Founders Everywhere: Joe Essenfeld
Joe Essenfeld is the co-founder & CEO of Fora, AI designed for the C-suite, evolving leadership with a smarter approach to solving challenges and cultivating richer relationships.
Welcome to Founders Everywhere, where we highlight the incredible people behind the companies we’ve backed at Everywhere Ventures, a global pre-seed fund supported by a community of 500 founders and operators.
Fora is a New York-based AI platform specifically designed for the C-suite, emphasizing Executive Relationship Management (ERM) and tailored solutions for CEOs, COOs, CROs, CMOs, and CLOs. Fora, by definition, is the plural of "forum," and encapsulates the essence of a dynamic space for dialogue, exchange, and collaboration– precisely what the company Fora is doing for C-suiters. Fora's ERM platform addresses the relentless influx of data in today's corporate environment that places unprecedented demands on executive bandwidth. Fora addresses this challenge directly by sourcing essential insights from the cacophony of information generated by organizations, allowing leaders to concentrate on strategic decision-making and relationship-building.
Co-founder and CEO Joe Essenfeld has over 14 years of entrepreneurial leadership. He was the founding CEO of Jibe for a decade, where he played a pivotal role in helping some of the world's largest employers navigate hiring challenges through the implementation of cloud-based recruitment software. When the company was acquired by iCIMS, he spent another 4 years in various C-suite positions. He was also the COO of Insomnia Cookies where he ran operations and development. He’s embarking on his next venture with co-founders David Small and Zach Elias to use AI to cater to the unique needs and challenges of corporate leaders in the executive landscape.
Tell us about Fora.
Fora is designed to address the unique needs of the C-suite, filling a gap in the market where existing AI solutions cater to general knowledge workers and task workers. We are the platform that integrates AI into the daily use of leaders of companies. It's difficult to design a solution and a platform for executives because of the nuance in their daily dynamics. We decided to create a new category, we call it ERM or Executive Relationship Management. It allows us to really tune how we integrate AI into the C-suite use case. Security, privacy, and also limiting liability for the organization is incredibly important for us as well. We built Fora with a deliberate approach to enhance security and privacy while leveraging AI. This approach helps us insulate organizations from the risks of leveraging their qualitative data to make high-velocity decisions more accurately.
What sets Fora apart?
The AI market is getting more and more crowded with a tremendous amount of investment, but also a really strong interest in the C-Suite. Our differentiator is who we made our product for. Every single design piece and all our product and user research was done with C-suites and Chiefs of Staff. We know that it truly is a team effort when you're in that leadership position, so having a solution designed specifically for them, it has set us apart in the market.
Tell us about some recent milestones Fora crushed.
We launched our product today and our website is live! We’re asking people to apply for access, that way we make sure the use cases really align with what we're building for.
We are announcing our $3.8 million raise. This larger-than-normal pre-seed round was necessary to ensure we were building an enterprise-level product with a thoughtful approach.
What drives you into startup battle day after day?
Much of my motivation stems from the desire to maintain the opportunity to develop something I deeply care about. Starting with just an idea, a dedicated and skilled team, and early customers who trust in our vision, brings immense satisfaction and joy, outweighing the stress and hard work required to build a company.
I am user number one of Fora and I’m trying to balance what I love about the product and what the broader market wants as well. It is inspiring and exciting to build something that I personally really enjoy using.
Any advice for other founders?
One principle that we're following is to minimize the assumptions we make about our users. When you're creating something from nothing, it's very easy to start thinking three or four steps ahead of what you think the user wants. We build and test one component at a time before moving on. I've seen that save us a lot of thrash and capacity. I didn't do that the first time around as a founder and it really seems to be working for us. When you drink your own champagne, you get excited, but you need to make sure it also tastes good to everyone else.
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