Astound Announces Organizational Shift to Drive Client Success

On the heels of bringing on board Thomas Spellios as Chief Financial Officer and Matthew Barker as Chief People Officer this summer, Astound has now created the roles of Chief Strategy Officer, Chief Solutions Officer, and Chief Revenue Officer—with Astound cofounders Igor Gorin and Ilya Vinogradsky becoming Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Solutions Officer, respectively. Terry Hunter, most recently CEO of Astound Commerce UK, will take the reins as Chief Revenue Officer. These C-suite leaders will report into Astound Global CEO Michael Kahn (MK). 

Astound’s in-market leadership will remain consistent and strong, with Vanessa Cartwright becoming CEO of Astound Commerce North America, Samuel Cane becoming the Managing Director of Astound Commerce UK, Lars Feldscher continuing in his role as CEO of Astound Commerce DACH, and David O’Sullivan continuing in his role as Managing Director of Astound Commerce MENA. These four established Astound leaders are deeply committed to strengthening client and partner relationships in the markets they have long served, and all will report into Chief Revenue Officer Terry Hunter—signalling a move away from a franchise model to a global platform for growth. 

“We are at a critical moment in the history of the company calling for organizational change—a moment characterized by unprecedented marketplace demand and exceptional business growth opportunity,” says MK. “In response, we realized we needed this change to our structure to create greater alignment, collaboration, and scale to go and grow.”

“The pandemic made it clear that change is constant, and more than ever our clients are looking to work with a very responsive, flexible partner who can provide the highest-level quality of work and expertise,” says Chief Strategy Officer Igor Gorin. “This organizational change makes it possible for us to offer the best value to our clients while scaling our business.” 

“You can expect the same high-quality work you have come to rely on from Astound, but with improvements in speed and agility,” adds Chief Revenue Officer Terry Hunter. “The CRO team in particular is committed to optimizing all areas and interactions across our business, as we work to accelerate and enhance business revenue generation for our clients.”

As Chief Strategy Officer, Igor will focus on corporate strategy, acquisitions, and investments, while Terry will focus on go-to-market sales, marketing, practices, and products. Chief Solutions Officer Ilya Vinogradksy will oversee solutions management and resourcing, with the aim of providing aligned, agile, and flexible strategic solutions covering all of Astound’s capabilities. 

This latest milestone in the company’s North Star plan, launched in the beginning of 2020 with the aim of making Astound the global market leader in digital commerce, follows the May announcement of a major investment in the future of Astound by Los Angelesbased RLH Equity Partners. That investment fueled Astound’s efforts to expand its capabilities and global footprint, and the restructuring announced today significantly accelerates progress toward that goal. 

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Astound Commerce Adds Three to Global Leadership Team

Astound Commerce has announced the appointment of three new members to its global leadership team: Thomas Spellios as Chief Financial Officer, Matthew Barker as Chief People Officer, and Maria (Maru) Velandia as Global Employer Brand Manager. This significant investment in Astound’s leadership team across the dimensions of finance, talent, and employer branding dramatically accelerates the company’s progress toward its North Star goals of building out its capabilities and network, expanding into new commercial markets, and ultimately becoming the global market leader in digital commerce and transformation. 

As CFO, Thomas Spellios will define and drive the financial and operational management of the company globally. He has taken on the challenge of raising Astound’s prowess and performance while advancing the company’s North Star goals. Thomas, who will be based in the US, has an expansive 25-plus-year history working at consultancies (Booz Allen & Hamilton, Deloitte, and Accenture) and technology companies (TTEC, Logica, Ericsson, and Teradata), as well as a number of private equity firms. He is a University of Massachusetts and University of Maryland graduate, with an MBA in international finance. 

Based in London and responsible for leading Astound’s global people operations efforts for the ongoing evolution of the business, Matthew Barker will spearhead strategies to attract, retain, develop, and inspire top talent around the globe and create a world-class employee culture and environment. Matthew is a seasoned people operations executive with deep international, technology, and organizational transformation experience for companies including Asurion, Bwin.party Entertainment, British Telecom, Cisco Systems, and EDS, as well as the digital advertising platforms of Rakuten. Barker attended London South Bank University. 

