Jo Schneier, "Training for the Other 64%"

In this interview, repeat founder Jo Schneier addresses the problem of providing effective training to the 64 percent of the population that does not have a college degree. Drawing on Jo’s experiences and prior startups, Cognotion’s opening gambit is a training platform for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) an occupation with stratospheric job turnover. Cognotion seems to be succeeding in improving retention of its client’s CNAs.

Click here to read a full transcript of this episode.

 

Here are some of the topics addressed:

  • Sal’s Pitch for the Angel Invest Boston Syndicate
  • Sal’s Intro of Jo Schneier
  • How Jo Schneier Became an Entrepreneur
  • Jo Schneier Is Pulled into Cognotion
  • “We looked at all of the 64 percent of Americans that don't get a college degree, a four-year college degree. And we were asking ourselves, where did they land in the workforce? And were there opportunities for them where they can move from a minimum wage job up the ladder a little bit, so they start on the pathway up for economic mobility.”
  • “Right, so instead of paying an agency three to six thousand dollars to place somebody, they essentially become the school for this new employee.”
  • “Yeah, the turnover rate for CNAs and at skilled nursing facilities is 147 percent in the first month…So, if we can get somebody to four months, the likelihood they're gonna stay for four years is significantly higher.”
  • How Cognotion Built Its Team
  • Features that Make Cognotion’s Learning Platform for CNAs Effective
  • “…we formed channel partnerships with some larger institutions that are already selling into this space.”
  • “So, our biggest competitors are in-person schools.”
  • Qstream as a Possible Model?
  • Cognotion’s Funding Trajectory
  • $5.5 Million Angel Round
  • Advice to Founders & CEOs – Absorb the Stress & Hire People Smarter than You
  • “This is a complex time in America's history. And I think it's a unique opportunity, also, for people who are smart and dedicated entrepreneurs to look at how can we participate in improving the economy today.”
  • Jo Schneier on AI & Employment

Transcript of “Training for the Other 64%”

Guest: Cognotion founder Jo Schneier

Sal’s Pitch for the Angel Invest Boston Syndicate

SAL DAHER: Hi, this is Sal Daher of the Angel Invest Boston Podcast. If you've been listening, you might have noticed that I love being an angel investor in Boston. The reason for this is that there's so much going on in the startup space here in Boston. Practical founders working with leading inventors, venture capitalists, angel investors, patent attorneys. It's a really exciting scene.

SAL DAHER: Now, you can join us in syndicates which allow people who are not part of the angel investment community to invest alongside Boston's leading angels. I invite you to leave your email address at angelinvestboston.com in the syndicate section, and we'll be back in touch with you to help walk you through the qualification process as an accredited investor. Remember, there is no obligation to invest when you put your email address there. I hope you really enjoy today's podcast.

Sal’s Intro of Jo Schneier

SAL DAHER: Welcome to Angel Invest Boston. This is a special episode, coming to you from beautiful Palm Springs, California at the TEDMED conference. This is a remarkable conference, in just a beautiful, gorgeous location. And we've heard some of the most compelling talks, and meet some really, really remarkable people. Among those I ran into at lunch today, Jo Schneier, who is a founder of a company that is working in something that is a very important problem to really try to alleviate shortages of qualified people in areas of healthcare.

SAL DAHER: So, I'd like to welcome Jo Schneier to the podcast.

JO SCHNEIER: Thank you.

SAL DAHER: Great to have you here, Jo.

JO SCHNEIER: Great to be here.

SAL DAHER: Excellent, excellent. So, Jo, you know what? Sort of a service to people who are trying to figure out what they're going to do next with their life, because there might be a young person trying to find their calling or might be an older person who's pivoting to a new career, and so forth. Give us a little bit of a background, you know, what you were doing, and how you came to this decision of starting a company.

How Jo Schneier Became an Entrepreneur

JO SCHNEIER: Sure, so, I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My grandfather moved to the states and was in textiles and started a whole bunch of factories here. My parents are both lawyers but ran their own firms. So, for me, running your own business is the most natural thing.

