Storytelling About Firstbase With Chris Herd

What does it take to equip a global workforce with everything they need for their work-from-home setups? That’s exactly what we unravel in this engaging dialogue with Chris Herd, the trailblazing founder and CEO of Firstbase. This episode is a treasure trove of insights into the unique business model of Firstbase. They provide a cradle to grave service for office equipment and has innovative software allowing employees to personalize their gear. We discuss the ripple effects of remote work, the peculiar challenges it has birthed, and how First Base is navigating these uncharted waters.

Venture with us into the impressive logistical operations of Firstbase as we find out how they help companies manage inventory, save resources, and ensure the right equipment reaches the right person. We delve into the wide array of equipment that Firstbase provides, from the essential laptops to the delightful additions like coffee machines. Our conversation takes a fascinating turn as we discuss the most unique requests they’ve received since the start of the pandemic. We wrap up our enlightening chat with Chris, reflecting on why it is a sound business decision to invest in Firstbase. So, are you ready to discover how Firstbase is reshaping the future of remote work? Listen in.

Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.

Thanks, William

Show length: 19 minutes

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Chris Herd
Founder & CEO Firstbase

Firstbase is a single platform to equip global teams. We power companies to set up, support, and scale distributed teams globally by automating the employee & asset lifecycle, getting critical equipment to & from employees wherever they are globally.

Our platform is used by startups like Productboard, OpenGov and Stackoverflow to household names Spotify, NewRelic, and Chargebee.


Storytelling About Firstbase With Chris Herd

William Tincup: [00:00:00] This is William Tincup, and you are listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today, we have Chris on from FirstBase, and we’ll be talking about the business case or the use case of why customers and prospects make the case for spending money with FirstBase. So Chris, would you do us a favor and introduce

Chris Herd: yourself and FirstBase?

Yeah, nice to be here, William. I’m Chris. I’m the founder and CEO of FirstBase and we help companies provide the tools and equipment their workers need wherever in the world they are. And yeah, maybe the one surprising thing to that is everyone still [00:01:00] sees us as the remote team for remote workers. We have clients across the board.

Fully remote, of course, but also hybrid teams and in office teams as well. Oh,

William Tincup: interesting. Okay, so when we say tools and equipment, give us an idea, give the audience an idea of what are we talking about? What’s the array here?

Chris Herd: Yeah, it varies pretty dramatically company to company, but a standard package would be some form of laptop, usually includes a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse.

And then from there, it depends on the company. Some companies, it will be a desk and a chair. Other companies, it might include an array of other things which are really more experiential. I don’t know, coffee machines perhaps.

William Tincup: And do you, and so do you clone or do y’all deal with the laptops?

Does the company ship them to you and then you ship them out? Do y’all actually get them ready for?

Chris Herd: Yeah. We do equipment in three different ways. So depending on the company size really dictates it. So if it’s a really [00:02:00] big company, they probably have great procurement relationships, right?

They’re just going to use our software platform and they’re going to essentially use us as Logistics service provider on top of that as well. So they ship the stuff to us. We then ship it to wherever their workers are. Version number two is if it’s a slightly smaller company, maybe our purchasing power is more than theirs.

We’re essentially a marketplace where they buy the equipment from as well as the software and the usage based stuff. And then the third way is If they want to subscribe to the equipment, so it’s a hardware as a service model we can do that as well on top of the software and usage too. Oh, that’s

William Tincup: cool.

And in the software for them, it’s a pass through or basically you can set it up. They need creative suite or if they need specific programs on there, you can image it or have it set up to where the employee doesn’t have to do any of that.

Chris Herd: Exactly. So cradle to grave for the equipment, making sure that the image is on it.

So the worker flips the lid, puts their password in for the first time, [00:03:00] they’re ready to go. And then the software on our side is a two sided platform. So on one side, generally used by IT admins, IT operators, sometimes CSIOs, sometimes CEOs of a smaller company. For them, it’s a single source of truth for where all their assets are.

And on top of that, they can create catalogs of equipment that their workers can choose from. On the worker side, we basically serve you up an e commerce type experience where you go through it, you choose the laptop that you want to work on, the desk, the chair, the headset, the microphone, but crucially, you’re going to personalize that to your preference, which obviously workers really love.

William Tincup: Do you, I was about to ask you, is it, is at one point it was a Mac versus PC thing 100 years ago. Have you seen a more fluid experience with employees and environments where you’re, You pick, it’s a budget, of course but pick if you want to be on a PC, great. You want to be on a gaming laptop, you want to be on a, a Mac, whatever it doesn’t really matter as long as the work gets done.

