.

What I think startups need is a kind of middle ground. So I think if you tell in Brazil, it depends on the culture of each country, but I think in Brazil, If you tell people, if you tell your average employee that: "Hey, your career is completely up to you. We don't have a plan. We don't have visibility. We don't really know where you could go." I think that's not going to fly in Brazil because there is that expectation that the company will also take care of my career. On the other hand, you're a startup. So things change, you don't have a big hierarchical structure where, you know, with all these things figured out.

So I think about finding the middle ground. What could it be? So I think it's bringing people a sense of ownership for their careers. Explaining to them that the startup is there to support them in achieving their personal goals and their personal career goals. So for example, do you want to be a people manager? Great. You're a salesperson. You want to move into a management position. So: "Hey, today we don't have a team to manage. However, if we hit these targets in one year, we will have a team and you can become a manager and we will support you to get there." If the person doesn't want to be in sales anymore, they could want to continue in sales, but they could want to change areas completely.

"Hey, I want to do something else. I want to do PR". Okay. How can we support you to get there? So why don't you go out and find some training? We will try and find a budget to support you with that. And then today we only have one PR person and that's enough. However, if we grow to level Y we can add another person to the team and you can be that person if you get the appropriate training.

I think that the startup founder needs to position themselves as the supporter to make your career happen. However, the person needs to bring what they want because in the end, it's up to them to decide what they want for their career. And then the startup can be there to support. And I think you don't need a properly structured career plan for that. You just need to have honest and open conversations with people and understand where they want to be and understand, okay, how can we help you get there? Is it training? Is it shadowing? Is it pairing up with another friendly startup to learn from what they are doing and so on? So I think there's a lot of cheap ways of supporting people in their career. And I think startups can do that without having to go out.

I've seen, believe it or not. I've seen startups, hiring consulting firms to develop a career plan. That doesn't make any sense in the first few years, you know, it just doesn't make any sense because who knows what's going to happen in two years? So how can you have this structured period plan?

You can satisfy the needs of your employees by being there to support them. You don't need to have it all on paper and it all very structured by a consulting firm. It doesn't make any sense.

Brian Requarth: I'm very allergic to consulting firms in the early days of startups. And I was even resistant as we got big, even when we were hundreds of people.

And I do think there's a place for consultants, but you mentioned early on about marketing, right? Hiring a marketing agency. I mean, that's just such a critical piece of a startup. You're outsourcing such an important component to your business, and you have to dominate that topic. You have to be so smart about how you manage it.

And no one is going to put as much energy into it, even if you pay them X amount of money. So it's definitely a skill that needs to be learned and mastered inside a company. And one of those marketing strategies that we've talked about quite a bit, and you were very successful at leveraging is PR.

At Latitud, we had a session with you and we talked a little bit more about PR and kind of what strategies work. I'd love to hear any tips that you can share around player branding, attracting talent and getting press exposure.

Luciana Caletti: When we talk about PR for attracting talent, I think the best PR you can do in the early days for attracting talent is to have happy employees because happy employees will bring on other people who, more naturally tend to have a cultural fit. So it's great. There's more chances you're going to make a good hire. And it's cheaper as well, right? If your employees bring good people, it's great. I see a lot of founders worrying about how to develop a good employer brand, how to get your brand known out there in the early days without big budgets. Without being able to afford the best benefits in the industry and so on. So I think employer branding and getting yourself known as a good employer can be cheap. You just need to choose the right things.

How do you choose the right things? Ask your employees what will make a difference for you here, or what are the things that you care about? What are the things that keep you here, what are the things that would tempt you to change jobs? And then if you talk to employees and you understand what makes a difference for them, you can choose those things very carefully. Companies sometimes invest tons of money in benefits that no one ever uses.Or a benefit program that is very complex that no one cares about, or they choose a great program, but it's just the wrong fit for the type of people they have in house. So I think that that's the first thing: Talk to your employees, understand what makes them, what would make them happy, what they want, give it to them and then get them to spread the word.

Get them to be. Ambassadors online for your company, with their group of friends, it will happen very naturally. If they're happy, they're going to talk about it. If they are unhappy, they will talk about it even more. So, friends, it happens naturally. However, a lot of people have a strong online presence today so encourage them to be ambassadors for your employer brand online. They can share photos of the office. I've seen a company having their values translated as cool hashtags. Like as fast as a click, things like that. And then if you have that, you encourage people to share it online. It makes it easier to remember the values as well. So, you can do a lot of little things to get them to talk about you online, and that will naturally grow your employer brand. If you get them to review your company on a site like Glassdoor, if you get them to talk about the company on platforms like LinkedIn, like other platforms, Instagram as well, it all helps. And I think that, in the early days, your employees are the best ambassadors for your brand.