JO SCHNEIER: I started my first business when I was 10. It was a babysitting business where I organized it where all of the families in the neighborhood would call me, and I would schedule the babysitters. And then I got a cut from the babysitting money.

SAL DAHER: Who said babysitting wasn't scalable?

JO SCHNEIER: You know, I was 10.

SAL DAHER: Yeah, yeah.

JO SCHNEIER: I made enough money to do everything a 10-year-old wants.

SAL DAHER: Right.

JO SCHNEIER: But it was that first taste of I can solve a problem. I see a problem, and I can solve it. We moved overseas, and then I moved to Israel. And in Israel, I was doing two things. I was working at a startup for somebody. And it was a foreign language dictionary company. Started there; I speak several languages. I was translating dictionaries. Within a week they said, "You need to be head of our biz dev."

SAL DAHER: Oh, wow.

JO SCHNEIER: So, moved over into that space.

SAL DAHER: This is after college.

JO SCHNEIER: Yeah, yeah.

SAL DAHER: Okay, had you worked at anything before?

JO SCHNEIER: I was in the army before then.

SAL DAHER: Okay.

JO SCHNEIER: So, while I was doing this, I was also doing something on the side. And both of these inform how I got to where I am today. I was working with Johns Hopkins SAIS going into prisons in Israel and interviewing women that have been trafficked into the country. And one day I was sitting across a table from a woman. She was like, 20 years old, let's say. And I'm 22, right? And I looked at her and I said, "You know, the problem here is not the morality of the problem. The problem is economics." This woman needs a job. She needs a place to enter into the economy, and if we solved that problem before she got here, we would have solved the problem.

JO SCHNEIER: And that was a real shift in my perception. So instead of going to pure tech space, I got this sort of fire in the belly to move more into the education and workforce space.

SAL DAHER: Okay.

JO SCHNEIER: So, I got excited about working in this space. But I didn't really know a lot of people in that space. I moved to the states, and I met my co-founder really soon after I moved here. And he's a securities attorney by training. Worked at Wilson Sonsini.

SAL DAHER: What's his name?

JO SCHNEIER: Jonathan Dariyanani. And it was just that moment where something clicked in the universe. We really complement each other. We ended up founding two companies together. Sold both of those companies. Those were in the education space.

SAL DAHER: So, you founded two companies, the two of you together.

JO SCHNEIER: Mm-hmm (affirmative), one after the other.

SAL DAHER: One after the other.

JO SCHNEIER: Yeah.

SAL DAHER: Okay, in the education space.

JO SCHNEIER: Yeah, yeah.

SAL DAHER: Just, generically, what kind of companies?

JO SCHNEIER: One of them was a consumer product, it was for early childhood literacy.

SAL DAHER: Right.

JO SCHNEIER: And the other one was a foreign language product that was sold to a large online school system.

SAL DAHER: So, this emboldened you to try a more difficult bone to chew on.

JO SCHNEIER: Right. Well-

SAL DAHER: Right.

JO SCHNEIER: Then I had this intermission where I founded this consultancy that was working with NIH and behavioral research scientists building out products that were designed to change patients' behavior. And my job in that was to take all of this work that I had been doing in the educational technology space, and all of the research that these scientists were doing and translate that into products that would shift a patient's behavior.

Jo Schneier Is Pulled into Cognotion

JO SCHNEIER: I did that for about four years. Four years ago, my co-founder contacts me, and he said, you know, "Let's do another startup."

SAL DAHER: Ahh, okay.

JO SCHNEIER: And I said, "No." I was really enjoying what I was doing. It was fascinating work, saving people's lives, great. And he was, like, "Come on." And I, "Oh, okay."