Maria (Maru) Velandia brings more than 10 years of digital marketing, recruitment marketing, and employer branding experience to Astound, with a proven track record of helping companies like Philips define their differentiating employer value proposition and communicate and market it to become a talent destination of choice. Based in Panama, Maru holds a masters in communications and advertising from Andrés Bello Catholic University. 

Thomas and Matthew will report directly to Astound Global CEO Michael Kahn (MK), and Maru will report to Matthew.

“Astound Commerce has a singular goal of being the global leader in digital commerce solutions. As a company, we are committed to delivering maximum value every single day, and these critical new teammates will further fuel our pursuit of that mission,” says MK. “We are thrilled to welcome Thomas, Matthew, and Maru, esteemed leaders in their respective areas of expertise, to our global leadership team and look forward to watching them excel.”

Astound Commerce & RLH Equity Partners: A Major Investment for the Future

This development will dramatically accelerate the pace with which Astound is moving toward its goals of building out its capabilities and global network and expanding into new commercial markets. The RLH leadership team has recognized in Astound the remarkable work put in motion 20-plus years ago by Astound founders Igor Gorin, Ilya Vinogradsky, and Roman Martynenko, the strength of Astound’s management team, and the strength of its business. 

This new development is the latest milestone in Astound’s North Star plan, launched in the beginning of 2020 with the aim of making Astound the global market leader in digital commerce. The selection of Michael Kahn (MK) as Global CEO to lead the company was the first step in that plan, followed by the company’s search for a financial partner to help it grow. Now, with this new strategic investment, Astound leadership expects to achieve their goal of expanding its capabilities and footprint exponentially, realizing their mission to maximize the value of every digital commerce touchpoint.

“Astound is poised to accelerate expansion of its capabilities and footprint into new commercial and technology markets, realizing its mission to lead the digital commerce landscape and maximize the value of every digital commerce touchpoint.”

The RLH–Astound transaction comes after several months of in-depth conversations between the RLH and Astound leadership teams. “As we came to recognize RLH’s people-focused philosophy and its deep commitment to preserving the culture and operations of the businesses it supports, prioritizing talent acquisition and retention, the choice was clear,” says MK. He notes that for the past three decades, RLH has invested in businesses in technology business services, healthcare, and government services, in particular seeking out superlative leadership teams with a clear plan for exponential growth. Other RLH investments include Salesforce cloud consultancy Bluewolf (since acquired by IBM), Salesforce B2B agency Shift 7 Digital, financial and technology consultancy CrossCountry Consulting, and pharmaceutical industry consulting firm Clearview Healthcare Partners.

The RLH–Astound transaction became effective on Thursday, May 6. For Astound’s clients, partners, and team, this development allows the company to continue its high-caliber work and reaffirms its unwavering commitment to deliver maximum value every single day. The transaction also re-energizes Astound’s talent acquisition strategy and aligns with and supports the company’s goals to venture into new business directions and new markets. 

Interested in learning more about Astound? Get in touch today

Vanessa Cartwright Promoted to COO of Astound Commerce North America

Astound Commerce congratulates Vanessa Cartwright, previously the company’s chief client success officer, on her immediate promotion to chief operating officer of Astound Commerce North America. 

In this new role, Vanessa will take leadership of all financial and business planning for Astound’s North American operating company and for performance management to achieve financial and business goals. She will also hold responsibility for managing the client success team, which includes client services, business development, and sales, and for operations, people management, and overall culture.

“Vanessa has consistently demonstrated her unshakable commitment to our company and the quality of the work we do, holding herself to the highest standards as a leader, mentor, and teammate, says Igor Gorin, CEO of Astound Commerce North America. Astound Global CEO Michael Kahn (MK) adds, “This is great news for Astound and for our North American operating company, and it's so very well-earned and deserved.” 

Following Astound’s acquisition of digital customer experience agency Fluid, Vanessa—who was a CEO and managing partner of Fluid—played an indispensable role in driving the successful integration between the two companies. Igor notes that her outstanding work as chief client success officer has shown her natural representation of Astound’s core values. 