Brian Requarth: And what about PR in general to attract exposure? I mean, I know that one of the things that attracts people is like, when they read about a company in the media. PR is a really powerful tool for fundraising, for attracting the right people, and for attracting customers. You guys were masters at being the authority on topics related to kind of employee satisfaction and salaries.

And you had a very sticky business model from the standpoint of, you know, you have this data that no one had. I remember as a CEO, obviously I wanted everyone to be happy, so they're motivated, but you also care about your external appearance in terms of people that are thinking about you. So talk a little bit more about tips for startup founders because PR can be a powerful growth channel.

Luciana Caletti: I think that the key thing is don't try and talk about your company. Try to talk about something that is interesting, that people want to read about. Not that people don't want to know about your company, your company is really great, but people want news. So try and find data that is relevant for the segment that your company operates in, and if you don't have that data, at Love Mondays it was easy because we had the data naturally because the data was part of the core of the business. If you don't have that, you can very easily put on a Hotjar or any other apps on your site or on your app and do surveys.

So, run a survey, get some interesting data, contact journalists, introduce yourself, say you have this great data and make friends with journalists. What you want to happen is the journalist sees you as a reliable source of information for that sector that they write about and that your company operates in.

Once you have that connection with journalists, they will come to you and say: "Hey, I'm about this topic. I need this type of data. Can you run a survey for me?" And then you just put it on your site and you run the survey, and then there you go, you get the data for them and you get exposure in the media.

I think that's the first thing. Don't talk about your company. Talk about data. Interesting data. If you don't have it, go out and get it.

Brian Requarth: It's kind of the classic tip that I remember getting for when you're at a cocktail party: Don't be interesting, be interested. Kind of inverts it because people love to talk about how great they are, but the reality is when you're providing something of interest or value to someone else, they're much more likely to be supportive and help you.

I made this mistake as a founder, early on, pitching to journalists. And the reality is you've got to find an angle and find a story, and a lot of times, if you can do some of the work of the journalists, to help them, that's a way to kind of remove a barrier and help them kind of get the objective, which is to tell a story.

And so I want to kind of fast forward, a little bit into right now where you are, you're at Glassdoor, so you're part of a larger company. You sold your company, relatively early, right?

Tell us quickly about what the process was like, you know, how did acquisition conversations start and how that all felt as a founder.

Luciana Caletti: Yeah, sure. So, actually, I finished my journey at Glassdoor last month. So we just finished the journey, but talking about the acquisition, it was overall a very fast journey. So we did our first round of investment in the first year, second round in the second year, and then in the third year we sold to Glassdoor.

Our investors brought us the mentality of talking to everybody in the industry, competitors or not, just getting to know other companies in the industry. And I think that's a great mentality to have because a lot of founders are worried that if they go and talk to other companies in the sector, that they are going to get pushed into a corner and ask questions that they don't want to answer and share data that they don't want to share or open the eyes of competitors for a new business model and so on. But that, for us in our experience, was very good because first we learned a lot by talking to Glassdoor and basically all other players in the early days. We learned so much about the industry, that those meetings were very, very productive even if an acquisition didn't come out of it.

But secondly, you start building relationships and then as investments don't happen overnight, you need to get to know your investors. Acquisition is the same thing. So we started having conversations with Glassdoor, Love Mondays was only one year old, we were very, very tiny. And then we kept in touch. Like we kept in touch with all the companies in the recruitment and employer branding space. And we would just do, say, a virtual meeting every three to six months, keeping touch, share what was going on, hear from them, what was going on, how they were seeing the market and so on.

And like I said, we learned a lot and, I've always said to Glassdoor that if they wanted to come to Latin America, I wanted to be the first person to know about it. And so it happened that way when they started looking into expanding internationally to other geographies, including Latin America, They got in touch with us, asked for a meeting. We happened to be in Silicon Valley at the time, so we met face to face, which was great. And then that conversation ended up resulting in the acquisition. That was good because it was the outcome of a relationship that had been going on for over two years by that point.

Brian Requarth: I totally agree. I mean, I think back to when we sold our company. I made four acquisitions when I was CEO and there are long periods. You plant the seed, you build a relationship. That's something that as founders, I think that you shouldn't shy away from building a relationship. I mean, the reality is that if you're talking to a larger company, you're probably much better at executing your kind of specific thing.

In your case, in geography, there's a tangential opportunity or business that's complimentary to a larger company. They're usually not very effective at executing. And so a lot of times founders are scared or apprehensive. This doesn't mean you need to share everything about your business, but building a relationship with the people, something that makes it flow better for when the time comes and maybe that company decides to be more inquisitive or they see this as part of their strategic roadmap or game plan. I couldn't agree more that I think that's something that very early on, you can start thinking about that. I wouldn't invest a huge amount of energy into it. You can spend a lot of time, if you go that route. And so you want to be thoughtful about how you do that, but having a good relationship there with, I would call it your "frenemies" is definitely a smart thing to do for founders.

