Meet the Innovators - Turazo Founder Pete Cipollone Shares How His Path to Olympic Gold Inspired Mission to Help Companies Recruit High Performance Teams

Ted Roduner
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Pete Cipollone is the co-founder and CEO at Turazo. He founded Turazo to bring the power of coaching and human connection to companies to help recruit, retain and advance high-performance workforces.

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Pete is also a 3-time Olympian, gold medalist and Olympic record holder. With the Tokyo games in full swing, we invited him to share how hard-won lessons around perseverance, coaching and mentorship in sports inspired his path to become a mission-driven startup founder and CEO.

Olympic Winning Team

First off, can you please tell us a little about your background?

After graduating from Berkeley, I was invited to train with the US men's Olympic rowing team. This presented a dilemma. Either I go the safe route and opt for a suit and do the career thing, or I try and make the Olympics. Ten years, and three Olympic games later, we won a gold medal. That path was not straightforward. I was on 3 three different Olympic teams. On the first one, I was the last guy to make the team and I didn't even compete. Basically, they gave me a haircut and a sweatshirt. If I was late for the bus, the bus left without me.

The second time around I decided to pursue my love of programming and joined Dow Jones full-time. On top of the 9-to-5, I was balancing a 2 ½ hour practice in the morning and a 2 ½ hour practice at night. On the 2nd attempt at gold, we had a great record going into the games and were heavily favored to win but ended up placing a disappointing fifth.

Finally, on the 3rd attempt we went in unheralded. But we knew as a team that we were fast and could compete. We ended up defeating the other teams soundly, breaking the world record and capturing the gold medal.

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What did you take away from that experience? Where did that lead you?

When you have done something that is as emotionally all-consuming as training for the Olympics, after it's over, you're like now what? What am I going to do with my life? Given my love of technology and the unique experience that I had in sports with mentorship and coaching, I was inspired to find a way to unite the two.

Where did that take you?

This took me back to this question: how do you build and nurture great teams? I was inspired to explore this notion of common or aligned interests which led me to invent two patents related to maximizing the relevance of matching profiles. Like my experience on the Olympic team, the path wasn't straightforward. We had several concepts before we found product market fit. The first iteration was a coaching platform aimed at consumers. We learned a lot about how people want to interact, how they want to find each other.

What did you take away from the process?

The only way to fail is to quit. As long as you keep trying you haven't failed.

How did that lead you to the current iteration of Turazo?

From my professional experience, I had seen the shortcomings of the corporate recruiting process – it's time constrained and often information-poor. Recruiters are overwhelmed with 50 to 80 openings that they need to fill in two weeks. Historically, there is no effective way for recruiters to get the information they need to identify and nurture relationships with people who might be a good fit for the company. It's particularly hard for recruiters to identify non-traditional candidates who have all the foundational skills plus the drive and enthusiasm you want in a truly great employee. This was the path to Turazo.

How does Turazo solve this?

Especially in today's tight labor market, we provide our customers with a platform to help empower their current employees to become ambassadors for the company. We address the time compressed urgency of the recruitment process by enabling current workers to offer up their time for informational interviews with prospective hires who have enthusiasm and interest for the company. Instead of relying on things like prestige markers, like where someone attended university, it is a highly scalable way to build a rich set of data about people who may be a great fit for the company. Maybe not today, maybe not on the informational interviewer's immediate team, but it creates a great way to set up a referral network to recruit six months down the road.

Do you have advice for other early-stage founders?

The one thing you need to do as often as possible is get in front of prospective customers with something visual to talk about. Even if the customer tells you that they aren't in the market, press for a meeting because you always learn something. They will tell you something you didn't know or something that you may have gotten wrong. This is similar to my experience training for the Olympics. The coaches expected performance at the Olympic level at every practice. That is impossible. So you have failures, you learn and you keep going.

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What's next for Turazo working with Microsoft?

One of the things that is great about working with Microsoft for Startups is our ability to access Azure and serve organizations of all sizes. Since our solution is fully customer branded, it gives us the ability to scale from smaller organizations to large global enterprises without having to reinvent the wheel on things like privacy and compliance.