Vanessa’s prior leadership roles included serving as a senior vice president at digital agency Blast Radius, part of WPP, and she also held senior positions at RMG Connect/J Walter in Canada and Rapp Collins in the UK. She acknowledges that her success is notable in part because such leadership roles for women are still not as common as they should be, with just under 6 percent of S&P 500 companies run by women. But ironically, Vanessa’s drive to succeed is in part a credit to an upbringing in which gender was simply never discussed as a either a help or a hindrance. She adds that, across the board, the companies she worked for early in her career were helmed by women in senior leadership roles. “I just never had any inkling that women serving in these roles couldn’t or shouldn’t be the case,” she says. 

Regarding the COO position she now takes on, Vanessa expresses great optimism and excitement about helping to guide Astound’s future. She notes that MK coming on board as global CEO was “an incredible acknowledgement from our founders that we need to sharpen our focus”—a focus she sees as perfectly summed up in Astound’s mission statement of maximizing the brand and business value of every digital commerce touchpoint. “That’s a bold message,” she says, “and it’s one that we are fully prepared to execute on.” 

Vanessa adds that given the unprecedented impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on every aspect of our lives, including commerce, brands have a greater need than ever for a digital commerce specialist that can help guide the way. 

“Last year drove so much transformation so quickly,” she says, “and companies like Astound can really partner with you to design a strategic commerce solution aligned to your business objectives.” She also sees Astound’s service offerings as greatly enhanced by the company’s recent acquisition of digital performance marketing specialist MarketForce, noting, “It further demonstrates our commitment to helping the brands we work with create audiences and then be as relevant as possible to those audiences.”

Looking forward, Vanessa hopes to further channel her passion for environmental causes into Astound’s support of clients who are making great strides in sustainable commerce. “Through our work with visionary brands like The North Face and Rag & Bone, we are able to help offset the toll retail takes on the environment through different business models, including recommerce.” 

That’s just one of many aspects of Astound’s mission that has Vanessa so excited about her new role. “I have great confidence in Astound's future successes,” she says, “and I so appreciate the trust that’s been placed in me by the company’s founders.”

Astounding News: Michael Kahn Joins Astound Commerce as New Global CEO

Today Astound Commerce announces the beginning of an exciting new chapter, with Michael Kahn (MK) joining the organization as our new global CEO. Whether working for a startup or leading a multinational digital agency, MK has always brought a combination of passion, perseverance, and personal commitment to his work, and he’s eager to devote his relentless energy to the role now before him.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned a BA in Journalism, MK started his career at high-profile advertising agencies including Campbell Mithun Esty, DDB, Ketchum, and J.Walter Thompson, where he was responsible for account and client services leadership. After several years at these top firms, he joined and led a creative agency startup, Mitchiner, Ross & Kahn.

After holding CMO and CEO roles during the late ’90s and early 2000s at a series of B2C and B2B digital startups, he joined Performics, a leading digital performance marketing agency. Beginning in a role as the head of strategic account management, he ultimately became global CEO in 2014. In this role, MK saw the build-out of Performics from a team of 300 in Chicago to 3,400 teammates in 57 countries, a six-year organic growth rate of more than 15 percent, and operating income margins of more than 20 percent.

In 2017, MK became global brand president at Digitas Worldwide, The Connected Marketing Agency. He built a unified go-to-market strategy and team that led expansion of the Digitas network from 27 offices in 13 countries to more than 50 offices in 30 countries in a two-year period, driving an international growth rate of more than 6 percent.  

In his new role at Astound, MK brings his many years of experience in global operations and talent leadership; business strategy, development and expansion; and branding, marketing, and communications. He will serve as a member of the Astound Commerce Board of Directors and act as chairman of the Managing Board.

Based on a 40-year career filled with successes and a great many lessons learned, MK has developed a set of overarching operating principles and philosophies that guide his actions every day. His leadership approach is to connect, listen, learn, evaluate, ideate, synthesize, actualize, and execute via ongoing collaboration and commitment. He’s a strong believer in open feedback and embracing integrity through a 360-degree view of performance inclusive of managers, peers, and employees, and he champions a growth mindset, continuous improvement, and embracing the idea that our best days and best work, as a company and as individuals, lie ahead.

Viva Italia: A Hopeful Conversation with Astound’s Massimo Marconi

Following its first detected case of COVID-19 on January 29 and the shockingly fast spread of the disease in the weeks since, Italy has become a cautionary tale for the rest of the world, and its plight has guided other nations in their efforts toward containment. 