JO SCHNEIER: So, it took me about a week or so before he convinced me. And in this startup, I wanted to pull together all the pieces. That workforce piece, the engagement piece we've got from education, and the behavioral change. And we were really looking at where can we apply all of these different methodologies into a company that is going to effectively monetize all of that learnings that we had, so ...

SAL DAHER: Okay, so tell us about the company now.

“We looked at all of the 64 percent of Americans that don't get a college degree, a four-year college degree. And we were asking ourselves, where did they land in the workforce? And were there opportunities for them where they can move from a minimum wage job up the ladder a little bit, so they start on the pathway up for economic mobility.”

JO SCHNEIER: So, Cognotion was founded with one particular purpose in the beginning of the company; We looked at all of the 64 percent of Americans that don't get a college degree, a four-year college degree. And we were asking ourselves, where did they land in the workforce? And were there opportunities for them where they can move from a minimum wage job up the ladder a little bit, so they start on the pathway up for economic mobility.

JO SCHNEIER: And we surveyed a bunch of different industries and decided on healthcare because it's where all the fastest growing jobs are, both for college educated, but also for people that only have a high school diploma. And it offers the opportunity to get somebody in the door to start a career.

JO SCHNEIER: So, that was the initial premise. We observed that there was this big talent shortage. And then we started to quantify. Okay, what is this costing both sides of this problem? And for the end users, it was extremely costly and inefficient and time-consuming. And for the customers, the healthcare organizations, also costly and inefficient.

JO SCHNEIER: So, we were looking at how do we solve that problem? For us, we start with the really in-depth analysis of what the problem is before we start building anything. We don't want to just build in a vacuum or build a widget and throw it at the market and hope that it works.

SAL DAHER: Okay.

JO SCHNEIER: So, we spend more time on that than the average company, I guess. And what we discovered is, that there was this niche in the market-

SAL DAHER: So, you're spending a lot of time with the healthcare providers ...

JO SCHNEIER: Yeah.

SAL DAHER: ... that will be your target market, trying to fine-tune exactly what it is that they needed, what the problem was that they had.

JO SCHNEIER: What the actual problem is.

SAL DAHER: Right.

JO SCHNEIER: Because when you start and look at something at first glance, it looks like-

SAL DAHER: It's the perceived problem, but it may not be the right problem.

JO SCHNEIER: Right, and often they don't know. From their perspective, the problem was they were paying temp workers and agencies a ton of money.

SAL DAHER: Right.

JO SCHNEIER: They hadn't conceived that they could do it entirely different. And their hiring process could be done entirely differently.

SAL DAHER: In what way? What is the new way that ... What was the aha moment here?

“Right, so instead of paying an agency three to six thousand dollars to place somebody, they essentially become the school for this new employee.”

JO SCHNEIER: Right, so instead of paying an agency three to six thousand dollars to place somebody, they essentially become the school for this new employee.

SAL DAHER: Ah, okay, train in-house.

JO SCHNEIER: Yeah, so they've got our product, which is training for certification products for allied health professions.

SAL DAHER: Okay.

JO SCHNEIER: And it's a digital good, 60 hours to 100 hours, depending on the product. And now, with new recruits, when they want to hire somebody, they can broaden their talent pool to a much wider audience. Because they're saying, "Hey, free training, do it on your own time, and you have guaranteed employment with us."

SAL DAHER: Wow, yeah.

JO SCHNEIER: So, it's a good sell.

SAL DAHER: Very compelling proposition.

JO SCHNEIER: People like that, yeah.

SAL DAHER: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

JO SCHNEIER: And so, we solved the barrier to entry for the end user, but then we also solved the problem for the customer, which was lack of loyalty with their company, shortages of talent, and expensive way to acquire the talent.

SAL DAHER: Do you have evidence that there is greater employee loyalty if they've been trained in the company?

JO SCHNEIER: Yeah, I would say the information that we have now is that they stay longer in the job.

SAL DAHER: Okay.

JO SCHNEIER: And in a lot of these position, the key thing is, will they stay longer than a month. The turnover rate for-

SAL DAHER: Low bar.

