By Antoinette Grajeda | Photography by Meredith Mashburn
One of the tricky parts of growing a business is managing all of the employees that come with that growth. For nearly a decade, Movista has been helping companies do just that by providing a platform that allows employers to manage their remote workforces using smart devices. Now the Bentonville-based startup is getting a little help expanding its services.
In September, Movista announced it had secured a $12 million Series A growth equity investment from New York-based Level Equity, a software-focused growth specialist with $1.65 billion in assets under management. Ben Levin, founder and co-CEO of Level Equity, is joining Movista’s board of directors as part of the financing.
According to Movista, the investment is among the largest for an Arkansas-based software firm.
“The capital injection is allowing us to be very strategic and has given us more options for growth and expansion than at any point in our history,” says Movista CEO Stan Zylowski.
Movista currently has around 60 employees in five states. They work with about 40 clients across North America, but with the investment from Level Equity, Zylowski wants to expand the company’s reach.
“When we raised the money, the stated goal was to have a million daily users in five years, and that would represent about a 20x growth on the user side,” he says.
Creating a Solution
Movista started as a class assignment Zylowski received while earning his MBA in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. At the time, Zylowski was working in the vendor world and knew he wanted to keep climbing the corporate ladder, so he enrolled in the two-year program. Zylowski says he recalls his professor asking students to write their own business plan.
“She said, ‘Think of something that drives you crazy or costs you a lot of money every day in your regular work, and if you can resolve that, it should be a good business,’” he says.
Zylowski approached the project with three other students, including Movista co-founder April Seggebruch. The group created a business plan around applying technology to help companies manage their remote workforces. At the time, Zylowski says it was very much a kiosk-based program, but when smart devices started to proliferate, they pivoted and became what he calls a smart device enablement company.
The group won around $40,000 at competitions, and when Zylowski graduated in 2008, he says the idea was shelved. He and Seggebruch went back to their corporate jobs, but investors and stakeholders continued to show interest. In May 2010, Zylowski decided it was time to make a move.
“It’s not the kind of decision you make based on logic alone,” he says. “There’s a certain desire you have for autonomy and to try your skills at building something and ultimately that’s what I think helps anyone start a company.”
Eight years later, the Movista CEO says he doesn’t regret his choice to change careers.
“Unquestionably, I made the right decision,” he says. “It is difficult to imagine not ever having taken a chance to do this. Some days are better than other days, but overall it’s extremely rewarding.”
Northwest Arkansas has become a hotbed for startup companies like Movista. In 2015, DataFox, which was recently acquired by Oracle, named Fayetteville the third best city to found a startup outside Silicon Valley and New York. According to the report, Fayetteville has a strong density of early-stage startups — nearly 10 times the average of cities analyzed. Its low cost of living is also a draw for pre-funding companies.
Movista is headquartered north of Fayetteville in the old Ice House restaurant in downtown Bentonville. When questioned about why he chose to base his company here, Zylowski asks, “Why wouldn’t you?”
“Northwest Arkansas offered us a great combination of human capital, financial capital and access to our key market, which is retail,” he says.
Movista works with three different groups in retail — manufacturers, retailers and service organizations. Zylowski says one thing these companies have in common is they have a centralized home office, but their employees work all over the country
All of these companies are able to use ONE by Movista. Jez Green, vice president of customer success, says on the corporate side, ONE is a web portal. For the field user, it’s an app that can be accessed through a smartphone or tablet.
When an employee clocks in, Green says it wakes up the app, which will sync up and download tasks for the day. Once active, the app will ping the user’s GPS location every two minutes. A benefit of this feature is it can help a worker keep track of miles traveled if his or her employer offers gas reimbursement. If an employee is traveling from site to site, the app can also offer a suggested route.
“What our product does is it enables management to clearly convey expectations, for the workers to understand those expectations and have the tools at their disposal to do their job,” Zylowski explains.
“And then there are validation clicks and levers in there that ensure management understands what’s actually happening and that creates a virtuous cycle of improvement.”
ONE by Movista provides different modules like payroll, expense reporting and file sharing, and companies can select which ones they would like to use in their app.
“We’re really a buffet of services for those companies, but no matter whether they choose one, two, five or 10 of our modules, they’re able to have one single interface, and that’s really what makes us different than other companies,” Zylowski says.
Connecting with the Community
It’s a responsibility of the company to participate as an active member of the community, Movista’s CEO says because the company can only be as happy or as successful as the community.
“There’s a business component to it, but at the end of the day, we do it because we would prefer to always be doing the right thing,” he says.
Movista has created a philanthropic initiative called ONE with Our Community. The company hosts organized service days and employees are allowed to take five hours a month during normal work hours to participate with the charity of their choice.
Director of Communications Jennifer Mabie says Movista conducts community outreach in a variety of ways. Employees volunteer to construct homes with Habitat for Humanity, work with Sleep in Heavenly Peace to build beds for children in need and participate in mock interviews through Dress for Success.
Mabie says the company’s community outreach goals share a common thread that is focused by the “desire to help people achieve and learn the skills that will help them maintain their best possible life.”
In their STEM outreach efforts, Movista’s goals include making technology education accessible to all local children and recruiting more girls and women to train and apply for coding and programming roles. To help the community with health and fitness, Movista staff members volunteer at track and field events and partner with Bike NWA and other programs that use the trail system.
Mabie says another outreach initiative is addressing food insecurity by working with food recovery programs and providing families with the knowledge and skills to make their pantry go farther while staying healthy.
“It’s where our hearts are,” she says. “We live here, too.”
Committing to Customer Service
Movista has its eye not only on the community but on its clients as well. Zylowski says the company’s prime directive is to be customer-focused.
One of the ways the startup addresses customer needs is through a call center. Jez Green, vice president of customer success, oversees the center, which is comprised of five people who take calls from 6 a.m. to 800 to 900 calls weekly, but there is typically only two or three staff members taking calls at any time. Each client is also assigned an account manager, which is called a Customer Success Manager (CSM).
“As a client, you will have a single point of contact with us, and that’s your customer success manager,” Green says. “They’re the client’s advocate within Movista, and likewise the CSM is the Movista advocate within the client.”
Mabie says they are passionate about problem-solving and trying to make work better, so they actively listen to clients all the time to improve the experience for everyone.
“If they’re having obstacles to work with we try to figure out ways to fix that, so it’s always creating even more features,” she says. “That’s for us because once we figure that out for one client, we’re able to push that out across the board and offer that to others.”
In the future, Movista’s client base could expand. Zylowski says he sees the potential for vertical expansion. While they are currently focused on the retail industry, with a few modifications, their platform could be used by other companies like those in the health industry or energy sector.