Astound Insights spoke with Massimo Marconi, Astound Commerce Italy vice president of sales and client services, just a day after the Italian government declared its intention to ban outdoor exercise—an add-on to shelter-in-place restrictions that have been in effect since early March. He remained remarkably upbeat, and offered sage of advice to those of us just entering an extended period of social distancing. 

“It’s a different way to work and to live, but we can manage. It’s just a matter of self-organizing,” said Massimo. 

And—because Italy—he also brought pizza into the conversation. 

“I like to say that Italians invented the pizza, but Americans invented pizza delivery. That’s a good analogy for how we’ll have to adapt to new business models going forward.” Read on for more of the conversation.

Astound Insights: Italy has been in a nationwide “lockdown” since March 9. What does that mean, in practical terms? 

Massimo: The current Italian situation is very challenging. We are all quarantined. It means that we cannot exit from our homes, except for extremely urgent and serious reasons. We could be jailed for three months if we do. Basically, we can only: go to work if our company has adopted very specific safety procedures, stay home, or go to the hospital. No jogging, no walks, no visiting relatives.

AI: While these measures are necessary, they’re also taking a grave economic toll. What is your outlook?

Massimo: This is heavily affecting all the economic systems, and I expect a deep impact on all sectors. But, in this scenario, business models are unexpectedly quickly adapting. For example, some fashion producers have already converted their production to make surgical or protective masks. And all major and minor companies have started offering home delivery of . . . basically everything. 

Not very surprisingly, ecommerce is now the only way to purchase goods, and I foresee that this new forced approach to business will change all our habits. Currently the companies that have invested in digital commerce before the crisis are now seeing a major advantage from that.

Of course, only a few sectors are seeing that advantage, because the market demand has changed as needs have changed. But I think that companies that are not quickly adapting their business model are going to close soon. Darwin taught us.

AI: In your role for Astound, how have you been able to move forward? 

Massimo: I am of course working from home, and just last week I was able to deliver four days of very effective discovery workshops remotely. This is not a time for us to stop; just the opposite. Our services provide more value than ever in this difficult moment, as we help companies adapt and sustain their online business model.

AI: Any other thoughts on what’s to come? 

Massimo: We will be different, business will be different, and life will be different after this. We need to be prepared. We have to prepare ourselves for the future right now, because we now have time to think, and rethink, and to plan. 

Now is the time to implement what will be needed in the coming months and for the full resumption of activities. It’s a unique opportunity that can and must be addressed by leveraging the tools we have available. Businesses need to rethink and redesign the brand experience, starting with ecommerce, but also for products and services. They need to imagine new buying experiences in a data-driven way; maximize omnichannel strategies to optimize the effectiveness of the physical channel, production, and communication in the future; and improve and maximize data quality in general, and analytics data in particular, to foster new business and dynamic consumer targeting.

All this can be done, even now, remotely. Let’s not stop.

Strong Bond: Astound Commerce Again Earns Salesforce Platinum Partner Status

Astound Commerce, a global digital commerce specialist dedicated to creating experience-driven ecosystems that build meaningful relationships and drive sustained business value, has been designated a Salesforce Platinum Partner for the second year in a row. 

The numbers behind this latest honor tell a compelling story: 

Master Navigator is a designation partners earn through the Salesforce Partner Navigator Program, which enables consulting partners to differentiate themselves based on proven industry expertise, Salesforce product knowledge, and customer success. In the case of Astound, the company has been recognized for the expertise and customer success we have demonstrated with Salesforce’s B2C commerce offerings. 

“Not only does a Master Navigator title demonstrate a partner’s capabilities in leading Salesforce clients through a complex project with successful results, but it also highlights the fact that a partner has accomplished this repeatedly while maintaining high customer satisfaction,” says Tim Sabens, director of channel partners and alliances at Astound. “It is a testament to Astound Commerce’s focus on customer success, strong and consistent processes, and the best engineers in the world.”

Astound was the first Implementation Certified Partner in Salesforce Commerce Cloud’s Solution Partner Program, and we continue to develop deep expertise in Salesforce technologies and business tools across North America, Europe, and Latin America.