So the exit happened. And then you had some kind of agreement to stay on for a set amount of time, right?

Luciana Caletti: Yeah, that's right. So when we sold Love Mondays, we agreed to stay for four years.

Brian Requarth: And that was the arrangement. And, did they allow you to kind of operate the company pretty independently or, what was that like?

Luciana Caletti: That was great. We got very lucky, to be honest, because Glassdoor and Love Mondays had a great cultural fit.

Besides that, we had a very similar vision of the world, the market that we operated in, and the strategy that made sense for our business. So I think strategic views and how to grow this business and how to approach the market, these types of things you can talk about in the meetings that you have before the acquisition, and you can understand better.

The culture, you can get a sense for what the culture is of the company, but it's hard to know a hundred percent because you know, an acquisition is like a marriage and you're going to work a lot together. So we got very lucky in a way. We obviously learned about Glassdoor's culture through Glassdoor and through talking to people, but then once the acquisition happened, we got to know them very well.

And it was very lucky that we had a very similar culture, which was down to Earth, get things done, no office politics, no bureaucracy. Just get it done. And we had an amazing relationship with them because there was a lot of trust. So we ran Love Mondays post-acquisition. We ran Love Mondays independently for three years, and then it was only in the last year that we switched to the Glassdoor platform because it made sense to have a global product since we had global clients that were asking: "Why do I need to use Love Mondays in Latin America? And I use Glassdoor in the rest of the world?" So it just made sense to integrate everything. But in the first three years, post acquisition, we ran the business pretty much independently and we just agreed on budget, on targets, and being within those things.

We ran the business as we wanted. So, that was amazing. It was a great experience. And we learned a lot from them as well.

Brian Requarth: I think that's a really important topic to highlight for founders that are either acquiring businesses or being acquired. That arrangement afterwards, in terms of the relationship, the go forward relationship.

Founders, if they're not given the autonomy of running their business in an independent fashion, it's kind of a recipe for disaster for those acquirers and for the founder, because they're going to have a conflict. I've seen it happen many times. And so I think that understanding and trying to simulate as much of what that relationship is going to be like going forward is really critical to ensure the likelihood of success of a merger or an acquisition like that.

So what's next for you? What is your plan? Are you still going to be kind of connected to the startup ecosystem? And what does the prospect of the future look like for you?

Luciana Caletti: Yeah, so for now, I'm just taking some time off, enjoying some holidays and, you know, as a founder, you work a lot.

So, just taking some time to enjoy the family and be with them. I am making some angel investments, being very close to those companies that I invest in.

Brian Requarth: What has that been like?

Luciana Caletti: It's been great. I'm focusing on companies founded by women. There's that extra connection there, because, still today, unfortunately, there's not that many women founders, but there are more and more.

And I'm interested in supporting those female founders. And that has been great. I mean, I am a person who really likes to get things done myself. I'm very hands-on so I'm happy to support them. But at some point I'll probably want to start something else again, because I just like to be in the trenches, in the front line. I am very passionate about that. So that's what I will, at some point.

Brian Requarth: That's awesome. And when I look at the portfolio I have, unfortunately I haven't invested in enough women. You were one of the first investments I made, and I think that there is amazing talent. And I think that there's not enough capital going into that.

I've had a few other women entrepreneurs on the podcast, Gina, my co-founder and MAYA Capital, who's been also investing in a lot of women founders. You know, I think it's an amazing opportunity as an investor because oftentimes in order to have more diversity in the ecosystem, you need to have more capital being deployed by women because they're also able to recognize the opportunities.

And if you want more diversity, you need to have a more diverse capital. And the reality is today that most investors are men and think that that limits their vision in some ways. And so I think it's great that you're reinvesting back into the ecosystem and love to stay close to you on that. If there's any opportunities you see, please send them my way as an angel investment opportunity or as part of Latitud in our community, because we're really looking to kind of help founders build the next generation of iconic companies and support a movement. And so I would love to be involved in that and consider me a resource.

Luciana Caletti: Great. That's great. I will do. Yeah.

Brian Requarth: Good. Well, thank you for coming out and sharing a little more about your experience at Glassdoor and Love Mondays. Hiring is such a key part of building a startup because people really make the business happen. And so it's great to share and hear from your experience.

Luciana Caletti: Perfect. Yeah. Thank you for having me, Brian and congrats on Latitud. It's amazing where you guys are doing. The Latin America ecosystem really needs initiatives like that. It's great to see it happening, so congrats.

Brian Requarth: Thank you. I really appreciate it.

Thank you for listening to the Latitud podcast with Luciana Caletti, co-founder of Love Mondays. Each week, we'll be talking to great founders and investors like her. So be sure to subscribe wherever you listen to your podcasts and check out to find out more about the Latitud fellowship program.

I'm your host, Brian Requarth. Until next time.

Gabriela Levy

Head of Marketing at Latitud

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