“Yeah, the turnover rate for CNAs and at skilled nursing facilities is 147 percent in the first month…So, if we can get somebody to four months, the likelihood they're gonna stay for four years is significantly higher.”

JO SCHNEIER: Yeah, the turnover rate for CNAs and at skilled nursing facilities is 147 percent in the first month, which is insane. Like, how can you work like that? So, if we can get somebody to four months, the likelihood they're gonna stay for four years is significantly higher.

SAL DAHER: Okay, okay. So, tell me how you went about the process. So, your co-founder contacted you, convinced you to go back out there in the wild again, and then spent a lot of time trying to understand the problem with potential users. And so then, how did you start the implementation of this? Did you think that you had in-house all the expertise that you needed to develop the platform? Did you go out and hire people? What did you do?

JO SCHNEIER: So, when we got to the phase of actually building the product, it's like an orchestra. You need a whole bunch of different types of people.

SAL DAHER: Right, right.

How Cognotion Built Its Team

JO SCHNEIER: And we knew we'd, you know, maybe we had the violins and we had the core elements of the orchestra, but we knew that we would need to bring in people. So, for instance, subject matter experts that understand best practices across the country for healthcare. Which, surprisingly differs from state to state, which is a little upsetting.

SAL DAHER: Different regulatory environment and everything, just ...

JO SCHNEIER: Right.

SAL DAHER: Okay.

JO SCHNEIER: But even simple things, like how do you measure high blood pressure? Simple things are different from state to state. So, that was a little scary. So, we brought in those types of people. Then, we also brought in people that were practitioners. So, people had been working in the field, so that the voice of the product resonated with them.

JO SCHNEIER: So, we had a team that we call our pedagogical team that was made up of people all the way from the entry-level CNA up to deans of large academic institutions that have been teaching this for years. But the creative team we already have. Those are people that I've been working with for 10 plus years.

SAL DAHER: Okay.

JO SCHNEIER: And what they do is, they take all that information that the pedagogical people outline, and they translate that into something that is engaging and entertaining. One way I would describe it is, it's almost like Sesame Street. There's solid pedagogical underpinning to everything that they do, but the kids don't feel that.

SAL DAHER: No, no, no, they don't. No, yeah.

JO SCHNEIER: Right, so that's what we're going for, but...

SAL DAHER: Learning ... We were talking about this earlier, learning and context. You wanna go into that?

JO SCHNEIER: Yeah, sure.

SAL DAHER: About the principals that you're following, your ...

Features that Make Cognotion’s Learning Platform for CNAs Effective

JO SCHNEIER: So, one of the things that we've found over the years is that not many people learn in a vacuum. You know, you send a guy to Harvard, a girl to Harvard, they can read a book and learn the information. But the average person, that's just not the way it works for them. And so, even if you get them to pass a test, they're not gonna remember what you've taught them.

JO SCHNEIER: So, if you are trying to train somebody to learn something, and then continue to understand what you've taught them and to implement it in the job, you need to approach the problem differently.

JO SCHNEIER: So, the thing that we've found is, a couple of ingredients that make it effective. The first one is contextual. Seeing characters on the screen that they can relate to. The scenes that they are observing are real things that happen, that are sometimes quite edgy. Like, for instance, a lot of CNAs have to deal with racism. Training products don't typically deal with something like that. But that's a big reason why people leave the job.

SAL DAHER: Right.

JO SCHNEIER: So, if you don't present what they're actually gonna face, then you're not doing your job for them. And then, the other thing is when you can, give somebody what we call a moment of original awareness. So, most of us have a moment in our past where we had a teacher who was the teacher, who inspired us, who opened up that moment in our mind.

SAL DAHER: Right, yes.

JO SCHNEIER: But not everyone has that. So, one of the key things that we look to do is, to give people that moment. That moment where they say, "Aha, I can do this. I have a place in this."