Have you [00:04:00] seen letting the employees pick out the things that they want that they think that are going to make them successful?

Chris Herd: Exactly. It’s really about how do we give the worker the equipment they need to do the best work that they’ve ever done in their lives. And if that’s on a Mac, if that’s on a Windows machine, if that’s on a Linux machine Organizations generally give them that choice.

And again, varies in all types of companies. If it’s a small startup, maybe there are predominantly a Windows sorry, a Mac shop, maybe the finance person comes in and they need a machine that can do Excel better than a Mac can. So they start to reduce the Windows stuff. And of course, as you go into bigger and bigger companies, they generally have a wider spread as

William Tincup: well.

So you did say at the beginning that you could, this started with remote okay, we’re going to help people through the pandemic, you’ve got your talent all over the place, et cetera. But the model is obviously expanded since then. And so you can help people with hybrid.

So again a setup to the, where they can take their laptop [00:05:00] from one place to another et cetera, or. An office itself okay, they’re setting up a new office in Aberdeen, pick a place. And so they need, they needed the entire office, especially this the stuff that they can get from you.

They needed all of it set up and shipped to their location.

Chris Herd: Yeah. And that’s been the crazy thing for us where we found the business pre COVID and we have this vision of the world and where it’s going to. And then obviously there’s this mass acceleration that we didn’t expect, which is like, Oh.

We’re 10 or 15 years in the future and yeah, there’s the irony of where like during that whole thing, we’re like, great. The thing we bet on has had this acceleration, but also as you dig in on the product usage data, you start to see these, this like weird things where people are like San Francisco office or hybrid employee in Europe.

So we just start to double click in there and be like, okay guys, this seems weird. What are you actually doing with the product? And they’re like. We’re using it for hybrid workers, we’re using it for office based workers, and we’re like okay, [00:06:00] but like the product isn’t really designed for that, and we don’t imagine the experience is that great, so maybe let us make it a little bit better, and that’s what we’ve been doing, so like everything you say is true, it’s shipping stuff to people that are working remotely at home, it’s shipping stuff for people that are working hybrid between two or three locations, it’s shipping a lot of equipment to people that are in an office.

It’s also the other side on the software piece, where it’s You can, if you can imagine like you use us as a remote company, we do all the stuff in the back end. So we make sure that the right person has the right laptop associated with them. When people leave, we collect the equipment as well. We cleanse that both technologically and physically so we can redeploy it again.

But in a hybrid world, Some of these companies are going to be shipping stuff back to their own office locations rather than our warehouses. So you need to expose that side of the platform to them as well.

William Tincup: Yeah, I can see that being not a logistics nightmare, but I can see that there’s another step or a couple other steps in there that the companies are going to have to think [00:07:00] about and y’all are going to have to think about too.

So tell me a little bit more about the marketplace. In terms of, especially like for employees that are going to go in and pick stuff, what is that, what’s that experience

Chris Herd: like? Yeah, so on the company side, it’s really about can we give them the equipment that they need and they want to provide to their workers?

And then historically that has been giving them full aperture to have whatever they want. They’re a Windows shop, we’re going to give them Lenovos, HPs, Dells, and they can have whichever model of those things they want. So you start off with the base spec models which are off the shelf and then you end up with these custom to order models which clearly aren’t on the shelf.

And then same for every other piece of equipment, right? There’s… off the shelf keyboards, there’s off the shelf monitors. So we start out with that conversation with the company and say let’s build this catalog for you. And then from there, you can pull a subset of that equipment per catalog that you’re creating.

And those catalogs, companies generally define in three ways or one of three [00:08:00] ways. They might do it by geography. So if you live in the U. S., you can choose from Equipment spec Y it might be on job role. If you’re a salesperson, you can choose equipment spec Z it might be seniority. So if you’re above a director level, you get to choose this equipment.

And that really is the marketplace for them to go into and say, These are the things I want, these are the things that are going to empower me to do the best work that I’ve ever done in my life.

William Tincup: I love that. I, and I also love, you had mentioned inventory. I can see that being really important to the accounting folks.

Not just, we talked about IT, being able to know where these things are coming from, especially data. Understanding who’s got what laptop and if something goes wrong, they can track back pretty easily to, to where that is, etc. But the accountants, this is a part of what, plans, property, equipment.

