Digital Commerce Re-Tales: firstmovr

The Digital Commerce Re-Tales series highlights personal and professional stories from the people and brands defining the direction of digital commerce. While each profile is as unique as the figures themselves, they share common themes such as learning to navigate the ever-changing nature of the eCommerce industry.

firstmovr Co-Founders Oskar Kaszubski, Chief Growth Officer, and Chris Perry, Chief Learning Officer, often think of themselves as members of the Rebel Alliance, but in a CPG sense, as the team is uniquely suited to help brands defeat the dark side of digital commerce. According to their mission statement “We are 𝗳𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁𝗺𝗼𝘃𝗿, your Satellite Center of Excellence (COE) for eCommerce Education & Change Management, founded by fellow practitioners on a mission to leave no leader behind the change curve.”

Chris and Oskar anticipating disturbances in the force (of eCommerce)…

The force has been strong with both men from the start. For Oskar, it began a (not so) long time ago in a country (fairly) far, far away, a.k.a. Poland in the late 1970s. 

“I actually grew up in communism and we didn’t have access. There was no internet, there was no eCommerce, and there was not actually much in the stores. We had two TV channels so in order to kind of get entertained…we were actually reading a lot of science fiction books. We were always kind of looking into the future because science fiction was a little bit of a break from reality, and you’d get a little bit of a better sense of what the future could look like, right? 

What drew me in to eCommerce was, we were getting a lot of catalogs from friends and family in Hamburg in West Germany. And you could actually flip through them and see things like new electronics, a new Commodore, new TVs, a new Son, new Sanyo back then. I always had this wish that it would be so cool if I could kind of click on that picture, like, touch the picture, and then things magically would arrive at my front step.

With a chuckle, Oskar explains, “I’m not saying I invented the internet, but I just had this dream of the internet before the internet even existed and eCommerce existed.” 

Oskar on communism, science fiction, and potentially inventing the internet…

Although he doesn’t trade in Jedi mind tricks, Chris’ desire to own his own destiny does have something to do with his father, and his mother. That’s what happens when you grow up in an entrepreneurial family.

“Both sides of my family have decades old businesses run by the family and founded by the family. One side had a furniture store business and the other one had a plumbing supply wholesale business. 

We always had a very entrepreneurial spirit in our home. I’ve always wanted to build my own thing and prove my own worth. Not to do it alone, but with a family business background, I like to do things with others, not to rest on your laurels and constantly disrupt yourself, because you will be disrupted. I’d rather own my destiny than sit back and watch it happen to me.”

Flash-forward a couple decades, the firstmovr origin story began at Kellogg Company where Oskar, the Global VP of eCommerce recruited Chris to join his team as Senior Director of eCommerce. They hadn’t quite infiltrated the Death Star yet, but in Chris’ mind, “Kellogg’s was where we got to combine forces and synergize.” 

Chris on the firstmovr origin story and building spaceships while Oskar terraforms Mars..

“Oskar led global eCommerce and I was leading North America for him. He would come in and paint this vision for the future and sometimes he would leave, and [my North American leaders] would be like, ‘I just I don’t know if I get it.’ 

Oskar is terraforming on Mars, prepping for us to come to him, but most of the other people don’t even know what a spaceship looks like. They live on Earth, and they’re not even aware that they need to move. 

While Oskar is terraforming. I can see it, but I’m not on Mars yet. I’m building the spaceship to help get us to Mars so we can save everybody. So, we’re a really nice combo that way, we really balance each other out.”

When it came time to start a new space colony/business together, Oskar wasn’t worried because he knew there was a galaxy of opportunities out there. Both having been in different levels of leadership within large CPG companies, along with hands-on experience with building teams and capabilities and activating strategies, across multiple companies, they had firsthand knowledge of the challenges of pivoting with the pace of change.

Oskar noted, “we know large companies are inefficient, their processes are outdated. It’s really hard for a single person to make a change, make an impact … A big company is like a rubber band, you try to pull it but eventually over time, it just snaps back to place. We all know that those companies, for good reasons, are billion-dollar companies that were established on specific principles. But what made you win in the last 150 years, it’s not necessarily the same as what will make you win in the next five years. Because fundamentally the fabric of the universe is changing and that’s kind of why we exist.”

For companies that need help driving change forward, creating solutions can be better accomplished working from the outside.

“There’s a first mover nurturing and professional development opportunity to keep us sharp, so we can keep leading whatever that next change is. And then there’s all these other people that may not be in a role but need to be brought along for the ride as well. And whether that’s education, training, or projects, or capabilities, or assessments, or strategy that not everybody has access to or has experienced or was willing to take, could take the risk on. 

COVID honestly forced everyone into eCommerce and then closed down a lot of professional development for a period of time because nobody could be in-person anymore. Events were closed or shut down, so there was just kind of like this perfect storm, at least from my vantage point. Oskar and I were talking, and he was open to joining forces. And again, I don’t like to do things alone, I like to be with other smart people that inspire me. 

We saw this opportunity to kind of cross forces here and build something greater than ourselves and really more for the first movers out there from the solution provider side to the research side to the brand side to the retail side to whoever comes next.”

Aside from their shared experience at Kellogg, in some ways Oskar and Chris’s partnership may have been written in the stars. 

“In my life in general, I try to create experiences, I try to experience new things to kind of push things forward. I don’t like the mundane. I’m a classical Gemini like Chris. We get bored easily, like we have to change things up. You know, so we’re changing the office up, we’re changing up the way we work, just constantly looking for new experiences.”

Although they are alike in many ways, each firstmovr Co-Founder brings something unique to the table that the other appreciates. 

Oskar admires Chris’s ability to make even the most mundane topic interesting. “His entire world is driven by storytelling and the way Chris can spin things, to tell some of the greatest stories and make the most boring subject exciting. It’s definitely something I always admire in him because he’s a true passionate marketer and a storyteller, which I honestly think is one of our huge value propositions.”

Chris is in awe of Oskar’s ability to always be thinking three steps ahead, connecting dots that aren’t always visible to others, and staying laid back while he does it. “I just always appreciate that he cares but he doesn’t get overly stressed about it, at least visibly to me. He always has a nice balance.”

Oskar on the challenge of change…

“With this portion of empathy, this portion of relaxedness, we can also understand some of the challenges that the companies are facing, trying to actually accomplish things, and trying to actually change while that rubber band keeps slapping back. So that’s why the journey has been fun. We don’t know what the next three five years will bring but we’re going to keep on fighting.”

“There are a lot of bases that need some help, so we’ll be on one or more of them.”

“Or maybe we’ll broker a peace between the dark side and the rebels. I don’t know. We’ll figure something out.”

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