Enterprise Ireland Channel Seminar 2017

Irish Tech Companies Are Getting SaaSier—And Coming for You

AltoCloud, Channel Mechanics and PlanNet21 Communications are just a few of Ireland’s tech startups looking to the States for growth via partners.

The inevitable has happened. Ireland, long known as a magnet for tech investment, has recently produced a number of homegrown startups that are ready to take flight. Their destination?

Many places, including the North American channel. Here’s what you may want to know.

In the last two decades, Ireland has attracted a great many tech companies. They are drawn to the Emerald Isle for a multitude of reasons, particularly its low corporate tax rate and its highly educated workforce. Some of the biggest names in tech have made deep investments into Ireland, including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Apple. Just this week, Channel Futures reported that Kaseya received $22.4 million in investment from the “Irish Fund” and vowed to add up to 130 jobs there.

But investment into Ireland is only part of the story. An equally exciting part of the story is the number of Irish tech companies that have come of age and are ready to take their rightful place in the tech economy. I recently had a front-row seat to see this play out in real time when I was a guest at the “Sales and Channel Strategy Seminar” hosted by Enterprise Ireland in Dublin.

If you’re not familiar, Enterprise Ireland is the venture capital arm of the Irish government. Its mission is to strengthen Irish companies abroad through funding, partnerships and expansion in-market. It’s a big effort. How big? Consider: there are 430 Irish companies that employ more than 100,000 people in the U.S. That’s more people than who work at Google and Facebook combined.

The goal of the recent channel seminar hosted by Enterprise Ireland was to help local Irish software developers better understand the benefits of developing robust channel partnerships, and what is required for maintaining them. But the event also served a second purpose, which was to better educate industry executives like myself on the breadth and quality of Irish tech companies. This includes startups that have developed SaaS applications equal to if not better than any available elsewhere.

At the seminar in Dublin, I was joined by several U.S.-based tech execs from SAP, Nintex, Dell EMC and GM. Our job? Help startups better understand the current needs and demands of North American channel companies. But at every turn, I couldn’t help from being impressed by the quality of companies that I met, which is exactly what the event organizers wanted.

“Bringing world class speakers from sales planning and channel to Dublin while also highlighting Irish success stories showcased how companies have capitalized on the channel ecosystem for growth,” says Máire P. Walsh, senior vice president of digital technologies at Enterprise Ireland. “We see the channel as a huge growth opportunity for Irish companies that have unique technologies to help drive business results in the U.S.”

Máire P. Walsh, Enterprise Ireland

So what advice did the presenters offer? Tiffany Wagner, global head of sales planning at SAP, advised attendees to focus on the value proposition of their offerings, not their features and functions. SAP, for one, uses “design thinking” to develop its enterprise sales planning program. Enterprise sales, it believes, require a 3x3 influence model that includes three decision makers and three influencers as part of each key sale.

Meanwhile, Josh Waldo, chief customer officer at Nintex, talked about the virtues of channel purity. His company, for example, sells only through channel partners. The philosophy, he adds, extends from the company’s CEO down to every employee at the company.

In addition to the presentations, the event also featured a panel discussion on best practices. It included Kevin Morata, global channel strategy at Dell EMC; Gerard Sheridan, global OEM sales director at Datastax; and Kurt Hoppe, global head of innovation at GM. Their advice for SaaS startups and other tech companies:

·       Collaboration with channel partners is critical for business success

·       Spend more time and energy on the 20 percent of partners that drive the lion’s share of business, and

·       Feed leads to new channel partners to build trust and understanding

As for me, I advised the companies interested in building ties to the North America channel ecosystem to do the following:

·       Familiarize yourself with current market trends and business models

·       Make realistic growth goals

·       Work internally to make sure you have the right executive support required to achieve your aims, and

·       Clearly define your value proposition to channel recruits

After we “experts” spoke, it was time to hear from some of the rising Irish companies in attendance. A final panel featured AltoCloud, Channel Mechanics and PlanNet21 Communications. Each of these are already doing well in certain segments of channel in the U.S. Planet 21, for example, counts Facebook and other major tech companies as partners, while AltoCloud has aligned itself with Cisco and others.  

Sales and Channel Strategy Seminar, Dublin, November 2017

Barry O’Sullivan from AltoCloud explained how his employer built the company with partners at the forefront of its go-to-market strategy. It now has a robust partner channel and significant buy-in from its top corporate officials. One other thing it does to ensure its success in the U.S.: it manages its U.S.-based partners from the States, not from Ireland.

After years of developing its channel, Denise Tormey, co-founder of PlanNet21 Communications, now has the luxury to pick which partners it wants to work with. It advises others to develop a consistent sales strategy to avoid any mistrust or confusion in the channel.

That’s sound advice for any vendor looking to build ties to the channel, not just for the growing number that will be doing it with an Irish accent. As for the Irish, they have plenty of new technology to show and loads of new value to offer.

Theresa Caragol is founder and principal consultant of Achieve Unite, LLC, a strategic advisory firm that provides performance partnering and business acceleration services to global enterprises including partner and channel development, go-to-market planning, M&A channel integration, and executive learning forums. She has more than 20 years’ experience in building and managing multi-million dollar indirect channel teams and strategic alliance programs from inception to sales success. She is also a founding member of the Informa Channel Futures Think Tank. She is also one of 15 women selected for the First Leadership Foundry in Washington, D.C., which is an organization dedicated to mentoring and recruiting women for positions on corporate boards.

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