Movista Hopes to Duplicate Big Year - Innovate Arkansas
Movista Hopes to Duplicate Big Year
By Mark Carter, 12/3/2012 12:00:00 AM
Starting out the new year like they did in 2012 would be just fine for Movista co-founders April Seggebruch and Stan Zylowski.
Earlier this year, as Hog fans basked in the afterglow of a big Cotton Bowl win, a top five national ranking and an expected run at conference and national championships, Seggebruch and Zylowski were securing the first national client, Tempur-Pedic, for their retail tracking software firm.
Needless to say, 2012 turned out better for Movista than it did for the Hogs.
Movista will cap a BCS-caliber year when the calendar turns at the end of the month. It started 2012 with just its founders and two employees and will enter 2013 with 18 employees on board with plans to add up to five more soon.
Based in a converted historic home just off the downtown square in Bentonville, Movista develops exclusive software that tracks, reports and verifies retail activity for retailers, vendors and labor brokers. Essentially, it provides retail data quicker and more accurately, enabling retailers and suppliers to "efficiently manage remote employees, control their expenses and maximize sales," Zylowski said.
Seggebruch and Zylowski hatched the idea for Movista in a Walton College classroom while both were working on their MBAs from the University of Arkansas.
They've come a long way in 2½ years.
"Last year at this time, it was still just Stan and I with all of the development work outsourced," Seggebruch said. "We closed 2011 by hiring our first two employees, conducting two customer betas and closing a round of funding. Our goals have us hitting 10,000 users by the end of 2013. We've built a product that's being readily accepted by the retail market, and we're expanding its applications into other segments."
Those segments include pharmaceuticals and energy. Movista has signed agreements with three national CPG (consumer package goods) companies, including one regional retailer. The Tempur-Pedic deal may end up being the one that opens the floodgates.
"Every customer we've partnered with has been fantastic, but Tempur-Pedic was monumental," Seggebruch said. "We celebrated for two hours then got right back to the grind."
Next up for Movista, an Innovate Arkansas client firm, is completion of a fundraising round. Seggebruch said the firm likely is done with angel raises and expects to be cash flowing by the first quarter of 2013. She's optimistic about the future, but like a smart college football coach, she's saying the right things.
"Structurally, we're positioned for any eventuality from long-term private growth to going public, but right now we're 100 percent focused on building a strong company with loyal partners, best-in-class technology and strong financials. If we do the key things correctly, we'll have a lot of very attractive options. If, not nothing else will matter."
The Movista crew knew retail before it mastered technology. As Walton MBA students, Wal-Mart's shadow was ever present. Northwest Arkansas now is recognized as a retail hub thanks to its influence, and Movista is happy to take advantage.
"Our product was created to meet known needs of retailers and manufacturers," Seggebruch said. "We came from that world. Our proximity to so many firms seeking the best way to serve their customers and to retailers who often lead with innovation has obvious implications. We see more potential clients in a week than most folks can see in a month or quarter. We had many relationships, so opening doors can be easier. And we can look clients in the eye and honestly can say we know their pain. That's powerful stuff."
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Nancy Gray, the new director of the BioVentures business incubator at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, is developing an entrepreneur-in-residence program to help mentor potential startup founders at the school.
Northwest Arkansas isn’t California’s Silicon Valley and has a long way to go before it can be considered remotely comparable, but technology industry leaders say the area is proving to be on the short list of best places in the field.
Wal-Mart needs vast numbers of technologically advanced workers and needs them as soon as possible, says SVP Rick Webb.