This is a, this can be depreciated. Do you, do y’all depreciate the things that come back to you? Do you depreciate those things as well or is it [00:09:00] really the company side?

Chris Herd: Yeah, so what we’re going to give the accountancy team is a way to take the information off the platform and plug that into their models.

So we’re going to say that if it’s a MacBook Pro, it’s got a three year life cycle, maybe it’s a four year life cycle, we’re going to let them define that. So what we’re going to make really clear is when this piece of equipment is due for renewal. The company can then obviously pull that out, push that into whatever system they use to model the depreciation or anything else.

And then on the back end. When this stuff comes back to us at the end of the three years, we’re going to help them recycle that as well. So where you end up there is okay this is a big part for the accountancy part of an organization. It also is about giving the GNAR more broadly superpowers.

So how can we help HR? How can we help IT? How can we help finance? How can we help facilities save time? So they’re not spending time on these menial tasks of shipping laptops all around the world, right? They can focus on the things that… [00:10:00] Really matter. Number two, how do we help them save money? We’re going to collect equipment that they generally can’t collect themselves. The average rate of collection is somewhere between 50 and 70 percent. We collect 97 percent plus there’s the redeployment of that equipment. So they’re not buying as much. There’s security. So we have the sort of cradle or grave audit trail of where the equipment’s been, who’s had it.

For What’s happened to it? And then the final piece, which I think is growing in popularity, is the carbon piece. We’re not buying as much equipment, we’re getting more from the equipment that we do buy, and then when it’s end of life, we’re recycling it in the same way. And really giving those pieces of data to the organization to say, This is the value that the g arg is bringing to the company.


William Tincup: love it. Alright. Before we do some buy-side questions is craziest request that came across that’s come across your desk

Chris Herd: so far? Yeah. A month in the pandemic, one of the big banks in New York asked us if we could do multiple Peloton bikes to a [00:11:00] executive’s place,

William Tincup: multiple Pelotons to one executive’s place to one

Chris Herd: location.

We, and to be clear, we ended up not working to them, but that was for sure. That was,

William Tincup: can we do it? Yes. Should we do it? No that, that’s funny. That is funny. I have a gaming laptop. So I’ve worked on gaming laptops for my work, work for a long time because I just found them really powerful.

I don’t game off of them. That’s not the, that’s not the bit, but I use them because they’re just so powerful. I never haven’t, they don’t break down. They’re just, they’re built differently, clearly, and they’re more expensive, but I find that it’s better for me. When you get to show, I’m going to say the demo, but basically it’s like you get to show first base people to, to the first time you’re going to, it’s a mixture of being able to show software and show how logistics work et cetera.

What do they fall in love with? Like, when you get to show them for the first time, they’ve never seen it, they have a vague idea of what you do, [00:12:00] and you know that if I can get to this screen, they’re gonna, they’re

Chris Herd: gonna get it. For us, it’s the power that we’re giving the individual who is doing this all on their own.

One, if G& A organizations, outside of finance, you know they’re all underinvested in. They don’t have tooling. They do a bunch of manual tasks. So for us, it’s about saying, hey guys, hey girls, like we, we’re going to take this pain all away from you. We’re going to take care of procurement.

Here’s how we’re going to do that. We’re going to ingest your existing asset registry. So no more managing the equipment that you’ve supplied. We’ll treat it as if it’s equipment we have. Here’s all the data we’re going to report on that. Here’s the dashboarding. Here’s how we integrate to your HRS system.

So you never have to come in the platform and put something in manually. And here’s how we’re going to empower the worker as well. So we’re going to make your life better. We’re going to make you a superhero in the organization. But on the other side, This is the experience of what it would have looked like had we onboarded [00:13:00] you inside your business.

And the combination of those two things here’s how we’re going to help you, here’s how great your experience would have been if it was this I think that generally blows them away with the power across the spectrum of all the stuff that we do for them. Yeah, and it’s

William Tincup: also global. I think people can okay, if it was just in one city, okay, everybody’s in a box, we can we can do this, we could do this ourselves.

Not that they should, but they’ve… Could do it themselves. Now you’re doing it with employees or talent that’s all over the world, and some of that’s like really remote. And so it’s okay, you weren’t really that good at it to begin with. You shouldn’t be, you shouldn’t really ever have been doing it.

