Movista co-founder Stan Zylowski is giving up CEO role

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 637 views 

Stan Zylowski

Stan Zylowski is retiring from his CEO role at Bentonville technology company Movista. He will remain founder and chairman and have “an active role” in the company.

Zylowski is handing the operational reigns to Kirk Ziehm, previously the CEO of Chicago-based Buildout, a commercial real estate platform.

The two men announced the transition during a company meeting Thursday at Movista’s Bentonville headquarters.

Stan and April [Seggebruch] had amazing vision and foresight to found Movista,” Ziehm told the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “I often joke with Stan that I could never start something like he has, but I sure am going to love building on what he started.

“At my core, I am an operator, and I am passionate about working with people to drive businesses to new and greater heights. I look forward to doing this with the highly-skilled and dedicated employees of Movista.”

Ziehm, 50, is a University of Michigan graduate and has held leadership roles for various companies over the past 20 years. Before Buildout, he was the COO of Zego, the property technology company that helps operators modernize their resident experience and boost retention. Before that, he held senior leadership roles at tech providers SeatGeek and Cvent.

He said the Movista job opportunity is a dream come true.

“I have spent two incredible decades of my career within retail and SaaS, earlier in retail roles in consulting, operations and investment banking and later in privately-backed SaaS companies in leadership roles,” he said. “When I first learned of a retail SaaS CEO opportunity located in the retail capital of the world, this job immediately rose to No.1 in my mind.”

Zylowski’s C-Suite exit is the second high-profile shakeup in recent months for Movista. Seggebruch, a co-founder and COO, transitioned out of the company on Dec. 31. Ziehm’s arrival continues that transition plan as the company prepares for its next growth phase. In the past two years, Movista has filled out its C-Suite with Eric Wilson (chief customer officer), Madhu Kota (chief technology officer) and Scot DeLancey (chief product officer).

Zylowski and Seggebruch were classmates at the University of Arkansas. Their company resulted from a business plan implemented during a graduate entrepreneurship class at the UA taught by Dr. Carol Reeves.

They left full-time jobs in 2010 — when there weren’t many tech startups in the region — to launch Movista, which uses smart device applications for managing mobile workforces. It’s grown from a two-person startup to 110 employees across North America. Movista also picked up $12 million in Series A funding in 2018 from Level Equity, a New York-based growth equity fund.

Level Equity also backed Movista’s acquisition in 2019 of its most significant rival, Natural Insight, and the company devoted most of 2020 to integrating the two platforms.

“Movista has built the industry’s leading retail execution technology and transformed how field and store teams execute at scale,” Level Equity Co-Founder and CEO Ben Levin said. “Our recent investment to significantly capitalize Movista in December highlights our conviction in the company and its outsized growth potential.”

Zylowski, 50, said the timing is perfect for taking on a new role with the company.

“Movista has an insane amount of new technology coming online this year,” he explained. “We are fresh off a funding round and in an economic market which we feel has found bottom. This is the time to install maximum operational excellence while pouring the right resources into our growth initiatives. Kirk is an operator par excellence, and no words can express my delight in being able to focus on customers and M&A.”

Kirk Ziehm

Ziehm said having Zylowski spend more time with customers and partners will benefit all Movista stakeholders.

“From a strategic growth perspective, Stan will absolutely be helping me drive our M&A strategy,” he said.

Zylowski also reiterated that he isn’t leaving the company.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “Adding Kirk simply allows us to have the right folks in the right seats doing their best work. There is no point in squandering the 30 years I’ve spent selling, merchandising and operating in retail. My passion for serving our customers and making Movista a winner never wanes.”

Ziehm also offered his perspective on an external CEO following a company founder, which can present an interesting dynamic.

“Stan is a force of nature, and anyone who knows him well would say that,” he said. “He wears his passion for Movista on his sleeve in such an authentic and robust way, which is infectious. I never could, nor would I want to approach the CEO role in the same way as Stan. Just as April did for so many successful years, my strategy will always be to bring my authentic self to work daily. Stan and I share a tremendous amount in common, personally and professionally, most notably our lockstep alignment with Movista’s company culture and values.”

Zylowski said he and the Movista board were aligned in hiring a new CEO.

“Kirk hit every key characteristic we outlined before our search,” he said. “He has retail and software chops. He is both professionally steeped and academically trained in business excellence, and, most importantly, he is a righteous dude. We expect Kirk to lead Movista to her greatest heights. There are no holes in his game.”