JO SCHNEIER: And we do that by making the products really emotionally resonate with the audience, and sort of draw them into it, where at first, they don't even notice that that's what's going on. But then at that point, you've got them. You've got their attention. And then, you can give them lots of different training tools at that point because they believe you.

SAL DAHER: Very interesting. So, at what stage are you at now? You've signed up customers? What stage are you in?

JO SCHNEIER: Sure, so after spending a lot of time selling into the education market, we know that one of the biggest problems is go to market.

SAL DAHER: Right.

“…we formed channel partnerships with some larger institutions that are already selling into this space.”

JO SCHNEIER: It's very nice to have a great product, but if you don't have a strategy in place to actually sell your products, then who cares? So, we were thinking, how can we do this in a way that's not gonna take our entire lifetime to get anywhere? So, what we've done is, we formed channel partnerships with some larger institutions that are already selling into this space. And they're very strategic. Most of them were going to build these products themselves and have observed these products, and said, "Why should we build them? These are better than ours."

SAL DAHER: Right.

JO SCHNEIER: What that's enabled us to do is, to expand our reach far beyond where we would be if we were just on our own. So, we have customers that are using the product. We have some great channel partners. We're now at the stage where we've isolated out about 20 other products that we should build. And we're at that stage of, we could just slowly progress. But if we want to jump start and really accelerate our growth, then we need to take in some capital. So that's sort of where we are.

SAL DAHER: So, instead of boot-strapping, you're telling yourself, "We need some money to build out the curriculum in many different verticals, not just the ones that you're having.

JO SCHNEIER: Right.

SAL DAHER: What's the rationale for that? I mean, is there some kind of a network effect? I guess if you ... When your channel partner goes to a healthcare provider, they're going to say, okay, they can train your CNA, they can train this, your phlebotomist, they can train this and that, it's more compelling than just saying, "Oh, you know, we do just phlebotomy."

JO SCHNEIER: Right, I mean, if you can become the one stop shop for this particular thing where you become associated as that's, those are the people that do that thing, I mean, that's what you want, ideally.

SAL DAHER: Have you been able to really convince yourself that you really have something that's gonna help in one particular vertical?

JO SCHNEIER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SAL DAHER: Is there a vertical that you've built out completely already, and it's really working? A particular function ...

JO SCHNEIER: Yeah.

SAL DAHER: ... where you've ... Okay.

JO SCHNEIER: Yes. So, the first product that we put out was for the certified nursing assistant. That is the third largest healthcare profession in the U.S. And it has one of the highest vacancy rates. So, we knew that that was a place where ... And a lot of them work with the elderly, so there's a lot of pressure right now to hire for that.

JO SCHNEIER: So, we launched with that, initially, into the post-acute care space. Got great traction for that, which is why people are coming in and saying, "Please come and build out for these other roles."

SAL DAHER: Okay.

JO SCHNEIER: So, we're getting a lot of pull from the market to have other products out there.

SAL DAHER: Okay, what does your competitive matrix look like?

“So, our biggest competitors are in-person schools.”

JO SCHNEIER: So, our biggest competitors are in-person schools.

SAL DAHER: Okay.

JO SCHNEIER: Whether or not that's community colleges or mom and pop schools, or for-profit colleges. I say it's the schools that advertise on the subway. And, I guess, that and the assumption that people should just continue to do a process that's not working, which is actually what we compete really against is the mentality of, wait, we're gonna do something different?

JO SCHNEIER: Now, with some of the roles, there are a few players that are starting to do things. So CareAcademy is building out for the home care givers. And they're a great group.

SAL DAHER: Yes.

JO SCHNEIER: So, it's, again, that's an indicator that we really should be building faster if we want to dominate this space.

Qstream as a Possible Model?

SAL DAHER: Yeah, and this also brings to mind a company called Qstream. Are you familiar with them?

JO SCHNEIER: No.