I know a lot of IT folks that, especially on the network side of things, they hated this part. Despise it. Like when new employees, we were all excited Oh, now we’re onboarding 10 new employees. And you could just see it in their faces like the dread of having to set up 10 new [00:14:00] computers and, go and do it, and just getting people like that was just like, it was beneath, I say beneath, that’s maybe a little harsh, but you could just see, it wasn’t the best use of their

Chris Herd: skills.

Yeah. Yeah. And I, it’s. It’s they want to work on the transformational stuff, right? It’s that they know they bring all this value to the organization and it’s the frustration that they’re spending their time on things that they can do, but they could be doing so much more. And I think that’s really the superpower we deliver, right?

Like we know you guys can do this. We know it’s not that hard. We know it becomes like diametrically and exponentially difficult the more countries you’re in. Yeah, it sucks if you’re in one, but you can manage it. Much harder if you’re in two and if you’re in three give up, right? There’s no way you’re collecting equipment back from those places.

But it’s we’re just going to give you the time back, right? We’re going to let you work on the transformational projects for the business. And it’s funny. I see the other side. It’s you’ve seen that draining out of their faces. I’ve seen [00:15:00] like the color come back in their faces where they’re like, wait, we don’t have to do this anymore.

William Tincup: No, there’s a better way. There’s a better, it turns out there’s a better way. What are if someone, if you’re, you’re dealing with a lot of different types of buyers, but let’s just say they’ve never done this before. So they’ve always insourced it even through the pandemic and otherwise, they’ve always just, they’ve always done it with their own team, et cetera.

Again, not well and not a great use of their time, but this is the first time that they’re going to do, going to outsource this. What are the questions That they should be asking the, if you could script them and say, you should be asking these questions of any provider, but us in particular, what are those questions?

Chris Herd: The first one we generally get is like, how long is this going to take us to get up and running? The integration part is integral, right? As you get into much bigger and bigger organizations, it’s one thing to say, we’re going to take all this pain away. It’s another thing if you say to them, but we’re going to [00:16:00] replace it with you having to put in a bunch of manual data.

So the first part is what should we integrate into? Should it be our HRIS system? Should it be our mobile device management system? And it should be all of them. And it should work with whatever they use. Understanding their tooling, understanding their process. Number two, how does this change what we do on a day to day basis?

How involved do we need to be? Where does FirstBase end and where do we begin? And for that question it’s essentially we’re going to take care of everything from the machine. You’re going to handle the IT help desk. If someone forgets their password, they’re going to come to you or your outsource team.

If they drop the laptop and break it, they’re going to come to us. And then I think as you start to think longer term, there’s a bunch of other opportunities as well. And that’s, I think, a longer term thing for us around use cases to say. What other problems have you got? What we also want to hear are not just the problems they have today, not just on this piece of core infrastructure also tell [00:17:00] us all the other challenges and obstacles that you’re facing as you become increasingly distributed.

We’d like to hear about them. We might not fix them all today. But

William Tincup: at least knowing about them knows that, okay, if they have that problem, then maybe some of your other customers have that problem. Then maybe it is something you can fix. Maybe it is something you can address, but again, if you don’t know that the problem exists, you can’t address it.

So the first thing’s first, you gotta know that they have a problem. What are you looking forward to in, in let’s say the next year or so? What do you, where do you see this going?

Chris Herd: I wrote a LinkedIn post today which was in some ways a reflection on the last three years. And it’s touched on some of the stuff we’ve spoken about today where it was like the most surprising thing to me has been the way our customers have used our product that we didn’t expect.

And as a consequence of that hybrid working, in office working, fully remote working, We’ve closed more enterprise clients in the last three months than [00:18:00] we did in the prior three years. So the thing that gets me excited is just the compounding that comes from progress. We’re lucky enough to work with everyone from early stage startups that you would know to 20 billion dollar plus publicly listed businesses.

And I think that’s what drives us. It’s being in the weeds with our customers, being there to partner with them on their problems. And it feels like we’re just getting to another inflection point where that’s going to accelerate even further. There’s obviously been a rise of remote. There’s obviously been talk around like return to office.

I think we’re getting through both of that now where there’s this equilibrium. And I think people are having this Recognition of the fact that the world isn’t the same and the same solutions to prior problems aren’t going to cut it anymore. And I think there’s an openness to, to new things.

William Tincup: Drops mic, walks off stage.

Chris, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for carving out time for us and talking

Chris Herd: about FirstBase. I appreciate you having me, William. This was fun.

William Tincup: Absolutely. [00:19:00] And thanks everybody for listening. Until next time.

The Use Case Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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