Case Study: Allbirds - Managing Director, Europe

1st November 2021

Silicon Valley based Allbirds is well known for producing high performance shoes out of sustainable materials. After partnering with Allbirds for a number of years, we’ve connected them with some of the best talent out there. Most recently, we placed their Managing Director for Europe, Jodie Soussan.

Silicon Valley based Allbirds is a D2C footwear business valued at $1.7bn. It’s well known for producing high performance shoes out of sustainable materials. After partnering with the brand for a number of years, we’ve placed their Global Chief Business Officer, Global Head of CRM, and their Managing Director for Europe.

Allbirds: the quintessential sustainable footwear brand

After years of research, Joey Zwillinger and Tim Brown officially launched the sustainable footwear company in 2016. Since then, Allbirds has become a pioneer of ethically sourced material and wearer comfort.

Last year, Allbirds raised $100m in a Series E round led by Franklin Templeton. That capital will help the company enter new product categories while maintaining its unwavering commitment to sustainable material innovation. The footwear brand is already present in over 30 countries and the funds will support further expansion across international markets.

The search for Allbird’s MD, Europe marked another phase in our collaboration with the fast growing Europe team. After probing the market, we found that the brand’s reputation was exceptionally high and people spoke very positively about Allbirds as a business. It was amazing to see the difference in awareness people had of the brand compared to when we conducted our first Allbirds search a few years prior.

Diversity & Inclusion

We know that diversity makes more competitive, innovative, and successful teams. That’s why inclusivity is important in all of our searches, including this one. Of the 72 people we spoke with, we presented 39 candidates to Allbirds - 56% of which were women and 15% were BAME.

In our quest to diversify the longlist, we sourced several key individuals working in businesses that promote diversity in the tech/start-up ecosystem to tap into their networks. We also joined networks, such as TLA - Black Women In Tech, with the intention of connecting with relevant profiles.

To Founders Keepers, diversity also includes a broad geographical range. This search was pan-European to increase our chances of finding the perfect candidate. We also looked across a broad range of categories including cosmetics, apparel, and FMCG. The companies we found ranged from larger scale brand-led companies to smaller challenger brands.

Following our initial briefing conversations with Allbirds, we began our search focussing on step-up candidates. However, we soon realised that they weren't the right fit for this role as they tended to lack the cross-functional P&L ownership and scale. After re-calibrating, we changed our focus to the seniority level above our initial search and came across high calibre profiles. 

To ensure we fully covered the market in terms of seniority, we focussed on the next level up again (CEOs of businesses and GMs of more established businesses). We found some excellent talent at this level, but it still didn’t feel like we had met someone who was 100% aligned with the Allbirds team.

The ambitious leader and strategist

After several rounds of gruelling interviews, there was a candidate that differentiated herself from the rest of the pack. Jodie Soussan came out on top. At the time, she was Global Brand Director at Pentland Brands and was responsible for defining and driving the delivery of consumer growth opportunities for Canterbury and Mitre.

Jodie joined Pentland Brands in 2018 and has led teams responsible for commercial strategy & planning, market intelligence and commercial excellence in successfully delivering the go-to-market strategies and plans across the portfolio.

Jodie is an experienced, ambitious leader and strategist. Her time in FMCG has prepared her well for a sustainable brand that has become one of the fastest-growing shoe companies in the world.

It’s been a huge privilege watching Allbirds go from challenger brand to a well respected name in the market. We’ve had a blast scouting out the best talent across Europe, and FK can’t wait to work with Allbirds again as their team inevitably keeps growing.

“They quickly and meaningfully grasped our mission, helped us to understand the full talent spectrum, and delivered outstanding results.”

Joey Zwillinger, Co-Founder, Allbirds

Are you an MD/CEO open to exploring new opportunities? If so, we have a few open roles that will delight you. Contact us here and we will be in touch soon.

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