SAL DAHER: Hamilton Lord, Ham Lord, who is co-managing director of Launchpad, one of the foremost Angel groups in Boston, you know, he did a little video on this. It's like his favorite company.

JO SCHNEIER: That's great.

SAL DAHER: It's on the website, and he talks about this company. They were a bunch of people in Harvard Medical School and School of Education at Harvard, I think, got together and figured out a way to get people to retain things for longer. Basically, six times longer. And they have a platform that once somebody acquires a certain body of knowledge, that person engages with a platform. They've proven that they can retain those things for, instead of three months, 18 months.

JO SCHNEIER: Right, right.

SAL DAHER: And I guess, the first use case, at least from what I can tell on the website, is basically sales training.

JO SCHNEIER: Oh, that's great.

SAL DAHER: So, they're using a platform for sales training. So, this is not training. This is, like, a platform to make sure that people stay trained.

JO SCHNEIER: Right, right.

SAL DAHER: And apparently, it is, the company's growing very fast.

JO SCHNEIER: Great.

SAL DAHER: It's a very dynamic company. But I think the one thing that's interesting is, they really weren't growing fast until they discovered exactly the vertical where they can be most useful.

JO SCHNEIER: Right.

SAL DAHER: It wasn't helping medical students retain information. I don't know if they couldn't get paid for that, or what it was. It was helping sales people retain sales information. That is something that's very mission-critical in an organization. And people are willing to pay, and there's huge demand for it, so ...

JO SCHNEIER: I do a lot of mentoring of younger entrepreneurs. And one of the things I say is, in the ed tech space, people build really fantastic products that could be revolutionary in the space.

SAL DAHER: Right, right.

JO SCHNEIER: But my partner is a professor of biology at a community college. And these companies come in and say, you know, buy this thing. And she says, "I need markers." Right?

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JO SCHNEIER: And it's so easy for us to forget that you need a payor that actually can pay for that thing. So, sales training, absolutely. That's going to increase a revenue immediately. Students, you know, that's squishy. I mean, Harvard, they might be able to pay, but it's not scalable.

SAL DAHER: Yeah, no, no.

JO SCHNEIER: Not in the same way.

SAL DAHER: No, no, very interesting. Where do you stand on your raise? I mean, did you raise some money already?

Cognotion’s Funding Trajectory

JO SCHNEIER: Yeah, so we raised a seed round, and then an angel round, and then a bridge round. Seed round was family and friends, people that had invested in previous companies with us.

SAL DAHER: Please tell us where you're located.

JO SCHNEIER: The company's located in New York. We also have some employees in San Francisco, and some in Kentucky. But the headquarters is in New York.

SAL DAHER: Okay.

JO SCHNEIER: But our first investors were in Canada.

SAL DAHER: Oh.

JO SCHNEIER: They've invested with us for a while. And we know that when we are starting something new, they're there for us.

SAL DAHER: What is the species of the investor from Canada?

JO SCHNEIER: Most of them are in real estate developers.

SAL DAHER: Real estate developers investing in a company that is training CNAs.

JO SCHNEIER: Yeah, for the ... Just for the family and friends round.

SAL DAHER: Oh, okay, so it's family and friends round.

JO SCHNEIER: Yeah, yeah.

SAL DAHER: ...reflective of your connections and so forth.

JO SCHNEIER: Right, right. Those are the ones that we knew already. And they are willing to participate in whatever we're doing.

SAL DAHER: Okay.

JO SCHNEIER: After that, we were really strategic about who we wanted to bring in. We had a target list of individual angels that we went after, and really courted them ... I don't want to say stalk, but maybe ...

SAL DAHER: It's a fine line.

JO SCHNEIER: Yeah, you know.

SAL DAHER: It's better to earn instead of stalking.

JO SCHNEIER: Just depends how you look at it.

SAL DAHER: Don't let that opportunity go missing!

JO SCHNEIER: But people that we felt like were influencers in this space or really understood the nature of our business. So, people either from the publishing world, the healthcare space, the education space, they had to know something and bring something to the table. Because for us, we know that we only know what we know. And a lot of things, we don't know.

SAL DAHER: Right.

JO SCHNEIER: And I'd rather have more smart people at the table. So ...

SAL DAHER: So, how big was that raise?

$5.5 Million Angel Round

JO SCHNEIER: The angel round was five point five million.

SAL DAHER: Wow.

JO SCHNEIER: Yeah.

SAL DAHER: How many investors in that?

JO SCHNEIER: 90 percent of that was taken by five people. So, the rest of it were very small.

SAL DAHER: Big players. This is impressive.

JO SCHNEIER: Yeah.

SAL DAHER: Okay.

JO SCHNEIER: And then, we have a smaller bridge round that we did that was ... but not, I mean, not insignificant. And that was, I think, one point five.

SAL DAHER: Okay, so your Series A, so when you're planning to raise that?

JO SCHNEIER: Now, we're right in the process of-

SAL DAHER: Okay, you're in the process. Okay.

JO SCHNEIER: Yeah, we've kept this last bridge round open. We're gonna keep that open till probably the middle of December. And then we'll close that, and then really go deep into the Series A. We've been talking to people since the beginning, so there are a bunch of companies, firms that have been tracking us for a while and were just waiting for us to get to a point where it made sense.

SAL DAHER: So, are you gonna go to institutional money for that raise or ...

JO SCHNEIER: We are looking at doing institutional round this time. I feel like we are now at a place where it's not going to hinder us, and it could actually help to accelerate things.

SAL DAHER: Yeah, very good. Now, what advice would you have for a new founder? You know, given that you, this is your third startup that you're founding. You've raised two rounds already, sort of two and a half rounds. What advice comes to mind that you think is really valuable, that you'd like to impart to other founders?

Advice to Founders & CEOs – Absorb the Stress & Hire People Smarter than You

JO SCHNEIER: So, a big part of the job of being CEO is being the person who can absorb a lot of the stress.

SAL DAHER: Ah.

JO SCHNEIER: And whether that's, you know, are we gonna close this deal? Or are we gonna be able to raise enough money? But not transmitting that to your employees is a huge thing. And remembering that they want to believe in something. I have a mentor who's been really a close friend of mine, who said to me early on ... Another thing that really sticks with me. He said, "You need to be the preacher. Let the rest of the team be the choir." And that doesn't mean just, like, you get to be on center stage. It means, also, that you have to be on center stage and let them do their thing. Not to take away from their work, but really, to help facilitate it. And that's been a huge thing for me.

SAL DAHER: A little bit like a parent giving a childhood to a child. Sort of, creating this artificial environment of security so that the child can develop completely. And not that the employees are children, but they are not there to take that kind of risk or to have that kind of stress.

JO SCHNEIER: Right. Yeah, and giving them a space to thrive. Another thing, I'd like to hire people that are smarter than me, that can do their jobs better than me.

SAL DAHER: It's better, yeah.

JO SCHNEIER: I mean, why would I ... And I think a lot of younger entrepreneurs think it makes them look better if they are the smartest one, but it's, like a sure-fire way to ...

SAL DAHER: Make your life real hard.

JO SCHNEIER: ... make your life terrible. You're gonna have to do everything, why do that?

SAL DAHER: Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely, absolutely. How do you handle the stress?

JO SCHNEIER: So, one of the ways I manage stress is really somewhat different than other companies. I have a co-founder, and we co-lead the company. And the benefit of that is that we get to sort of, carry stress at different levels between us. And there are some days where I'm more stressed out, and some days where he is. But, we really honor that relationship and protect it really, sort of, fiercely. And that has been a really good way to help deal with stress. And I'm a weight lifter.

SAL DAHER: Oh, okay, okay.

JO SCHNEIER: I can take things on my back. So that also helps on a personal level.

SAL DAHER: Right, uh-huh, good, good. Jo, at this point in the interview, we're wrapping up, can you think of anything that you'd like to tell the audience? Audience of founders, and angel investors, that I haven't really addressed in the questions that I've asked you?

“This is a complex time in America's history. And I think it's a unique opportunity, also, for people who are smart and dedicated entrepreneurs to look at how can we participate in improving the economy today.”

JO SCHNEIER: This is a complex time in America's history. And I think it's a unique opportunity, also, for people who are smart and dedicated entrepreneurs to look at how can we participate in improving the economy today. And one of the things that I'm really hope for is, that there'll be a younger generation of people that will start to really think creatively about solving some of the problems that we're facing.

JO SCHNEIER: I have a whole other laundry list of other problems people can solve, if they need ideas.

SAL DAHER: Okay, okay.

JO SCHNEIER: Yes, yeah.

SAL DAHER: That's really true. I mean, I was just reading this morning on LinkedIn a post by the CEO of one of the companies in which I'm an investor ViralGains. And he's talking about a seminar at MIT at CSAIL and, you know, just the effect of artificial intelligence on employment. You know, what's-

JO SCHNEIER: Right.

SAL DAHER: What's that going to be? You know, and there are various opinions there. Do you happen to have a particular opinion on that?

Jo Schneier on AI & Employment

JO SCHNEIER: On AI with employment?

SAL DAHER: Yes.

JO SCHNEIER: So, AI is still in its early stages. And we don't really know exactly where it's gonna go, but to me, it has a lot of potential ... In the workforce space, I think it's absolutely a neat fit. Because we've got huge amounts of data.

SAL DAHER: Right.

JO SCHNEIER: And it just is a logical place for it to be working, yeah.

SAL DAHER: So, you're in the, sort of, Kevin Kelly camp that AI is going to just get rid of a lot of junk jobs that people, humans are going to do anyway. And that it'll empower humans to do things that are uniquely human and that are fun to do, and interesting to do. And, you know, so human beings will be, will have, like, super powers instead of just being super unemployed. You know, he sees a possibility of a lot of things opening up because so much more can be done.

JO SCHNEIER: I think that there are ... You know, I get asked a lot about the future of the workforce, what are the future jobs.

SAL DAHER: Yes.

JO SCHNEIER: And I think it's really important for us to remember that there's gonna be a spectrum. There definitely will be people that are moving up into the creative class and can be doing really fascinating, new things that we can't even imagine in the near term. There's also a huge percentage of the population that just needs a living wage.

SAL DAHER: Right.

JO SCHNEIER: And there are a lot of jobs that are very difficult to replace with anything other than a human. And it's part of why we chose these particular roles. These are spaces where human to human contact is really important, and probably not going away. So, we're not gonna see as much automation in these particular roles, which means there's more possibility that they'll be able to work in them for the next 30 years, as opposed to the next two.

SAL DAHER: So, you believe that Moravec's Paradox will continue to play out.

JO SCHNEIER: Yeah.

SAL DAHER: And that, you know, the things that are hard for computers to do are easy for humans, and vice versa. Very interesting. Jo Schneier, I'm really grateful that were willing to sit down here. There's a lot going on at TEDMED here in beautiful Palm Springs, California. Beautiful conference, and there's so many other things that you could be doing. So, it really says a lot that you were want to sit down with us and tell us this really compelling story about your startup, Cognotion. And it's very promising work. So, thanks a lot for sitting down with us.

JO SCHNEIER: Well, thank you, and this has been great.

SAL DAHER: Tremendous. This is Angel Invest Boston, coming to you, as I said before, from Palm Springs, California at the TEDMED conference. I thank our listeners for downloading and listening, and I hope that you've enjoyed this as much as I have. This is Sal Daher.

SAL DAHER: I'm glad you were able to join us. Our engineer is Raul Rosa. Our theme was composed by John McKusick. Our graphic design is by Katharine Woodman-Maynard. Our host is coached by Grace Daher.